Interview Series: Yvane Agard -- By Alberta Richelieu
Yvane Agard holds a BSc. in Chemistry (major) and Biology (minor) from the University of the West Indies. She recently completed a Masters in Drug Chemistry with Distinction at the Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. She hopes to pursue a career in patent law relating to drug chemistry. She volunteers her time with high-risk youth and orphans by providing mentoring and tutoring to them, with the hope of creating a better future for the Caribbean. She is passionate about changing the culture towards women in the region and hopes to create more opportunities for young women in the science field for a more diverse and resilient Caribbean economy.
Yvane sees education as the main factor in keeping youth, especially young women engaged and confident in their abilities to succeed in the international arena. She contends that there must be a more flexible form of learning geared toward the increase in confidence across a wide cross section of people, for example, children with learning disabilities, and children who are more creative. “More creative children tend not to shine due to the lack of facilities [and opportunities available to them],” she explained. Creativity needs to be encouraged in order to grow. She noted that the revision of the curriculum in schools is necessary to incorporate and foster a more creative skills set. “Children who are more academically inclined tend to participate more in class because they feel a deeper sense of confidence, as such there tends to be a bias toward these type of children in schools.” We need to stop educating youth out of their creative abilities and encourage and foster a culture of innovation.
Moreover, Yvane views guidance and inspiration as essential factors in keeping young people engaged and confident in their abilities to succeed on the international stage. Most importantly, she sees the engagement of the diaspora and other inspirational alumni, as key factors in fostering inspiration in the region. “Inviting role models, particularly members of the diaspora and inspirational alumni to give speeches and mentor young people in order to give realistic views of what can be done with subjects studied, and [guidance for] future careers is important.” She emphasized that greater guidance instills confidence in what one is doing as well as what one wants to do in the future.
Yvane underscored that insecurities bring about low self-esteem, and without someone to talk to, there is a tendency to carry these insecurities into adulthood. “Without confidence, one will lack the belief in their ability to start his/her own business or achieve higher goals, particularly internationally.” Considering such, Yvane believes it necessary for young people, particularly young women, to have a “safety haven” to express how they feel. However, she stressed that, in lieu of the small size of Caribbean societies, anonymity is essential. Hence, she suggested the creation of an app or chat room where experienced individuals are available to speak to other young people possibly through a hotline format.
The Caribbean is in dire need of a greater availability of scholarships. “Without finances, higher tertiary level education becomes difficult due to the exorbitant prices of universities, particularly universities in first world countries.” In general, access to the international arena requires a higher level of education. In the Caribbean, people who attend university are usually those whose parents can afford it. “Growing up in a financially unstable household gives one the preconceived notion that they are unable to achieve greater things in life, and so, there is a lack of confidence [at an early stage]. This can cause young people from such households to perform poorly at school and lack confidence socially.”
Most imperatively, she stated that there is a need to inculcate into the minds of young people, a greater appreciation for education, especially education in non-traditional fields.
As regards social change, Yvane believes that social change starts from political influence. “There is a need for policies which foster social change, for example funding geared towards female empowerment, such as conferences and training programmes.” She emphasized the need for conferences with a more creative touch that will attract young people, as opposed to the typical “talk all day conferences”. She gave examples such as including a wide range of role models beyond academics to include entrepreneurs, entertainers and other artists to keep the youth involved, attentive and interested in these activities.
In terms of the role played by men and boys in female empowerment, Yvane perceives the upbringing of boys as the vital factor. “It is important to raise boys to have more respect for women and view them as equals. Supporting the issues requires seeing and understanding the injustices.” Additionally, she believes that there is a need for greater inclusiveness of males in female empowerment groups, talks, etc., by making them feel welcome.