Empowering Shan State Youth through Social Justice Education
Based in Northern Thailand, School for Shan State Nationalities Youth (SSSNY) has been building the capacity of ethnic minority youth living in nearby Shan State to engage in social justice programs for over 20 years.
In the past year, with SSSNY’s leadership and support, marginalised communities in Shan State have influenced local and national policies to address urgent humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees living along the Shan-Thai border.
Despite COVID-19 and the increasingly violent regime emerging in Myanmar, cooperation and networking of diverse communities has increased through SSSNY’s efforts in youth training and the establishment of secure digital-platforms that allow community groups to communicate safely.
With new skills and networks, Shan State Youth have increased their capacity to conduct public campaigns that promote their rights, document and raise awareness about human rights abuses, conflict, media crackdowns and environmental degradation in Shan State.
SSSNY’s successes stem from two flagship empowerment and training programs – the Social Justice Education Program (SJEP) and the Community Leadership Development Training (CLDT) that transfer knowledge and skills, and strengthen connections to promote change.
In the past year, eighty-three Shan State youth leaders (50 women and 33 men) graduated from the CLDT. These twenty-day trainings provided knowledge and skills in advocacy and community mobilisation; food security; mining impacts; organic farming techniques and sustainable building; federalism and decentralization; international aid paradigms; media (including how to make short videos and give interviews); leadership skills and team building.
Four ‘Digital Security Trainings for Human Rights Defenders’ trained 127 youth and community leaders (45 women and 82 men) in media, refugee and human rights, health, information-technology, and farmer and youth issues. Thirty-eight youth graduated from SJEP on the Shan-Thai border, with all participants going on to lead corresponding trainings in their respective communities in topics such as website development; digital advocacy for change; teacher training; media awareness; digital security; covid-19 response; emergency and security response; land and natural resources; and financial management.
The fallout from the 2021 coup in Myanmar continues to displace people in large numbers. The UN is reporting around 230,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) from the current conflict, adding to an estimated 500,000 already seeking shelter from ongoing conflict between Myanmar’s military and ethnic forces in Burma. COVID-19 rates skyrocketed in Thailand, from less than 100 per day in March to over 20,000 per day by mid-August. Similar outbreaks are occurring in Myanmar, while essential services such as health services, food supplies, and livelihoods are breaking down due to civil unrest and access to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by humanitarian agencies has been restricted by the junta.
SSSNY are balancing the need to continue their important work, promoting and protecting worker and refugee rights, against the safety of their staff, their participants, and their communities and the challenges of COVID 19 restrictions, and the fallout from the coup in Myanmar.
In the next year, Union Aid Abroad APHEDA will continue to support SSSNY’s contribution to social justice, peace, and stability for the Shan State People.
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