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Youth and Democracy

Youth partnerships in Mekong countries

In March Oaktree’s Head of International Engagement Christine Deng, and Director of Youth Participation Sadbh O’Reilly were invited by the Mekong Regional Water Governance of Oxfam in Cambodia to facilitate youth participation workshops for South-East Asian young people. Showcasing Oaktree’s influence as youth empowerment experts in International Development, Sadbh discusses the benefits of cross-cultural workshops and how youth participation works in Mekong countries.


What was the purpose of the “Racing Up the Mekong for Humanity and Nature” program, and what did you do?

The purpose was to bring together 25 youth representatives from each of the lower Mekong region countries (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia) to discuss natural resource management and participatin leadership and capacity-building workshops. The first day focused on natural resource management issues, challenges unique to each respective country, as well as strengthening the regional youth network in the region. The second day focused on the theory of campaigning and practical tips for community organising and strategy planning.

Who were the people or organisations you worked with?

Oxfam is a collection of charitable organisations focused on alleviating global poverty. In Cambodia, there are seven Oxfam affiliates that support a range of development programmes including humanitarian relief, agriculture, climate change, and water resource management and extractive industries. Oxfam invited us to participate as facilitators in this program as part of their Mekong Regional Water Governance Program. The program aims to strengthen civil society and empower communities, so that more farmers and fishing communities in the Mekong region and Salween river will fully realise their rights to a secure and sustainable livelihoods.

Why was Oaktree invited to this event?

After meeting with Oaktree in December 2017, Oxfam recognised Oaktree’s value as a youth-led organisation and expert in grassroots programming, and asked us to join the program.

What did you manage to contribute, and what do you believe people learnt from and about Oaktree from this event?

We facilitated workshops for the participants that allowed them to grow in skills and capacity. By providing them practical skills, the participants gained the knowledge, information, and tools that will encourage them to realise their potential as young leaders within their communities. They particularly enjoyed using their personal narratives as campaigning tools to explore their leadership skills. Throughout our workshops, we used Oaktree as an example to understand the value of youth organisation. We encouraged participants to use their role as young people to mobilise themselves and make a difference towards issues that affect them.

What outcomes did you achieve that you can bring back to Oaktree?

Our aims for this trip were to represent Oaktree as a youth-led organisation, conduct and facilitate leadership, movement-building workshops, seek regional engagement, and seek long-term collaboration opportunities with partner organisations. Engaging with young people who live, work and understand the region, we gained a hands-on understanding of complex issues. There’s only so much we can understand about work in this region from our HQ in Melbourne. Talking to locals gave us invaluable knowledge and will inform how we continue to work with international youth.

Is there anything else about the Mekong Regional Youth Camp that you would like to say?

This was a fantastic opportunity to talk with young people that are already working locally in the aid and development sphere. They shared concerns that we could relate to as young people, as well as sharing experiences specific to them, and otherwise inaccessible to Oaktree.


Want to keep reading? Learn more about Mekong countries like Cambodia in Authoritarianism is no longer creeping in Cambodia... Or join the movement now to receive email updates and actions in the fight against poverty.