Training Tomorrow’s Activists in Shan State, Myanmar

Sep 30, 2019

In the Shan State of Myanmar, the next generation of activists are training to fight for social justice and human rights in the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth.

The School for Shan State Nationalities Youth was formed in 2001 to empower young people in Shan State to take an active role in social change in Myanmar, where years of conflict has dislocated over 400,000 Shan villagers along the Thai-Myanmar border.

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has supported The School for Shan State Nationalities Youth’s Social Justice Education project since 2012. This partnership has empowered youth from Shan State to join in the fight for human rights, gender equality, environmental protection, and democracy in their homeland.


Educating for Social Justice

The Social Justice Education Program is a three month residential training program which gives students the skills they need to defend their rights in their home communities.

On the residential training program, students perfect their writing skills, strengthen their fluency in English, and train to use digital technologies to become powerful voices for their cause.

Students are also given a strong theoretical understanding of environmental studies, social studies, geography, Southeast-Asian studies, politics and government, feminism, democracy studies, international relations, and human rights. With comprehensive world knowledge, young activists can have a greater impact in their country, their region, and on the international stage.


Above: Student admission testing in Shan State, Burma 



Training Tomorrow’s Leaders

Shan State youth also have an opportunity to develop their leadership skills through an intensive fourteen-day program which bolsters the practical and analytical skills of young leaders.

These young leaders are given the opportunity to meet and hear from guest speakers, including regional and international experts on development, peace-building, and community development.

The leadership students stay connected through their alumni networks, and they are able to build on collective experience and knowledge gained when returning to home communities. They are also able to seek guidance and information from the school’s educators after leaving the program.


Strengthening the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth

The long-term strength of the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth is rooted in the work of its alumni. The participants are all deeply connected to their communities, and they emerge from the program as alumni with a strong commitment to empowering others, promoting social justice and human rights in their communities, and building peace.

The alumni promote these principles through their participation and leadership in various civil society networks and ethnic-led institutions, helping craft policies and practices which promote peace by addressing the root causes of conflict.

These alumni are also reproducing the School’s model in new schools and training programs across the Shan State, multiplying the social impact of the school.  A new online application will allow for universal student access to the School’s materials, bringing the educational resources to the wider public.


Above: Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA Chairperson Angelo Gavrielatos and Organiser Tom Addy met with students of the 20th Social Justice Education Program (SJEP) in July 2019.

Building a Stronger Civil Society in Myanmar

In a country fraught with political complexities and conflicts, The School for Shan State Nationalities Youth has a unique role in building bridges among youth from different communities and on different sides of the peace process, focusing on inclusion of people affected by conflict. 

In the coming year, the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth will hold two leadership training programs and two social justice education programs for 180 youth leaders from various ethnic communities affected by war and conflict in the Shan State. To bolster their ability to train the next generation of activists, the School will also provide a Training-of-Trainers course to organisational staff of a variety of ethnic community organisations.

Combining their world knowledge with their local leadership skills, Shan State youth will strengthen the role of ethnic civil society organisations in bringing genuine democracy to the Shan State and Myanmar.


The School for Shan State Nationalities Youth is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).


Support Tomorrow's Activists

In Myanmar, the fight for real democracy continues. You can support young activist leaders in their fight for human rights and social justice by becoming a member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

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