Thazin Thiri Khit remembered the days in 2013 when she lived in a complex of apartment buildings in Dagon Seikkan Township, a bustling south-eastern suburb of Yangon City, where the back alley was strewn with litter and teeming with mosquitoes, cockroaches and insects. Thazin said: “In those days, I really did not want to be at home because the smell was so bad, and during the rainy season the area filled with rain water which remained due to bad drainage.” Parents and elders worried about diarrhoea and dengue fever, yet nobody did anything about it.
It was then that Thazin, 12 years old at the time and living with a disability, together with her friends, decided that they would clean up the back alley. Soon, other people joined in, and then their parents as well. It was not long before the whole neighbourhood was involved. Not only was all the litter cleaned up but the drainage system was also repaired. It still works up to this day.
Transition is taking place in Myanmar, which has gained momentum with a democratically elected government taking power in 2015 for the first time in nearly five decades. Myanmar stands to benefit from a “demographic dividend” based on the Census 2014 data, as young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years make up nearly 30 per cent of the total population, giving the country the potential for substantial economic development. Ms. Kaori Ishikawa, Deputy Representative, UNFPA, said in her remarks at an event on the 13th August to celebrate International Youth Day: “UNFPA wants to see more young people participating to achieve sustainable development in the country.” This year’s theme, “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production” highlights that the needs of present and future generations need to be balanced in order to create economic growth without destroying natural resources.
At the event, a panel discussion took place where youth spoke about their activities in moving towards sustainable productivity. They want to know how they can participate in ensuring that the basic needs of all people are met. Food, water and energy need to be made more accessible and affordable to those living in poverty, they said. In addition, they spoke about how changes in consumption patterns have the potential to eradicate poverty, and encouraged all youth to do more and better with less.