ANNUAL YOUTH MEETING 2023 – 180 young Gambians attented

Young people from different professions convened at Gambia College for an empowerment session called for by Mr. Nic van der Riet, a philanthropist and development worker, and his closed associates in partnership with the Gambia College Students Teachers Association. The meeting, which was held on 25th November 2023, centered on youth empowerment and entrepreneurship, irregular migration, and climate change.

Following the opening prayers, Mr. Samsideen Jeng, who served as the chairperson of the event, warmly welcomed the assembly and gave a brief description of the event and highlighted the program guide to the audience. The audience comprised of youth beneficiaries, students, distinguished persons of resource, the media, and invited guests.

As the first phase of the session continued, some youth beneficiaries were called on stage for an interview with Mr. Nic van der Riet to share with the audience their brief backgrounds, their career path, the progresses they have made, the challenges and obstacles they encountered, and their recommendations. All the interviewees, who are into agriculture, entrepreneurship, marketing, business and skills training, narrated fully how they journeyed through their professions. Some questions regarding the circumstances that surround their field were put to them by the audience.

Mr. Lamin Sabally, a lecturer, a media personnel and gender activist who engages young people about issues surrounding their livelihood, was later invited on stage. Mr. Sabally spoke at length about the disadvantaged situations that the youth of The Gambia found themselves in. He believes that the leadership can alleviate the unfortunate economic conditions of the young people. He equally stressed the importance of agriculture and how the country can gain lasting benefits from it when it is considered with due consideration.

Another distinguished invited guest was Mr. Kalifa, who is a well grounded academician and businessman. He shared the nature of his journey in pursuit of academic excellence and how his rice business is faring for him. He stated that one of his aims is to provide employment opportunities for the young people of The Gambia in order to combat irregular migration. His deliberations were followed by some questions from the audience.

Additionally, one of the key discussions of the meeting was irregular migration. Mr. Jeng invited Ms. Rose Johnson on stage to tell the story of her attempted migration to Europe. She took time to give a detailed account of her journey, the challenges she faced such as imprisonments, assaults, abduction, and injuries that caused her trauma and great agony. Ms. Johnson also explained how she returned to Gambia through the help of International Organization for Migration (IOM), whose integration package she used to start up a business.

An educative lecture on migration was later presented by Mr. Jerreh Manneh who formerly worked with the IOM. Mr. Manneh took the audience through what migration actually means, the push factors and the pull factors of migration, the nature of the route, challenges, dangers, benefits, and what has been done to combat irregular migration. He showed the statistics of Gambian migrants from 2015 to date, and also, explained some migration terminologies. He briefly highlighted the joint efforts by IOM, UN, donors, governments, and civil society organizations in putting an end to irregular migration.

The first part of the session was later followed by an interlude by Global Potential Development Scheme. Salimatou Janneh, a member of the association read out an educative poem on global warming which was followed by a very interesting and educative drama. The major theme of their tragic comedy was irregular migration(back way- the perilous journey to Europe by sea) and the hardships that it causes.

The final phase of the meeting was on climate change. Dr. Ebrima Sonko, a part time lecturer at the University of The Gambia thoroughly presented the topic. He took the audience through the meanings of weather and climate, causes of climate change, its impacts, the essential climate variables, and strategies to mitigate climate change. He shared with the audience the satellite and statistics evidences of climate change in The Gambia, natural causes and human actions that causes climate change. Mr. Sonko also shared some recommendations to mitigate climate change.

The event was concluded by another interlude- an entertaining and educative drama by the Gambia College Students on irregular migration.

Ebrima I Jaiteh, student English Language, University the Gambia.

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