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Oaktree in Myanmar

Yangon-na Create Change

By Chloe Tucker
Oaktree Email Team
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How can I accelerate positive social change?

This is a question that I, as a 23 year old, ask myself over and over again - particularly in a political climate that leaves me feeling under-represented and thus unmotivated.

However, my experiences in Myanmar as part of Oaktree’s International Youth Exchange left me feeling myanMORE inspired than ever. In January, I set off with four other Oaktree volunteers to participate in the Regional Training of Trainers program, run by Oaktree’s partner Global Platform Myanmar.

Teams of young people from Australia, Myanmar and Cambodia met in January to share ideas and learn from each other.

From my understanding, some young people in Myanmar can experience trouble finding their voice within society, and expressing their opinions on how aspects of society can be changed or improved. This is mainly because the first democratic elections took place just over a year ago. Before this, Myanmar was ruled by a military dictatorship. The idea that young people are entitled to involvement in political discourse and dialogue is therefore a relatively new concept in practice.

Global Platform Myanmar aims to provide a space that empowers young people, and provides them with the tangible skills and attitudes they need to find their voice to create change in their communities. By encouraging active participation and critical thinking, Global Platform creates an open, safe environment where the belief that young people can achieve anything becomes infectious.

During the 10-day training, I was surrounded by young and determined future change-makers. Our fellow participants came from Myanmar and Cambodia, and represented a wide range of organisations. Turning Tables is an organisation that works to empower marginalised youth by providing them with the means to express their grievances and hopes in music and film. Foundation for Change established a Youth Hub in Yangon where volunteers can share, develop and execute projects, and receive guidance and training. ActionAid is an international anti-poverty organisation fighting for human rights around the world. 

While each organisation focuses on varying aspects of development and different marginalised groups, they all have something in common- the belief that the status quo is not good enough, and that it can be improved by encouraging youth participation.

 

Group collaboration and capacity building is key to Oaktree's International Engagement trips.

The slogan of Global Platform is “Train the world, change the world”, and is something that certainly embodied my experience there. We began the first few days of training by receiving workshops from our three trainers, from Myanmar, Denmark and Bangladesh. These workshops included topics such as facilitation, conflict management, managing diversity and leadership styles. They concentrated on practical skills, while simultaneously fostering self-awareness, personal and professional goals and ways we can overcome future challenges. 

We then had the opportunity to put the theories we learnt into practice. In small groups, we each met with different organisations, developed lesson plans and facilitated training sessions. My team and I facilitated at Khan Kaw Education Center, a place for Myanmar students to gain skills, knowledge and qualifications in Community Leaderships and Social Studies.

  

Chloe facilitating a session on ‘Personal Identity’ at Khan Kaw Education Center.

At the end of the training, one of our fellow participants gave us each a keychain of a Pit Tai Taung. Whenever this toy is thrown in different positions, instead of falling, it pops back to a sitting position. This represents never giving up, and overcoming all kinds of difficulties and obstacles. While the Myanmar political context is unique, we can draw inspiration and learn from the thousands of young people getting involved, demanding better from their leaders and always standing back up.

For me, meeting these participants emphasised how much we can learn from other young people, and how we can draw inspiration from each other. We are so much stronger in unity than in isolation. 

It’s easy to feel that as young people, we don’t have enough to offer. However, the International Youth Exchange trip reminded me that there’s no excuse to stay silent, because we can’t expect change to happen if we do. We are responsible for writing our own future. The Australian democracy only functions if we actively participate and use our collective voice.

So, how can we accelerate social change? We get involved. We share ideas. We learn. We discuss. We engage.

Want to keep reading? Check out Being a Woman in PNG