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Young voices determined to be heard

An organisation to give young people a way to make their voices heard in politics has been set up by a group of young women.

Bermuda Youth Connect, launched to help bridge the divide between the young and political leaders, will hold the island's first Pre-Election Youth Forum to discuss its concerns with party representatives.

Ajai Peets, a founding member, said Youth Connect wanted to give young people a platform where they can be involved in the political conversation.

She added: “Young people like us feel like we're not heard and we are seen as though our voice isn't necessary or that we're not mature enough to have these discussions.

“Our voice needs to be heard because we are the next generation and we are the future leaders of tomorrow.”

The 21-year-old added: “A lot of young people don't want to get involved in politics and have conversations because they're tired of being told ‘no' and that what we have to say doesn't matter or that we have to wait our turn.”

She added: “How do you expect us to be good leaders in the future if we're not given the opportunity to have these conversations and have these opportunities?”

She said that she and her co-founders planned to have two representatives from each political party join them at the forum.

Ms Peets added that they would discuss social and economic problems that concerned young people, such as education reform, youth unemployment, mental health resources and cannabis legislation.

She said: “These are some of the issues that we feel are not discussed by our political leaders and sometimes can be thrown under the rug and not really addressed. These are topics that we found that young people are very passionate about and want to learn more about as well.”

Ms Peets said that the organisation was non-partisan and would hold all political parties accountable.

She added that the group wanted to encourage young people to think for themselves and make informed decisions.

Ms Peets said: “We want to sever this belief where, just because our family votes particularly for one party, we as young people have to fall in line and vote for that party, too.”

Ms Peets added: “We want to encourage young people to make a decision for themselves based on their own ideologies and beliefs and this is a platform for them to make those decisions.”

Halle Teart, 20, a co-founder of the organisation, said that the forum would be “the perfect blend of debate and discussion”.

She added: “This is why we thought it best to have each party represented — so we could have contrasting views and contrasting ideologies, hence the youth are more knowledgable of where each party stands on each respective issue.”

Ms Teart said that they hoped to continue the political discussion after the election to keep young people interested in politics.

She added the forum group was open to suggestions from other young people about what topics they wanted addressed.

Ms Teart said: “The conversation doesn't end just because a government is elected — the conversation has to continue.

“Having a conversation between the youth and politicians will allow us to hold our government accountable — that's just something that's necessary in order for us to have a robust democracy.”

The Pre-Election Youth Forum is expected be held next Tuesday, but may be rescheduled in the wake of Hurricane Teddy. Ms Teart said that the Progressive Labour Party had confirmed that two representatives would join the discussion and the new Free Democratic Movement said one member would attend. She added that the One Bermuda Alliance had not yet responded.

Links to the forum will be released on the group's Instagram and Twitter pages over the weekend. A livestream of the forum will be shown on its Facebook page and YouTube channel

Seizing the opportunity: Bermuda Youth Connect, an organisation committed to giving young people a political platform, will hold the island's first Pre-Election Youth Forum to discuss youth issues with party representatives. Shown from left are the founding members of Youth Connect, Halle Teart, 20, Veronica Swan-DeGraff, 19, Ajai Peets, 21, and Tierrai Tull, 19 (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 19, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated September 19, 2020 at 8:16 am)

Young voices determined to be heard

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