We proudly introduce to you the MYN youth leaders in Mae Sot, Thailand, who are making a difference in their community every day. Let’s find out what they are up to in galvanizing their community against child exploitation!
From 2004 to 2009, the Mekong Youth Net (MYN) has trained 96 young people in their late teens to early 20s to become community leaders all across the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and to create a network against human trafficking. The idea behind the MYN project was that by recruiting young people from the six GMS countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam and China’s Yunnan Province – and by giving them the education and skill sets necessary, they could return to their respective home countries well-equipped to work with local NGOs and their own communities to effect changes from the most grassroots level. Let’s hear what the MYN team in Mae Sot has to say!
“Sawasdeekha! Mingalapar! Oh su lasai! Greetings from Mae Sot in Thailand. We are a team of four Mekong Youth Net (MYN) youth leaders who graduated from the MYN training curriculum at DEPDC/GMS to work alongside our host NGO, Help without Frontiers, with our local community. All of us used to be students at the Migrant Learning Centre before being recruited by DEPDC/GMS to be part of their MYN programme. We are either Burmese or Karen, one of the ethnic minorities in the region.
“First, let us give you some background on the situation in Mae Sot and why we need a programme like the MYN in the area. Mae Sot is situated in Tak province on the Thai-Burmese border, and a friendship bridge between Mae Sot in Thailand and Myawaddy in Myanmar connects the two countries. There are many migrants from Myanmar in Mae Sot, including Burmese, Karen, Mon, Shan, Lar Hu, Arakanese, Muslin and Chin people. They have been entering Mae Sot illegally in different ways and for different reasons. Some of them fled from the civil war, some came to work and some decided to live in Mae Sot because of social crises, political problems, statelessness, lack of citizenship and economic repression in Myanmar.
“There are many problems affecting migrants in Mae Sot, such as child labour, forced labour, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and substance abuse. In light of the situation, many migrant learning centres were set up to provide access to education for many children who otherwise would not be able to attend school. But children’s rights continue to be violated, and child labour exploitation and child trafficking are rife, representing huge obstacles for the future of children and youth in the region. Therefore, MYN decided to initiate the MYN Mae Sot project to provide education in the community about many of these social issues.
“The objectives of the MYN project in Mae Sot are to help children and young people to understand the different situations and problems in the border area between Myanmar and Thailand, to know how to protect themselves effectively from such problems, to develop their life skills and other knowledges, and to create youth networks to combat human trafficking. Our programmes particularly focus on awareness raising and prevention. We go out to many migrant learning centres to conduct training sessions on Health and Personal Hygiene, Child Rights, Child Labour, Human Trafficking and Substance Abuse. We use a variety of teaching techniques, from skits to question-and-answer contests, to engage our young audience and teach them about the importance of the topics. We work as a team and work very hard, and we are happy to report that in just one year alone, over 2,000 students in total have come from 9 different migrant learning centres to attend our workshops!
“Starting from January 2010, we also began to broadcast a radio programme in three different languages (Burmese, Karen and Thai) to cater to our targeted populations most at risk of exploitation. The radio programme is a very effective way to reach out to a wide audience because for many migrants, the radio is the only media channel they have access to.
“MYN Mae Sot is still a very young project team as we just started operations in August 2009. Along the way, we have faced many difficulties, because the members have still little practical experience in management and communication, and we had to learn how to effectively work together as a team. To this day, MYN Mae Sot is striving to improve our efforts, but we are now more and more confident that we can deliver better work to give back to our own community the very help we received ourselves. We would like to thank our host NGO, Help Without Frontiers, as well as DEPDC/GMS for their continual support and advice whenever we run into difficulties.
“We hope this article gives you a little idea about the work that we do every day, and the kind of challenges that border populations like those in Mae Sot face. If you have any questions, we would be glad to hear from you!”
If you like to contact MYN Mae Sot, please click here to use DEPDC/Interactive. To learn more about the other country projects of the Mekong Youth Net, stay tuned for the upcoming October issue of the DEPDC/GMS Newsletter, which features news from Cambodia, Central Laos and Vietnam.