St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla meet at Youth Consultation 2016

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Member of St. Maarten AIDS Foundation Youth Wing in a planning session.

SINT MAARTEN/ANGUILLA – A cross-section of teenagers from three of the smallest parts (St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla) and some of the biggest parts of the European Union (EU) (the Netherlands, France and United Kingdom) will meet Wednesday, October 5, for the annual St. Maarten AIDS Foundation Youth Consultation 2016 in Anguilla’s Teachers Resource Centre.

This year’s consultation, in collaboration with Anguilla Community Action Network (ACAN) and French side’s Cite Scolaire Robert Weinum, will focus on four topics teenagers have indicated as major sexual reproductive issues, which create societal challenges: Teenage pregnancies and the consequences; Taboos associated with teens being sexually active including how to talk to parents about sexual reproductive health issues; Gender identity and hearing from someone living with HIV.

These topics were identified by St. Maarten teens at the Youth Consultation 2015 to be the main focus of this year’s session.

The Youth Consultation will bring together more than 60 teen delegates with varying nationalities, who reside in three neighbouring overseas territories of the EU in the Caribbean to share knowledge and ideas through discussions and presentations. The outcome of the Consultations will assist in the design of HIV/AIDS response and sexual reproductive health services and programmes for the youth.

Director of St. Maarten AIDS Foundation Rajesh Chintaman said, “For 2016, there is a push to have a wider cross cultural look at these issues and as such, the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and its Youth Wing are spearheading the Youth Consultation 2016, with the aim of involving the brightest teens from St. Maarten, St. Martin and Anguilla. It is our hope that we can learn from each other, inspire each other and play a greater role in informing the rest of the community of the needs of the teenaged population within the smallest parts of some of the world’s most developed countries.”

The day-long consultation is intended to brainstorm and garner feedback about these four topics from a youth perspective and then use that feedback to better reach and influence this and future generations. The consultation is organized in a manner that will stimulate good discussions and to leave a lasting impression for all involved.

One of the key outcomes will be the creation of country-specific documents that can be used as guidelines by the three Governments and other non-governmental organizations to tackle teen pregnancy, gender identity, cross-generational sexual reproductive health discussions, and living with HIV from a teen’s perspective.

The comprehensive reporting on each topic will allow for the creation of an in-depth document that will highlight, among other things, current positive and negative trends within the teen world, activities that impact attitudes, intervention possibilities and behavioral change suggestions.

“We want policymakers across the world to access the information we collect to aid in effective intervention and policies that work at making a positive impact on teens and the general population,” Chintaman said.

ACAN President John C. Lake said the opportunity to engage teens falls well within his organization’s strategic plan for expansion. As ACAN celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the hope is that interest stimulated at the Youth Consultation will set the foundation for a strong ACAN youth arm.

Lake said young people are not only the future, but they also form an important part of what the future looks like. “We must help to build strong young people and with strong young people we are guaranteed a brighter future for all,” he stated.

ACAN is excited about the interest on all levels in Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin for this Consultation that for the first time involves young people from Anguilla and the French side. “Such interest makes for a great foundation to build stronger alliances across the Caribbean region,” Lake commented.

Anguilla Director of the Chronic Disease Unit Twyla Bradshaw-Richardson, who has responsibilities for HIV/AIDS response, commended ACAN partnering with St. Maarten AIDS Foundation to host the Youth Consultation.

“Having civil societies partnering to champion such a platform for the youths to voice their strategies can offer a myriad of opportunities and new avenues to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative is set to emphasize the need to build partnerships, promote community efforts in this era where investments in HIV prevention appears to have flattened which can severely undermine effective responses,” Bradshaw-Richardson said.

St. Martin’s Cite Scolaire Robert Weinum Head Frantz Gumbs said, “I commend the organizers of this exchange and hope it will be fruitful. I wish the follow up will serve its purpose and expect more opportunities for enrichment through dialogue.”