By Lakhram Bhagirat
Now, more than ever, youths are taking the lead on a number of issues affecting not only them but the overall development of the world in which we live.
Globally, we have Malala Yusufzai taking the lead in fighting for education for girls, in particular following her near-death experience of seeing an education. We have Greta Thunberg taking on the global supers in the fight against climate change.
Locally, we have a number of youths paving the way in advocating for causes near to them – whether it is Dennis Anthony Glasgow for comprehensive sexual education, Jairo Rodrigues for the LGBTQ+ community, Judy Winter for the Indigenous community, Akola Thompson for a racially equitable society, or Renata Burnette for social justice through her poetry, the fact remains that these youths are championing causes that would make the world a better place.
However, it is important to note that they do not limit themselves when it comes to their advocacy since it is all intertwined in their aim of having a just society. Additionally, there are thousands of youths here in Guyana who are fighting daily battles to educate, particularly elders set in their ways, on the changes that need to occur in an effort to achieve optimum development and equity.
One such youth playing his part in the development of his community and the communities across the South Rupununi District is Joshua Anderson Frederick.
The 20-year-old hails from the Macushi village of Shulinab in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and is currently the Youth Programme Coordinator for the South Central People Development Association (SCPDA). Additionally, he is the Chair of the South Rupununi District Council’s (SRDC) Youth Arm.
“I was born and raised in a village called Shulinab village, the only Macushi-speaking village in the entire South Rupununi. I have 2 brothers and 1 sister and growing up as a child there were many challenges, especially in relation to the environment we live in today. As a small child I had a passion for the development of my community. I used to look through magazines with pictures and imagine my village looking like the many developed countries in the magazines,” he recounted.
Growing up, his mother always reinforced the need for them to pay keen attention to getting an education. In fact, she would tell them “Take your education serious, and don’t be like us, be someone better”. That fuelled Joshua’s drive to ensure he secured an education.
He attended the Macushi Primary School and then wrote the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) examination and secured a spot at the St Ignatius Secondary school. That meant that he would have had to leave his home village and take up residence in St Ignatius.
“That was the only secondary school close to home and attending school there was a bit challenging. I had to cope with peer pressure, home sickness because I lived in the dormitory but despite that I battled through and I managed to write CXC and with hard work, I did well,” Joshua said.
Growing up, Joshua was always interested in the development of his community. He did not sit on the side lines and watch as other people took on the role, rather he positioned himself to be a part of the developmental groups.
“I, as a youth, am always interested in the development of my community. So, I started attending meetings and getting myself involved in decision making can make me a person that can be a driver for development in my community and the region and wider the country.
“I have heard about the South Rupununi District Council at one public meeting and I was interested in the many projects they are involved in specifically for development in the district. What made me more interested is that they have a youth arm, at every year end youths from across the south go on a 1-week conference where youths have the chance to interact with other youths from other villages and even visit sacred sites.”
At the 2019 forum, the SRDC Youth Arm elected Joshua to serve as its Chair and he has been representing them ever since. He would attend the meetings of the SRDC and be a part of the decision-making process while offering the perspective of the youths when it comes to the implementation of those decisions.
“The Youth Arm is a full representation of all the youths across the Wapichan territory (Wapichan Wizzii). The Chairperson would voice concerns and also be a part of decision making. He also coordinates projects that are for the benefits of the youths.
“During my term as Chairperson, I am currently running a project titled ‘Reconnecting Wapichan Youths with Traditional Knowledge.’ As Chairperson, I want to be one of the people who can motivate other youths to take up the mantle of leadership. I also want our voices to be heard and let the world know that youths are the primary drivers of development in the world and at full force we can combat climate change and other issues.”
Joshua is hopeful that he can play some part in transforming his community to one of the modern ones in the South Rupununi so that youths would not have to face the economic hardships their parents faced. He is hopeful that development, while staying true to their culture and roots, would bring more job opportunities and equitable access to education for the youths of not only the South but every Indigenous community in the land.
When asked about what his life has been like, growing up in Shulinab, Joshua said “Shulinab village is the only Macushi-speaking village in the entire south and living in this village is like paradise. Waking up to see the beautiful majestic Kanuku mountains, feeling the fresh breeze blow on your skin and getting greetings from the friendly neighbours all makes it better. I sometimes think about the advantages that some other communities have over my community especially in these times, for example the communication access, but living a simple life in the Rupununi gives you a lot of experience. I have the chance to communicate with my elders, get the knowledge about my lands, sacred sites, and of course, traditional knowledge.”