On Eleuthera, unemployment is estimated to be as high as 70% in some areas and poverty is correspondingly high, with an estimated 20.3% of Eleutherans living in poverty, as reported in the State of the Nation Report 2016. It is a known fact that these two economic problems can be key causes of crime and require innovative solutions. With poverty and unemployment in the Bahamas being at an all-time high, it is now more important than ever to create economic solutions within our communities.
With more and more Bahamians on minimum wage or not working at all, some people can no longer afford the necessities of life. When you consider that the Bahamas is a service-based economy, relying heavily on import duties and tourism, the future predictions do not look well if we continue down this path.
The good news, is that there are many ways in which countries around the world are fighting back to help prevent poverty and unemployment. This is where economic empowerment comes in. Economic empowerment is the process of giving people the means to be in control of their own economic destiny. It involves allowing people to think beyond their immediate daily survival and to exercise better control over their long-term resources and life choices.
We must remember that unemployment isn’t just persons who are fired or quit their job. Unemployed workers include students who graduate from high school and college. Many students in Eleuthera, and throughout the Bahamas, are leaving high school without high school diplomas, low BGCSE results and little to no job skills. This is a major reason for youth unemployment in developing countries.
One proven way to create economic empowerment and reduce unemployment is for organizations to build multi-sector partnerships. Civil society organizations, like One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF), help to incorporate partnerships with a wide range of interests, creating more sustainable solutions.
OEF and partners are helping to address and limit the economic downfall on Eleuthera by connecting people to possibilities and becoming the stepping stone for anyone who is willing to get involved. OEF’s efforts to solve these problems on Eleuthera include aiding in education with the launch of a learn-to-earn training program at the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI). CTI provides vocational training as well as personal development. CTI allows trainees to gain knowledge in Literacy, Numeracy and Computer Literacy as well as various technical courses. The program works diligently to ensure that trainees are equipped and ready for the working force in various technical disciplines including landscaping, carpentry, electrical, farming, plumbing and housekeeping. The program also teaches trainees about personal development and becoming better citizens. Beginning January 2017, CTI will begin offering short courses and in September, the intent is begin offering Associate level degrees. Application and Registration for January 2017 courses are open and can be accessed here.
Additionally, OEF has helped to encourage economic empowerment with the opening of the One Eleuthera Cooperative Credit Union (OECCU), the only Credit Union on Eleuthera. The OECCU’s goal is to help in long-term financial accessibility and savings options for disadvantaged persons in the community. The OECCU will ultimately work together with OEF and partner organizations to help build a vibrant financial economy for the island of Eleuthera.
Another major way that countries can help to end economic suffering, is by the empowerment of its women. Gone are the days when women were homemakers only. By empowering women, not only are they able to make their own money, but it creates dignity, ownership and self-sufficiency within the home. Although still its incubation stage, the Female Empowerment Movement (FEM) will help to do just this through education and advocacy on issues such as violence and abuse. Female empowerment helps to reduce domestic violence and creates lasting opportunities for women to stay out of poverty.
In the Bahamas and around the world, agriculture can be a great way of creating job flow for young individuals. Through farming cash crops that are considered easily marketable, like corn, tomatoes and peppers, it provides a source of income. Eleuthera Community Farms (ECF) is working to help increase farming on Eleuthera. The ECF currently has three farm locations, in Central and South Eleuthera, with locally grown crops on sale weekly.
Overall, OEF and its partners are continuing to design programs and partnerships that create more economic empowerment by embracing local resources and expertise to make a better life for ourselves, our families and the Bahamas at large. We would like you to be a part of this movement to a better Bahamas.
There are so many ways to get involved. You can help by volunteering with OEF and/or partners, becoming a member of OEF, or making a donation to One Eleuthera Foundation. By getting involved you will be directly helping with the economic empowerment of Eleuthera. You can find out more about OEF partners and projects like CTI and ECF at: www.oneeluthera.org or by checking out our facebook page at: www.facebook.com/oneeleuthera.
Written and edited by: Embri Stuart with assistance from Shenika Campbell