by Anta Niang
Youth violence is an issue which raises serious concerns among the Barbadian population, as it leads to severe crimes and manifestations of violence on the Island. Indeed, young Barbadians nowadays engage in violent actions at school, in the streets using guns, or in the cyberspace as a way to express themselves, and deal with other individuals in society.
Barbados, is among the Caribbean island that is commonly known for its peaceful atmosphere and good economic situation. Nonetheless these last years, the Island faces a preoccupying series of violent crimes, committed mostly among young people between ages 16 and 24, occurring usually at school and posted within the cyberspace. That is the reason why, given the urgency of the situation, it appears necessary for civil society organizations to investigate closely the issue, in order to understand its causes, manifestations and help provide effective strategies to overcome this pressing social problem. To this effect, research have been conducted, as well as a workshop which gathered young people from different educational institution’s around the island, as a way to get academic and practical knowledge.
Overall, school violence as well as gun and cyberbullying are the predominant manifestations of youth violence in Barbados. School violence mostly happen at the small scale between 2 children, but also in a large setting, when small groups fight between themselves or attack a single individual. Weapons used during those violent acts involve knives, chair legs, wood and metal. On the other side, gun violence mostly targeted young males in the early forms, but have now moved to any individual regardless of gender and age. Gun crimes, are not as frequent, however young Barbadians can still access easily guns from their parents or people within their community. Finally, as younger generations have easier access to social media, cyberbullying has also become a recurrent form of violence among Barbadian youth. In most cases, a negative opinion about a particular individual is carried on a particular social group, and the person will be publicly shamed by friends on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
When investigating at the possible causes to explain the sudden rise of youth violence in Barbadian schools, cyberbullying and gun crimes, many factors appears to be key motivators. Nonetheless, it becomes apparent that the root of the issue are connected to a young criminal social and community atmosphere. Indeed, within Barbadian society, young criminals lack economic resources and opportunities to improve their economic situation. Moreover, it is noticable that inequality based upon race, gender, social classes contribute to increase youth crimes on the island.. Indeed, young people are more likely to engage in criminal behaviors, if individuals in their communities are violent.
Taking a closer look at possible effective strategies to tackle youth violence in Barbados, it appears adequate to adopt preventive measures, as well as to try to occupy the youth effectively. Adopting preventive measures, refers to a combination of collaboration and discussion. Indeed, it implies to target communities in which prevail high level of violence, and initiate a discussion between community servants, public servants, and young people within that community. The discussion, should focus on trying to understand young criminals better, and colloborate with them on possible solutions. Moreover, another strategy would be to occupy the youth, as a way to prevent them to have loads of free-time. This approach consists in providing to young people support and/or activities, to utilize their energy in a positive and productive way. Furthermore, this approach will encourage young people that are willing to further their education, to gain skills and/or knowledge programs tailored to do so. Indeed, if young people are kept busy conducting activities, they are more likely to get exposed to positive influence, than if left to wander in the streets. Moreover, as the crime rate reduces, that would help make Barbados safer a destination for tourists, which would beneficiate the country`s economy.
Finally, when it comes to question whether NGOs and the third sector are necessary contributors to stop youth violence in Barbados, it can be observed they appear to be essential to providing solutions to this issue. Indeed, if keeping young people occupied is an effective strategy, then NGOs and small associations are the perfect actors to implement the plan. NGOs and small associations have easier and direct contact with communities, they can tailor and conduct the activities to fit the community social context, and will provide a warm rather than mechanical approach to this social issue.
Anta Niang is an International Development Studies student
with York University Canada in the Global Internship Program.
She is currently an intern with Pinelands Creative Workshop.