International Youth Day 2018: Safe Spaces for Youth

16 August 2018
© UNFPA/Nowai Linn
Nearly 500 young people from diverse backgrounds gather in Thein Gone village in southern Shan where they are encouraged to pariticipate in Myanmar’s peace process. © UNFPA/Nowai Linn

SHAN, Myanmar - On 12 August, a celebration was held in Ywangan, southern Shan, to mark International Youth Day 2018. Nearly 500 young people and key peace actors attended the event to celebrate International Youth Day with the theme Safe Spaces for Youth. Dr. San San Aye, Director General, Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; U Khun Myint Tun, Chairman, The Pa-O National Liberation Army, NCA-S EAO office; Dr. Tun Hlaing, the Shan State government’s Innthar ethnic affairs minister; U Win Wunna Win, Chairman, League of Danu ethnic affair; and Janet Jackson, Country Representative for UNFPA, attended the celebration. The event was organized by local youth empowerment groups and UNFPA.

Southern Shan State was chosen to host the 2018 International Youth Day event due to its ethnic diversity and its significance to peace in Myanmar. UNFPA also supports youth camp to promote young people’s involvement in Myanmar’s peace process. The youth camp in southern Shan was held for two weeks in August.

Across the world, the opportunities for young people to engage politically, economically and socially are limited. This is particularly true for adolescents in rural areas. They have limited access to the information they need to understand their bodies, emotions and capabilities. Young people require safe spaces where they can engage in activities related to their diverse needs, where they can participate in decision making processes, and where they can freely express themselves — free from judgement, and threats of violence, harassment and discrimination.

“We need safe spaces”

“It is time we gave a chance to young people to shape their dreams and realities for a better, peaceful and meaningful life by giving them the opportunities and safe spaces”, said Janet Jackson, Country Representative for UNFPA. © UNFPA/Nowai Linn

University student Zaw Pyae Aung shared: “I come from Pindaya. I have never had an opportunity to participate in a youth camp with many young people like this before. I learnt leadership skills and to embrace diversity. I can access broader knowledge, which I think is very essential for young people who live in the countryside.”

Khin Khin Tun from Inle expressed the need for safe spaces and knowledge in her town: “We need safe spaces where we can access the knowledge that young women need. I’ve witnessed how some young couples in my town neither know about sexuality education, nor how to use protection. I would like to share the important messages that I learnt from the camp with the boys and girls in my town.”

UNFPA supports representation and participation of young people; their ability to communicate their needs and perspectives; and their involvement in the country’s peace process. UNFPA also works with partners to advocate for policies that support youth.

Young people are the nation’s future leaders

“Young people are future leaders. Our country’s future depends on young people. This is my first time participating in a youth camp. My township does not experience conflicts for now but I think it is important to learn and get involved in the peace process so that young people like me will know if things go wrong in the region,” said 18-year-old Taung Yoe from Heho.

“This is about young people; giving them broader opportunities and valuing their insights, importance and contributions. It is about finding ways and making space for young people to reach their potential, which includes their participation in peace processes”, said Janet Jackson, Country Representative for UNFPA.