JM | Jan 14, 2022

Speaking UP in a ZOSO: Youth in downtown Kingston share why they matter

/ Our Today

Parade Gardens

Youth in the Kingston communities of Denham Town, Trench Town and Parade Gardens are calling for the authorities to listen to their views on how they want to be represented and treated.

“People tend to believe there is only violence and negativity in the community, but there are a lot of positive things happening,” explains 18-year-old Adjani.

“But there is a lack of job opportunities. I believe that youths should be listened to, and I am a part of that [group].”

Adds 19-year-old Jaheime: “The violence and lack of job opportunities means someone has to take a stand. I would want [people in authority] to know that we need to have something in place for everyone.”

Prince, 22, emphasised the need for authorities to understand that opportunities shape what young people think is possible for them.

“For the older youths like me, we just need a job. And the ones after us can get skills training to get better jobs than us. That’s what we need so we can take care of ourselves.”

Trench Town.

These young men, and the other participants in the Speak UP project, are participating in training and information sessions on advocacy, social media and gender issues. The sessions are designed to help them become more involved in influencing how their communities and counterparts are portrayed in local media. Speak UP is funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and is part of the larger UP Unity and Peace programme coordinated by Fight for

“I think there is a stigma that nothing good comes from our community – which is wrong,” said Kemoya, 19.

“I think we don’t get to be heard, not much of what we get to say is taken into account.”

The advice coming from Raniesha, 16, for people who may share such views about her community is to resist judgement and support the journey and aspirations of young people.

“Don’t treat people ‘a way’ because of where they come from. We all have a future we are all trying to work towards. We all have a passion for what we want to do in life.”

Says Aaliyah, 18: “I believe there just isn’t enough persons willing to speak up. So I have decided to be their
voice in an instance to encourage them and spread youth empowerment and positivity.”

So far, participants have completed virtual, self-paced training sessions in communication, advocacy and gender mainstreaming and have shared videos showing why they want to advocate for their communities and peers.

Shasane, 24, is determined that his views are heard and is eager to share what he has been learning.

“What stands out the most is that the world and society we grew up knowing is always changing and there are more humans with diverse characteristics both physically and biologically. It will help us in knowing how to approach a set of people.”

Denham Town, Kingston.

Yonique Campbell, the community coordinator in Denham Town for the UP Unity & Peace programme, shared that “[the young people] are excited and it encourages them to express themselves freely. It really hits different when community members see the social media videos and find it inspirational. We have kids who want to be like them. Instilling change is what we want for the community”.

She added: “One student’s teachers saw the video and shared it. They are so proud of what she is doing and how she is presenting herself. We also have a male participant who has gotten a job and is being seen as a mentor and he has younger men coming to him and being counseled. Participating in Speak UP will help him share what is going on with the youth.”

The Speak UP project runs until December 2022, with plans to include the launch of the youth advocacy social media campaigns and community forums.

Fight for Peace works with young people across six communities. The programme is based on a collective impact framework, which brings the best organisations and professionals together under one unifying mission – to support young people to achieve their full potential.


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