West indian people

Youth involvement is vital in the fight against drugs: Billy Batware

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If we have a chance of succeeding in the fight against drugs, it is by involving young people, said Billy Batware, program officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Mr. Batware who was in the state capitol for a three-day international forum on “Children Matter-Right to a Drug-Free Childhood”, said The Hindu that it was important for young people to be informed of the risks of drug abuse so that they distanced themselves from it and advocated the same approach with their peers. When young people, especially those who had successfully recovered from drug addiction, communicated with other young people, it was very effective.

Young people first turned to drugs for experimentation, but in many communities they were drawn to them because of their family background, the environment in which they grew up and the difficulties they faced. Drugs have become a way for them to cope with socio-economic and psychological problems. Getting them to join the fight against drugs was the best hope for the stakeholders, he stressed.

He stressed the importance of education as early as possible so that children and young people understand the impact of drug use. A home environment that discouraged experimentation through discussion was also important.

There were many challenges in the fight against drugs, but two topped the list. The biggest concern was that the underlying issues that drove young people to use drugs were exacerbated in some communities. For example, unemployment was increasing, also due to COVID-19. Some governments have had to redirect funds from education, recreation, etc. to deal with the pandemic. This meant that employment and other opportunities for young people were dwindling, and it was one of the factors driving people into drug addiction.

Moreover, while technology was important, it also had a negative impact. There was a lot of misinformation, including about drugs, on social media, not to mention how drugs were portrayed by celebrities. If young people spend a lot of time in this environment without being educated about why not to use drugs, they could be influenced by it.

Easy access to drugs and the lack of sufficient sanctions for organized criminal activities in the drug sector are other challenges, he pointed out.

Mr. Batware said that one of the main lessons of the three-day forum organized by the Fourth Wave Foundation, in partnership with UNODC and the World Federation Against Drugs, was that projects were formed and succeeded thanks to the links forged by people in various forums. . For example, the Venda project of the Vienna-based Fourth Wave Foundation and Women without Borders connected at an international event and agreed to implement a project for mothers in Kerala to educate them on their children’s potential vulnerabilities and help them with a coping mechanism in a family environment. .

Another takeaway was that Women Without Borders was considering including it in its program. This meant that they were diversifying their work and approach because of what the Venda project was doing here in Kerala, he said.

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