The Mekong Youth Net (MYN) is an initiative by DEPDC/GMS that established a grassroots network delivering an anti-human trafficking response throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). From August 9-11, MYN youth leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam converged to attend the ASEAN Youth Consultation where they were joined by members from the Kayan New Generation Youth and the Colorful Ethnic Youth to brainstorm and share their ideas on ways to improve their communities.
The purpose of the conference was to gather diverse experiences, opinions and perspectives from youth leaders all around the Mekong region. Findings and conclusions would then be presented to the new ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). The ACWC was inaugurated in April 2010 to focus on issues impacting women and children and to promote women and children’s involvement in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To learn more about the new committee, please click here.
Drawing from their in-depth community research, intensive networking and outreach, and their comprehensive work for protection from and prevention of human trafficking, the young leaders of the Mekong Youth Union (MYU), the umbrella organisation of the MYN, had plenty to say. They drew on their diverse and hands-on experiences in engaging the most challenging problems facing the Mekong region.
Together, the 74 workshop participants identified the seven most pressing issues that their communities are faced with: human trafficking, illegal drugs, HIV/AIDS, cultural preservation, domestic violence, environmental damage, and statelessness.
However, the youth leaders went one step further than just listing known issues; they also channelled their experiences into proposing creative, sustainable solutions to those serious social problems. In smaller discussion groups, they brainstormed ideas about how they could engage their communities to address these problems.
Their innovative suggestions included the creation of centres in each community to coordinate HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, peer education to prevent substance abuse, and special travel documents that would allow stateless youth to travel to professional conferences.
The many suggestions were compiled in a document that was presented at the October 2010 ACWC Summit, making the youth leaders’ findings and conclusions heard by country representatives and policy makers in the ASEAN region – real youth empowerment in action!
The ASEAN Youth Consultation also sought to highlight and celebrate the diversity of youth throughout the GMS.
The youth leaders took part in the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People at Chiang Mai University, where – with more than ten ethnic groups represented – they took the opportunity to showcase the music, religion, traditional costumes and culture of their ethnic communities.
It was truly heartening to see through the work and dedication of these young leaders of the MYU and the other, equally enthusiastic youth what great potential there is in the Mekong region. Attendees to the workshop agreed that they enjoyed the sessions and that they all learned a great deal from one another. The model of gathering the perspectives of youth was inspiring to all participants, who hope to pass on their experiences and empowerment to the next generations of young people in their respective countries.
The next ASEAN Youth Consultation is scheduled to be held in Chiang Rai in December, so stay tuned for further news from the Mekong youth leaders.
The ASEAN Youth Consultation workshop was organised and supported by the Southeast Asia Regional Cooperation for Human Development (SEARCH), the Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), our partner Plan International, and DEPDC/GMS.
To visit these organisation, please click on the respective logos below. For a video from the Kayan New Generation Youth, please click here.