The journey of Fellows in Myanmar started from 2006 by ActionAid to harness the potential of youth to become change maker and future leaders, and we are very proud to see that the initiative has now led to a National Fellows Network that is managed by and for Fellows who are taking the lead to facilitate the annual Fellows Conference. After a long wait, the 6th National Fellows Conference took place in Nay Pyi Taw on 18-20 October 2016 with the theme "True Leaders Serve the Nation", which resonates the spirit to bring youth together and work towards a more peaceful and united Myanmar. 500 Fellows youth leaders gather during those days to discuss and share their experiences working with the communities in different states and regions, and this time the youth got the opportunities to interact with 80 civil society organisations (CSO) and 10 networks as a parallel CSO forum was held at the same venue.
The 3-day event started with the opening remarks from Dr. Win Myat Aye, Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, who recognised the role of youth as future leaders and the need for government to invest on youth in collaboration with all stakeholders, he also shared about the progress of youth policy which is now in the drafting process led by the Ministry. Mr. Gavin McGillivray, Head of DFID, also congratulated the Fellows who are now leaders in their native town and will be future leaders of the country. On behalf of ActionAid Myanmar, Mr. Tauhid, the Head of Programme, Policy and Campaign emphasised the significance of holding the conference in the capital city, and expressed appreciation to the government who support the communities and link with service provision to achieve the development goals of the people in need.
Rozar Sein Nu, the Fellow representative from Kachin State reflected the way how she learned about the value of people, the development concept and democracy, saying “In order to develop the country, we need to collaborate with all, including the government, civil society, the youth..etc, and government needs to welcome the people.”
Given the diversity of ethnicities and religions in Myanmar and its geographical landscape, youth faced different issues depending on the location they are, and most of the time youth living in remote area are not able to participate the youth forum or consultation that will impact their lives, therefore their voices are not reflected at the decision making process at the national level. Panel discussion on peace process and national youth policy drew the most attention from the participants as they were really concerned about the level of inclusiveness regarding to the above issues.
This conference is also a precious occasion for Fellows from all regions and states to meet each other and learn from different experiences. On the last day Fellows were sharing about their progress, challenges and future plans about working with communities, government and other CSOs.
As part of the conference, several market places were set up to promote the local products such as coffee, tea, fabrics and rattan. Furthermore, cultural night and sports competition were held to add vibe to the friendship between those youth from across the country.