More than fifty Guadalcanal youths are currently in a youth forum being held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Visale, West of Guadalcanal.

The forum is jointly organized by the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children and the Guadalcanal Provincial Government.

Commonwealth Youth Programme South Pacific (CYPSP) Regional Director Ms Afu Billy says the Guadalcanal Youth Forum, being held in Visale this week, is a good example of policy-makers working with young people to create relevant youth policies.

"One of CYP's priorities is to promote youth participation at all levels of governance, and this is a great example of local and central government working together with their young people to create good policies for youth empowerment," says Ms Billy.

Denton Enriko, Youth Development Officer with Ministry and Women, Youth and Children (MWYC) says the key task for the forum is to draft a youth policy for the Guadalcanal Provincial Government.

"It's really to provide an avenue for young people from the Guadalcanal Province to come forward and express their views and concerns. Too often they take a back seat - this is a way for them to come forward," says Mr Enriko.

The Guadalcanal Youth Forum is one of a series of Provincial Youth Forums being organised by MWYC together with provincial governments to build youth policies specific to each area.

Mary Jionisi, CYPSP Regional Youth Caucus representative and member of the technical team for the forum, says events like these are important because they allow young people to have input at a high-level of decision-making.

"Hopefully, as well, this kind of policy promotes action. Many NGOs and donors need policies before they can support you financially, so hopefully youth policies like this should attract support that is specific to the needs of the young people in the area."

The youth participants have been in discussions the last two days to identify key issues for youth in the area which they will then turn into a vision and plan for the area. Issues include education, unemployment, lack of cooperation between elders and youth, health, loss of culture, environment and a quickly growing population.

One participant spoke about her experience as a tutor for a one-week literacy programme in her area, teaching people both her own age and older.

"We've got no literacy skills. We've got the willingness, but when it comes to education and skills, boys are the priority. There should be an ongoing literacy programme for everyone," said Maylin Sese, 21, of Central Guadalcanal.

Colesi Kaleatu, 30, of South Guadalcanal said he felt it was time leaders sat up and started listening to young people.

"No matter how much time we spend talking about the issues, our national leaders never listen to us - they never recognise young people," said Mr Kaleatu.