By Vishani Ragobeer
At just 20 years old, Guyanese law student Rawletta Barrow has an ambitious vision for youth in Guyana and across the Caribbean. For her, young people everywhere must be afforded the opportunities to pursue their goals and add their voices in decision-making spheres, particularly on issues that affect them.
Barrow is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree at the Cave Hill (Barbados) campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). From next October, however, she will be heading to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK) after copping the prestigious Rhodes scholarship.
She was chosen from among 12 candidates, who were interviewed virtually by the selection committee. Like Barrow, students from the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and St. Kitts were vying for a single scholarship spot.
“Honestly, I haven’t really processed that I am a Rhodes Scholar as yet, it is still sinking in but for me, it is being an advocate and really representing your country and constituency and putting your best self forward,” she tells the News Room during a virtual interview.
The Rhodes scholarship is the world’s preeminent and oldest graduate fellowship, based at the University of Oxford since 1903; the scholarships for the Caribbean began in 1953 and it focuses on bringing together remarkable young people from around the world.
Because Barrow will be pursuing a Master degree alongside like-minded scholars at the university, she believes that it will boost her critical thinking skills and ultimately, her ability to contribute to the development of her country and the wider Caribbean region.
Development is a broad concept, certainly, and so Barrow explained that she is keenly interested in youth development.
“It may be a bit idealistic but I want to see a society where all young people feel as though they are able to pursue their goals and they don’t feel like they have to go elsewhere to be able to reach their potential and access resources,” the young woman said.
To help achieve this, Barrow is aiming to combine her law studies with her work in youth advocacy. With her skills and those of people like herself, she thinks a sound legislative and policy framework that facilitates youth empowerment can be created.
Explaining this further, she says that the law, specifically, can place positive obligations on states and prompt them to ensure that there is a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.
On the youth advocacy front, Barrow has already distinguished herself. From the age of 12, she was teaching at her church’s bible school and volunteering at her church. Later, she was selected as one of the US Embassy’s youth ambassadors and travelled to the US to complete a leadership and cultural exchange programme.
Over the past few years, she has been working on community service projects through the youth ambassador experience. And, at the UWI, she served as the President of the Guyanese students’ association there.