Yangon - Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark highlighted the work of the UNFPA in promoting healthy choices and lifestyles for young people in Myanmar including preventing teenage pregnancy and ensuring contraceptive protection for those who are in intimate relationships during a visit to a youth development centre in the heart of Yangon on Friday (10 January 2014).
Princess Mary of Denmark, who serves as UNFPA Patron supporting the agency's work to promote maternal health and safer motherhood, met with a group of Myanmar youth to learn more about what it is like grow up in Myanmar, notably what pressures and problems teenagers in the country face, now that it is undergoing a massive transformation both politically and socially after decades of military rule.
Crown Princess Mary was greeted by a group of 25 eager and excited teenagers upon her arrival at the UNFPA-sponsored Youth Development Centre in Yangon, including Ms. Janet Jackson, UNFPA’s Myanmar Representative. “It is a special occasion for us when Crown Princess Mary takes the time to visit one of our youth programmes. It comes at a very important time for Myanmar. Her visit highlights the importance of young people's participation and inclusion amidst the changes that are happening. Young people are key in helping to set the tone for now and for the future. This gives added impetus to the work we do in ensuring that every young person’s potential is fulfilled. It also confirms that we are on the right track in working closely with the Government of Myanmar to develop a youth policy to address youth issues nationwide,” said Ms. Jackson.
It was difficult for the more than 25 teenagers gathered at the centre to contain their excitement ahead of the arrival of the royal visitor. It was the first time that the youth see a "real" Princess in person. The teens have been busy preparing the visit for days, rehearsing a specially choreographed dance which they performed for Crown Princess Mary during her visit. The dance is part of a visibility campaign which emphasizes the wish of youth to grow up in safe environment and be part of a HIV free generation.
Ahead of performing their dance the Princess had an opportunity to talk with the group of youths. The pressure on young people to get a good education and get a good job is high and nowhere more so than in Myanmar which is undergoing fast change in an environment that is increasingly competitive. Many youths end up becoming disillusioned, drop out of school, loose contact with their families or even become vulnerable to drugs and promiscuity.
“The pressure felt on Myanmar youth to adopt a healthy lifestyle and do well with their lives is massive, and it can lead some to go down the wrong path,” said Dr. Ne Win, UNFPA’s Assistant Representative and expert on Adolescent, Youth and Reproductive Health.
To prevent this, the UNFPA has teamed up with the Myanmar Medical Association to reach out to young people to increase their knowledge of basic sexual and reproductive health and motivate them to adopt healthy lifestyles and be part of a happy family environment. The UNFPA is contributing $150,000 yearly for the youth development programme. The programme helps to fund the youth centre in Yangon and in other parts of Myanmar.
“Our job is to try and steer them in the right direction, by establishing youth-friendly space and equip them with leadership skills and help motivate other young people to adopt healthy lifestyles,” said Dr. Ne Win.
About one quarter of the world’s population falls between the ages of 10 to 24 years. In Myanmar, young people represent 30% of the population. Young people's access to a comprehensive package of youth friendly services, including sexual and reproductive health education and services, is integral to their potential being fulfilled and to preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection.
Through her foundation, The Mary Foundation, and her patronages, H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary is particularly dedicated to humanitarian, health and social issues such as improving lives of children, adults and families. Denmark’s Minister for Development, Mr. Rasmus Helveg Petersen and a team of diplomats and media also accompanied the Crown Princess to the youth centre.