Young people make up the majority of Samoa’s population but most of the time their opinions and needs are disregarded.
Peniata Peniata told the Village Voice team on Friday that despite being the majority, the youth do not get many opportunities to have a say in the country’s affairs.
“There’s a famous saying that youths of today are the future of tomorrow,” Peniata said.
“But what we see now is the interests of youth are frequently disregarded and overlooked in decision making processes and the leadership in our own country.”
He says young people are “culturally silenced” and excluded by the elders in their families and communities which increases their vulnerability to being mistreated.
“That’s right,” he said.
“I think that’s one of the many reasons behind what’s happening today in our country, we live it every day, thinking that they have nothing to say in whatever discussions that takes place in families, homes and even churches and the country.”
He said one of the key issues youths face particularly at the village level is the difficulty to engage with their elders.
“Our culture is a culture of respect, we are brought up to listen to our elders, you learn from your elders,” Junior said.
“But very little is mentioned in how we can actually engage young people to be involved, other just listening and following the elders.”
“In my own opinion, youths are bombarded with questions, like they are not given the opportunity to actually voice out their opinions on how things should be implemented.”
“There now needs to be a mind shift that respect is earned two ways – both ways.”
“So if elders expect the young to respect them, they need to know that they need to earn the respect of the young people as well.”
He believes youths should be given more say so that decisions made are inclusive of young people as well.
“What we really want to see is for both private and public sectors to actually have a discussion with board members and have their technical advisory groups allocated to a young person,” Junior said.
“Parents also need to hear what their children are trying to say.”
“Our young people need to be heard, because they are crucial to the development processes in Samoa and they are the future generation who will carry the country going forward.”