Indigenous youth support revision of Amerindian Act and want greater access to services
Indigenous youths from the Moruca Sub-region made calls for revision of the Amerindian Act, annual sub-regional youth conferences, and hosting of a National Youth Conference following discussions on Indigenous culture, Indigenous rights, and related policy and legislation during the recently concluded Moruca Youth Conference.
The conference commenced on July 6 with a formal opening ceremony in Santa Rosa with remarks made by Santa Rosa’s Toshao, Mr. Starvos Stanley, APA Executive Director Ms. Jean La Rose, and Vice-Chairman of the Moruca District Council, Toshao Vivian Edwards.
Indigenous youths aged 18-35 from 10 of the villages that make up the Moruca Sub-district gathered to discuss various topics, including sexual & reproductive health, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, land issues, Indigenous heritage and culture, and social issues, and livelihoods. They were also paired with local knowledge holders who facilitated practical sessions on the spinning of tibisiri, mucuru stripping and craft making, Indigenous folklore and dance, and Lokono and Warau language lessons.
Also coming out of these discussions was the ongoing situation in Chinese Landing, where an emotional youth from the village took the opportunity to share the story of how large-scale mining has impacted his community. He spoke of the intimidation and physical threats and the increased environmental pollution. He encouraged the youths to use their voices to support the people of Chinese Landing, raise awareness of their situation, and stand up for their rights as Indigenous Peoples.
Other recommendations presented by the youths included: having more conferences focusing on various issues relevant to Indigenous youths, improved access to quality education, access to faster and reliable internet, and the need for increased stipends and allowances for students pursuing tertiary education outside their communities.
The three-day activity was held in Santa Rosa Village as one of several initiatives under APA’s EU-funded project titled, “Responding to COVID-19: building resilience through economic and social empowerment for women and youth in Regions 1, 7 & 8.” It was hosted by the APA and the Moruca District Council (MDC) under the theme, “Charting the way forward on youth issues in the Moruca sub-region.”
Indigenous youths are among the most vulnerable groups in Guyana and are plagued by numerous issues. These include not being part of the decision-making process in their communities, social problems such as teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, and a lack of self-worth as indigenous peoples, among others. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these situations. The APA strongly believes there is a need for indigenous youths to recognize the foundation of these issues and, in so doing, find ways to improve their situations. As such, the conference focused on exploring various issues affecting indigenous youths and finding ways to address them to ensure they are included in community agendas. This conference will also enhance their capacities to enable them to find solutions.
On the conference’s final day, the youths had the opportunity to participate in an aquatic activity that included swimming and canoe racing. In the evening, they put together a cultural show where they performed dances, poetry, storytelling, and songs which captured aspects of the knowledge shared during the conference. (Press release from the Amerindian People’s Association)