The Young Leaders Alliance of Belize (YLAB) has selected attorney-at-law Alea Gomez and petroleum engineer Mandela Wade as the Youth Representatives on the People’s Constitutional Commission.
by Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 27, 2022
The Young Leaders Alliance of Belize (YLAB), a group that is appealing to all Belizeans under the age of 35 from across the country and in the diaspora to get involved in national development, has selected the two representatives who will sit on the People’s Constitutional Commission. Alea Gomez, attorney-at- law, will act as the lead youth representative, while Mandela Wade, a petroleum engineer, will act as the alternate rep.
On Monday, the Young Leaders Alliance of Belize (YLAB) took to the National Assembly in Belmopan to lobby for the inclusion of the country’s youth in its constitutional reform process. And since then, the organization managed to meet with the Good Governance Unit and was granted a seat on the People’s Constitutional Commission as Youth Representative.
Two of YLAB’s founding members, Bryton Codd and Dominique Noralez, gave spirited speeches during Monday’s House Committee Meeting.
“Our actions today will impact seven generations to come. It’s a disservice, therefore, to embark upon a review of the document which will become the peace of our democracy, and will therefore dictate the functioning of our society, without engaging and involving the youngest within society,” said Codd, who spoke with AMANDALA on Wednesday about the importance of including the younger generation in decision-making processes.
When asked about that powerful line delivered on Monday, he had the following to say:
“Young people would have not been in this position, if seven generations ago, they would have been speaking on behalf of [us] in terms of sustainable development. But we see that we have the golden opportunity now to jump on what I think is a transformational process for young people. And seven generations from now, we’ll be able to see the impact of this type of movement.”
The establishment of the People’s Constitutional Commission, which, according to Minister of Constitutional Reform, Hon. Henry Charles Usher, has been in the making for quite some time
now, is a part of the Government’s attempt to “decolonize the nation” forty- one years after independence and to do so in what it calls the “most consultative manner possible.”
The Commission will be in charge of the process of revamping the Constitution of Belize. Last week, however, the release of the list of groups that are expected to be a part of that Commission was met with criticism, particularly because a number of key groups had been omitted, including Belize’s youth population.
According to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in the United States, young people (those aged 18-30) make up more than half of the population in many countries. In Belize, it is estimated that persons under the age of 34 make up 70% of the population. Despite these staggering numbers, however, youth often find themselves marginalized when it comes to developmental decision-making. The Young Leaders Alliance of Belize is hoping to change this.
YLAB was created in 2020, after a small group of Belizean youth launched the “Youth Votes Matter” campaign, which sought to inform the younger generation of the important role that they have to play in shaping the future of the nation through the voting process. That first initiative, said Bryton Codd, was one that was taking place across the Caribbean. But the founders of YLAB wanted an initiative that they could call their own here at home.
“Young Leaders Alliance is a non- partisan, youth-led organization that focuses on the inclusive participation of young people in national development spaces,” Codd told us.
At present, there are many who believe the younger generation to be mostly apathetic and detached when it comes to politics and policy-making. We asked Codd what he thought of this erroneous assumption.
“I think in some sense young people have been detached from the process of democracy beyond the voting day, and that’s fair. However, young people want to be engaged, but there has been no platform for them to be actively engaged in a manner that is well received and respected by those who are in authority to ensure that we have that space,” he said.
According to Codd, YLAB seeks to provide that much-needed platform that will amplify youth voices and ensure that they are heard.
A PBS Education article by Bushra Amiwala, the youngest Muslim elected official in the US, notes that the relationship between young people and politics is “complex and problematized” since youth are seen both as the group who disengages politically and the group often at the forefront of major political movements.
Recently, YLAB has been looking into what is the most effective possible way of engaging all youths, regardless of their background or where they come from. The organization has underscored the need for the inclusion of youth representatives on the People’s Constitutional Commission, stating that the exclusion of youth organizations will signal loudly that the nation’s leaders only value youth participation on Election Day.
“Not having a seat at the table would make it unequivocally clear for us that our nation’s political leaders do not value the voice of youth in the development of our country,” said the organization in a press release issued this week.
YLAB is extending an invitation to all young persons from across the country to join them in their cause.
“We want to hear the young people from Sarteneja to Jalacte, Benque to San Pedro. We want you to join our team,” said Codd.
“Get involved. It is far past the point of young people being silent as per the post-colonial culture of ‘speak when spoken to or otherwise shut up.’ That is no more. Young people need to take control of national development within our country because we are the ones that will be inherently affected,” he added.