Young people in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba have entered into a conversation with the National Coordinator against Racism and Discrimination about racism and discrimination.
The youngsters discussed their experiences and understandings with national coordinator Rabin Baldewsingh, the dialogue’s initiator, on April 11. The conversations, in which the youngsters talked about their experiences and gave recommendations, were made possible by UNICEF Nederland and Foundation WeConnect.
The youngsters expressed themselves on topics such as: What do I notice or see in my own surroundings with regard to discrimination and racism? What could be done about it to prevent exclusion? What can young people do about it? Various issues surfaced during the dialogue. St. Eustatius’ youngsters focused on education. They would like to see practical lessons offered in school to ban discrimination. “Teach children how to identify racism and how to correct their behaviour,” was one of the recommendations.
According to the Saba youngsters, Saba is dealing with “systemic racism” which allows for privileged white families to have an advantage in life and often attain higher positions.
In addition, the youngsters from both Saba and St. Eustatius demanded attention for more “gender equality”. They pointed out that the “toxic macho culture” prevents development of equality, women’s rights and rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) community. One of the young debaters said: “We have to teach men in our society how to talk about their feelings in a healthy manner, in order to break away from gender norms and roles.”
Bonaire’s youngsters addressed linguistic issues. They pointed out that they, unlike in Aruba and Curacao, are forced to learn Dutch at school, prior to their mother tongue Papiamento. Many young people therefore do not have a fluent command of any language, which creates a language barrier. Moreover, they indicated that it is very hard to find adequate housing in the Netherlands as a student and that European Dutch students were given priority.
The Dutch bureau National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism (NCDR) was set up by the Dutch government in 2021. Baldewsingh was the first to be appointed to this role in the fall of 2021. He is working on a national multiannual programme against racism and discrimination. For this programme’s content he is talking to various people from the civil society. Additionally, more than 20 meetings will be organised in the Netherlands, so-called town hall sessions.
The conversations with young people, such as from Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius, are part of the programme. The aim is to deliver concrete results to curb racism and discrimination. The NCDR will present its observations to the Dutch parliament mid-2022. Baldewsingh showed himself satisfied after the dialogue with the young people from Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba: “The young people were very apt in pointing out where their obstacles are with regard to inequality and discrimination on the islands. It is painful to see the colonial history is still present on the islands and that this is noticeable in several fields such as education, employment market and care.”
This project in the Dutch Caribbean is a collaboration between UNICEF Netherlands, the public entities of the various islands and the Ministry of the Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. UNICEF and the authorities want to underline the importance of giving children and young people the opportunity to utter their opinions about subjects that concern them.
WeConnect is an educational foundation promoting connection between the Caribbean and the Dutch parts of the Kingdom.
The Daily Herald.