One day ahead of the 1st national Adolescents Conference, a national level mid-term review (MTR) of the adolescent engagement programme was taking place in Nay Pyi Taw with the participation of 260 adolescent leaders from seven states and regions. Thus gathering aims to validate the findings from the field level participatory evaluation collected from sample villages early this year.
The final results will be the consolidated feedback from adolescent in this event and from the field, in additional to adolescents, stakeholders including parents, teachers, village leaders, government officials were also part of the MTR.
This MTR will help improve the understanding of the relevance of this programme to the lives of adolescents. It also provide an opportunity for those young people to interact with their peers, share about their success, challenges, lessons learned and future dreams.
Though there’ve been many positive changes happening since the reform process started in 2010, the culture of silence and fear in Myanmar is still prevalent due to the long history of suppression and political struggle, which doesn’t only limit the space for civil society to grow, but also lay boundaries on the way how people behave and think, posing another obstacle for adolescents in a country where voice from the younger generation is often neglected, because they are not considered capable of taking the decision role.
One of the major challenges revealed by adolescent representatives, especially those from post-conflict area, was the suspicion among the communities. Due to the sensitive political context, people were not used to gathering with ones they are not familiar with, therefore when there was a group meeting participated by adolescents from different villages, it sometimes took extra efforts to make parents understand the purpose of such activity. The issues and challenges faced by adolescents also vary from regions to regions. In Myaing Township for instance, the poor accessibility to public services such as health workers was the main difficulty, while in Rakhine state it is the transportation that was the most challenging. The mid-term review provides a great opportunity for us to examine the nuance among the adolescent groups and provide guidance to inform future programme on adolescent participation and development in the evolving context of Myanmar.
For most of the participants, it’s also the first time that they have the opportunity to visit Nay Pyi Taw (the current capital of Myanmar) and to meet their peers from across the country.
“It’s been a year that I become a member of adolescent program. I feel like I gain leadership skills from the membership. I am really happy to attend this conference and I want to be like the teachers in the future.” Adolescent leader Kham Bu (18 years old) from Kachin said with excitement.
When talking about the great success in the past one year, many of them stated that their sense of confidence increased and the generational gap also reduced because there’s more space created for the adolescent and the older to engage and work together, and those young people now have the courage to share their ideas in front of the senior, which they didn’t do before, as the hierarchy rooted in Myanmar culture didn’t give much room for younger generation to participate in community affairs or major decision making process, this kind of situation is more prevalent in rural areas.
When sharing about dreams from adolescents, the expectation towards future also differs from gender. Boys often dream about to become a sports team leader, coach, and would like to support their village more in infrastructure, which is more out-ward looking and tangible; while girls tend to emphasise more on the intangible impact such as to become teacher and improve the education.
Despite coming from different geographical locations and personal backgrounds, the adolescents share some common aspiration: unity and harmony of the Country benefit the communities where they live, to be part of the peace process and to have more dialogue with older generation.
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