Presentation Saba Youth Council to State Secretary

SABA—‘‘Between us, it is nice to see a woman in charge for a change’’ said Jade Every, on behalf of the
Youth Council Saba. The Saba Youth Council welcomed Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and
Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen during a meet-and-greet event at Tropics on Tuesday evening,
February 22.
In their welcome speech, Youth Council Members Zakiya Lake, Bernardo Baker and Jade Every shared
their positive experiences so far in being included by different projects and initiatives, but also some of
the challenges that they feel the youth of Saba are faced with. They also asked the State Secretary if
they could meet with her when the Youth Council visits the Netherlands later this year, to which she
immediately said yes.
Zakiya in her speech gave a little background on how the Saba Youth Council came into existence. The
Saba Youth Council was established with the assistance of Gerald de Jong-Simmons and Lysanne Charles
after working together on the UNICEF project My New World.
“Gerald coached us to participate in the lobby session with then State Secretary Raymond Knops. We
also did an inter-island debate with teenagers from St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. We came up with
strong points to lobby for our island with Mr. Knops and we even got to meet him in person during his
last visit here on Saba. This was a very memorable experience and we were honored to do this,” said
More attention
According to Lake, there is still much inequality and there are many topics on Saba that need more love
and attention from the Netherlands. “There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to equal rights. I
look forward to seeing the good changes and progress that you will bring to our island. Especially
regarding poverty alleviation, mental health care, sports and other recreational activities for us teens,”
she told the State Secretary.
Bernardo Baker said that his time in the Youth Council has been the most beautiful experience in his life.
“The group is very strong and diverse. We are like a big, twisted tree and I would not change any of its
branches.” He said that things have not been easy for people on Saba in general, and especially for the
youth. The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot to do with that. “We have been stuck on Saba for the past two
More activities.
All three Youth Council Members who spoke at the event with the State Secretary said that they would
like to see more (recreational) activities for the youth. “We really want a youth center and we feel that
the youth should be making the decisions about the youth center. Now that is not the case and the
adults call the shots,” said Baker.
“There is not much here to do for us,” said Every. “Children are frequently bored, causing them to do
things that they should not be doing. It would be nice to have a better gym, qualified coaches, nice
music classes, a youth center and more things to do in our free time,” she said.
Every also remarked that there was a problem with diplomas at the secondary school. “Only this year we
heard that we have to pass a higher-level Dutch exam. The new law regarding the B2 level requirement
for diplomas has made things difficult. If a regulation like that is implemented, we feel it should be
Visit to Netherlands
Baker in his speech mentioned the pending visit to the Netherlands. He explained that there was budget
left from the sports project and that the Youth Council asked the government if these funds could be
used to attend the youth congress on Bonaire and to get to know the different organizations there.
Ultimately the group couldn’t go because Bonaire went in a lockdown.
“We have a new plan though: we want to organize a youth council trip to the Netherlands. We want to
go in the summer. The youth organization Jongeren Democratie told us about the motion that is being
prepared in parliament about youth participation and inclusion. We hope that you can help us with the
budget for this trip. The youth of Saba deserve a stronger voice both locally and nationally,” said Baker.
Every suggested that while in the Netherlands, the Youth Council could, besides the organization
Jongeren Democratie, meet with the State Secretary. “Maybe we can even meet you again to see how
everything is going. We hope that you can help organize this,” she said.
The State Secretary responded very positively to this call. She said she gladly accepted the invitation.
“Let’s do this. I would love to receive you. But I have to warn you, the Netherlands is only half as
beautiful as your island,” she told the Youth Council members. The State Secretary received a token of
appreciation from the Youth Council at the end of the presentation.