Young people learn their rights as voters before Myanmar elections

In the run-up to the first elections since 50 years of military rule ended in 2011, young people are learning their rights as voters and spreading their knowledge to their peers.

In Myanmar, there are extremely low levels of understanding of democracy, where almost 60 percent of young people do not understand their rights. YMCA Myanmar is working to educate young people on democracy, the Myanmar Constitutions, the election process and human rights. These young people are now receiving training on how to educate their peers and become youth leaders in their communities.

YMCA Myanmar has been working with a group of young people to provide training to young people on civic education, human rights and democracy over the past year. They’ve so far trained 205 vulnerable young people as peer educators. Each peer educator is asked to reach 30 peers through informal discussions in homes, communities and local shops. To date, 4790 young people have been reached in Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Taunggyi, Maubin and Pathein.

Sandi Hla (pictured left) has been educating her local community on their rights in the run-up to the election.

Sandi Hla (pictured left) has been educating her local community on their rights in the run-up to the election.

Sandi Hla, 23, decided to take part in the training, she said: “I attended the civic education training and now I’m aware that everyone has their own rights; whether you’re a woman or a child, what a democracy is and what the responsibilities of a citizen are.” Sandi Hla has since been sharing that knowledge within her neighbourhood and with family members. Some of her neighbours weren’t interested in politics, she explains “when I shared the knowledge about civic education within my neighbourhood, my family members and some of the neighbours said that “they are teaching you about politics – that is unnecessary” – I explained all citizens need to know this kind of knowledge.” Through peer educators like Sandi we are able to reach more people and help them understand their rights and how important it is that they understand their rights.

With the approaching elections, and the lack of understanding in young people, YMCA Myanmar have supported the election process by providing refresher training to peer educators which focused on voter education. It teaches young people about the voting process, how to check you’re registered to vote, where to go, and how to fill in the voting form.

In addition, community based organisations requested voter education training from the YMCA so field staff are delivering workshops on voter education across the six locations.

By working together with local YMCAs we can ensure that young people are informed about their rights and are involved in the election process.

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