Young Virgin Gorda residents shared their personal experiences with social problems during a forum at St. Mary’s Church Hall last month. (Photo: NICKLOUS KANHAI)

During a recent youth forum at St. Mary’s Church Hall on Virgin Gorda, Alyanna Nickie, a 16-year-old high school senior, described some of her regular struggles.

“When I share my opinions, I am bullied by classmates because it may not be what they believe, and it personally affects me,” she said.

The forum, which was organised by the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports on Nov. 16, gave young people on the sister island a chance to share their experiences on topics ranging from bullying to respect to self-esteem as VG residents Feliza Fenty and Trevor Bridgewater moderated.

Desiree Flanders-Harrigan, a youth programme officer at the DYAS, said the event followed two others held this year on Tortola.

“We initially hosted a forum back in October to commemorate Caribbean Youth Day where we wanted to hear from youth about issues that would have an impact on their education and subsequently their sustainability in the community,” she said, adding,“We were pleased with the outcome on Tortola, which propelled us to have a similar forum on Virgin Gorda.”

The input shared at the forum will be used to help the DYAS develop programmes and other initiatives for young people, according to Ms. Flanders-Harrigan.

Overcoming bullies

During the discussions, J’nique Williams, a 19-year-old college student, explained how she overcame bullying.

“I was bullied on my weight and acne and used the bullying to lose weight and efficiently improve my skincare routine,” she said, adding, “After improving my skincare routine, … an individual even questioned me on how I get my skin to look so perfect, although I believe I have a long way to go.”

Ms. Williams was pleased with the forum, she said later. “It was good for us to
share our issues openly and receive advice on how to cope or overcome them,” she said.

Ms. Nickie agreed.

“I hope there’s another youth forum soon, as I will surely miss being in such a positive and inspirational environment which allows me to discuss so many issues I face freely,” she wrote in a message after the event.

More to come

The discussion topics for the forum were derived in advance from a focus group held with sixth form students at the Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary Division.

Ms. Flanders-Harrigan said more forums likely will be held in the near future.

“We do intend to visit the other islands to speak to youth about the issues that are affecting them,” she said.