Sarjo Camara Singateh
Youth representatives from all the regions and their partners, under the auspices of the ministry of Youth and Sports, converged at the Paradise Suites on 13th August 2014, to validate the draft Youth Bill.
Presenting the 26 page draft to the participants, Mr. Kaliba Senghore, the consultant, said the Bill is supposed to change the name and functions of the National Youth Council to Youth Development Agency.
During the course of the discussion, the participants were divided into four groups to look closely at the document to ensure that it addresses the needs and aspirations of the Gambian youth. In the ensuing discussions following the group presentations, the participants raised issues on certain sections of the draft bill especially the one that has given excessive power to the minister over the board and also the large size of the board. The participants also questioned the need to have an agency instead of the National Youth Council contrary to what prevails in other African countries.
It was also suggested that similar validation should be held in the different regions in order to also capture the concerns of young people in both the urban and rural areas.
The participants recommended for further consultation before the Bill is finalized.
Responding to the concerns raised, the consultant informed the participants that he proposed to the minister to meet with all the chairpersons before finalising the draft, but was told that few people are needed to be interviewed and they were identified.
After an intense debate on the change of name from NYC to YDA, the consultant told participants that the Gambia is ahead of many African countries in terms of policies and programmes relating to young people and that it is fitting for the council to be changed to an agency. He added that other countries even in Europe will soon adopt this approach.
Other sections that attracted the objection of participants include those dealing with the powers vested in the minister to simply hire and fire members and to penalize young people.
At one stage of the exchanges, the consultant noted some participants are personalising some of the issues being debated but to which some disagreed and argued that they are scrutinizing the contents of the documents as they are representing their regions.
It was finally agreed that some of the observations should be incorporated into the final document including the change of the name to Youth Development Agency to National Youth Development Agency, although one out of the four groups expressed disagreement over the change of name.
The consultant asked the chairpersons to send in their final comments and for the issue on the name to be left to the minister.
In their interventions, Ndey Marrie Njie, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports, commented that the consultant did well, adding that from here the document will be going to the Attorney General’s Chambers before being presented to the National Assembly for ratification into law. She also supported the idea of changing the name to agency. She stated that the terms of reference (TOR) was drafted by the council.
A representative from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education called on participants to validate the document as it would be a wastage of resources for them to go home without doing that.
Speaking earlier in his opening statement, Mr. Alieu K. Jammeh, the Minister of Youth and Sports, said “The phrase “Young people are the future” has been heard time and time again but for us, the importance of integrating young people into the development agenda and investing in young people is critical to securing long term social and economic growth and advancing the development process.”
The Youth and Sports Minister said the establishment of a National Youth Council in 2000 has been the biggest landmark in youth development in the country as it has transitioned the youth to take direct charge of managing their own affairs.
He said they are gathered there to closely and critically look at the NYC Act 2000, adding that after 14 years, many things have changed around them. “Our needs and aspirations have changed as well. So we need a superstructure that can reflect and cater for our current realities,” said Minister Jammeh.
For her part, Ms. Nancy Nyang, the Youth and Sports Permanent Secretary, said looking at the great role the youth play in the development of the country, they still could not be seen in the PAGE. She said they have been left out of this big gesture.
He urged the participants to make best use of the validation.
Mr. Senghore, the consultant, thanked UNDP for funding the study.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Lamin Darboe, the NYC Executive Director, thanked the participants and regional chairpersons for their commitment and participation.