Kingston, Jamaica – Hundreds of youth advocates and other guests attended, Yute X, the Youth Advocacy Conference held at the Knutsford Court Hotel from May 7 to 9, 2008. Scores of persons also tuned in to Yute X TV online to view live streaming of conference discussions over the three-day period.
The Advocacy Conference, which was organized by the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) under the theme Yute X: Xpression, Xcitement, Xtratainment and Xposition, was made possible by the USAID JA-STYLE Project. JYAN is a youth-led advocacy group that focuses on several issues including youth sexual and reproductive health rights, education and training, violence prevention, care and protection (including persons with disabilities) and entrepreneurship and employment. Yute X aimed at pooling youth advocacy efforts by highlighting the state of youth advocacy as it relates reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, access for persons with disabilities, youth representation and effective lobbying. The conference also discussed the use of mew media approaches and the creative arts to strengthen the advocacy movement.
Keynote speaker James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, encouraged heads of organisations and government to move quickly in developing the national strategic plan, leadership and investing in resources. Wagoner gave the young advocates tips for effective advocacy. His top five were: think globally; act locally; use holistic approaches; build partnerships; plan strategically; and develop powerful messages.
Rajive McIntosh, student at Ardenne Extension High, said Yute X “was a wonderful and inspiring experience. It taught me how to interact with other young people and has inspired me to take up youth advocacy as a fulltime job.”
Youth Advocates’ Andrew Francis, JYAN Convenor; Kemesha Kelly, outgoing president of the National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC) and Lawman Lynch, president of the Kingston & St Andrew Action Forum Youth Organisation expressed that there is urgent need to end ‘lip service’ to enlist youth on committees and in the development of policies and intervention programmes that will affect them.
Dr. Jennifer Knight-Johnson, Cognizant Technical Officer at USAID, in making her commitment to advancing youth advocacy in Jamaica said that “we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what young people can do and their ability to make changes in Jamaica and the Caribbean.” According to Knight-Johnson, “USAID is passionate about JYAN and believe they are the hope to sustainability.”
Conroy B. Wilson, executive director at ASHE Ensemble and Academy explained, “ASHE was excited about Yute X and the ability to use the performing arts to inspire and empower young people. The conference demonstrated the power of youth when they are mobilized to create change.” “That,” he said, “is the essence of ASHE’s mission.”
The conference culminated on May 10 with a Uniformed Groups Parade and Expo organised by the Education Transformation Team at Emancipation Park.
Yute X was also supported by the Ministry of Health & Environment, Ministry of Education – Education Transformation Team (ETT), Scotiabank, the Gleaner Company, and RJR 94 FM.