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Rotuma’s Youth hold the keys to a sustainable future
Youth, women’s groups and community leaders from around Rotuma were given the opportunity to share experiences and learn about sustainable development goals (SDGs) and human rights practices as a tool to promote and achieve a sustainable future for their community.
The workshop was the first of its kind to be held in Rotuma. Entitled ‘Active Youth Participation for Community Development’, it was part of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Pacific Youth and COVID-19 Recovery and Response Programme. The Programme’s three components include Youth Social Enterprise (Youth SENT), Youth Volunteers in the Pacific (Youth ViP), and Capacity Development Support and Intergenerational Dialogue and Learning.
The workshop was a collaboration between the SPC’s Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) division and Ignite4Change youth group and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand.
As the activity was SPC’s first engagement in Rotuma, it was important to first learn the community’s needs, resources, and challenges. The workshop provided a platform for the Rotuman elders, non-government actors, government representatives in Rotuma, women and, most importantly, young people to discuss ways of working together and contributing to the development of the community.
The workshop brought together more than fifty participants from all the districts in Rotuma.
Key highlights for the Council of Women and the Youth Council included the opportunity to talanoa with the Council of Chiefs, reactivate the Council of Women’s seat and create a seat for the Rotuma Youth Council in the Council of Chief. The talanoa also highlighted the Rotuma youth COVID-19 Recovery Response plan.
For Panapasa Ivi, a health officer in Rotuma, the event allowed Rotuma elders and youth groups to harness relationships, share and better understand each other on adolescent health challenges in Rotuma.
“The majority of people, especially in the area of health, find it difficult to work with youths in Rotuma, however, with this workshop, it has helped us to identify ways in which we can work with the youths here and how we can involve them in our work and also the strategies we can use in order to get them involved in addressing health issues,” Ivi said.
“As part of the workshop, I have learnt about the governance structure in Rotuma and how we as medical officers serving the community can come in and assist in some of these areas,” he added.
Another youth, Rupeti Vafoou from the LaijeRotuma Initiative, came away from the event with clarity about the important role of young people need to play in bridging the gap between Rotuma’s Youth Council, government stakeholders and Council of Chiefs.
Meanwhile for elders in the Rotuma, the workshop was an important reminder of the need for young people to be part of the Rotuma Council for inclusive development.
Jioje Sapeta from the Itu’muta Women’s Club and a member of the Rotuma Women’s Council, stressed that, “As a member of the Rotuma Island Council, I will be helping the Rotuma Youth to provide support in their initiatives.”
“In the last few years that I have been in the Council there has not been a youth rep in the Council but now I have a good idea that they need to be a part of it and state their needs for development and we the council members have to help them,” she added.
Miles Young, Director of SPC’s HRSD division, highlighted that at least half the region’s population is aged under 23. He emphasized how harnessing the talents of young people will have a significant impact on the economic prosperity, political success and social stability in the Pacific Islands region into the future.
“To ensure lasting and sustainable change for a prosperous Pacific, the involvement and participation of young people is crucial in positively influencing mindsets and attitudes towards gender equality and environmental sustainability,” Young said.
Broderick Mervyn, Coordinator of Ignite4Change acknowledged SPC for partnering with Ignite4Change and continuously creating opportunities for youths in the Pacific.
HRSD will continue to support, empower and engage with young people as powerful actors of change to drive positive change across the Pacific region.