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Creating spaces for young people in Myanmar

The International Youth Exchange in Myanmar has ended, and I can’t believe how many amazing people I’ve met in just two weeks.

Myself and four Oaktree volunteers attended a training exchange with local youth organisations and met with stakeholders from the aid and development sector. We also partnered with ActionAid Myanmar to volunteer at the Australia Myanmar Institute (AMI) which was about Myanmar’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

IYE team in Myanmar

A common concern raised in our meetings and conference sessions was that young people in Myanmar lack a formal space to participate in political processes. But the good news is that they are creating a space for themselves through grassroots mobilisation and capacity building.

Young people in Myanmar actively participate in civil society and should be seen as key stakeholders. Despite their current cultural and structural exclusion from the political process, the youth in Myanmar are eager to positively influence their country’s future. They engage with the issues they care about, but need spaces where they can influence political processes.

A fortnight in Myanmar is not long enough to capture the complexity of civil society and youth in Myanmar. But we did note two positive developments towards greater youth participation within political processes.

Firstly, the long-awaited youth policy that has been in the making for about 5 years is due to be published within the next few months. This is an important step in the right direction. A representative from Equality Myanmar identified that young people’s priorities in Myanmar depend on their state or province, so creating a unified youth policy and mobilising the Myanmar youth will be a challenge moving forward. 

IYE team in Myanmar

The second exciting development is the creation of a Next Generation report of Myanmar by the British Council. This report will conduct research to determine the attitudes and aspirations of young people, and the conditions and policies that support them in becoming active and fulfilled citizens.

My experience on the International Youth Exchange to Myanmar has opened my eyes to the challenges that young people in Myanmar face and the huge potential that they hold.