Commonwealth project helps youth to make sense of everything from shares to saving options
Over the last few years the global financial crisis has dominated headlines around the world. During this time everyone from financial analysts to politicians - let alone the general public - have desperately tried to wade their way through the baffling and complex financial world.
While this battle for greater understanding of the seemingly impenetrable financial system has taken place on an international level, for some years there have also been many more private battles going on - as young people struggle to make sense of their own finances.
Deposits for houses, the stock market and saving for university are among the areas which leave young people scratching their heads in search of answers.
In order to address this problem, the Commonwealth Secretariat set up a programme in 2007, which focused on helping teenagers learn how to manage their money. This project emerged after Finance Ministers from Commonwealth countries called on the Secretariat to work on what they called 'financial inclusion.' In addition to this mandate, individual member countries also approached the Secretariat to support them in this area.
This Secretariat's financial literacy programme kicked off in Trinidad & Tobago before being expanded to Dominica and Jamaica. In each country the Secretariat teamed up with a partner organisation to help deliver the programme.
Over the last three years this project has educated young people about the benefits of using money wisely - in terms of their savings, expenditure and investment. They also learnt about shares, mutual funds, stock exchanges, various forms of deposits, financing a university education, owning a home, starting a business and planning for retirement.
Since 2007 around 1,200 students in these three Caribbean countries have benefited from this project.
Methods used to help young people look after their personal finances better include: producing cartoons strips which offer practical ways of saving money; distributing easy-to-understand booklets which answer questions such as 'Where can I save and invest?'; and conducting workshops where trainers are trained in educating youth about how to become financially literate.
"It is sensible and necessary to teach our citizens and our young people in particular how to manage their money - whether they have a little or a lot," said Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith, who was the guest speaker at an event in Kingston, Jamaica on 8 July, which highlighted the Financial Literacy Project's success. The event was organised by the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication, the partner organisation for this project in Jamaica.
"If we are to have a better quality of life for our people in developing countries, then our citizens .must learn how to make sense of financial matters: they must have the life skill that is financial literacy," he said.
At this event Mr Smith met some of the young people who have benefited from this programme. His visit came after the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, which Mr Smith attended.
The Secretariat's assistance for direct student-outreach financial literacy projects has now come to a close. Recently, however, the Secretariat has focussed more closely on 'Train-Trainers' initiatives which have reached trainers and facilitators in 21 Commonwealth countries throughout the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific. The training, which has been conducted in countries such as Nigeria, The Bahamas and Samoa, continues to focus on helping young people make sound financial decisions.