Young group in Myanmar tell their stories
By Sandar Linn
Tin Htun Wai, 16, found an unprecedented pouring of his heartfelt thoughts and words as he connected his pen with the paper. All those thoughts that he has been keeping to himself have found a way out as he was asked to put into practice what he learnt about writing this week.
“This is the first time in my life that I felt okay to talk about my father, how I miss him and how I think my life would have been different if he stayed with us. I wrote a letter to my father about the things that I don’t even share with my mother,” said Tin Htun Wai.
Tin Htun Wai is among 13 young people between the ages of 13 and 16 who recently participated in a writing skills workshop in Myin Chan, Mandalay Region. The workshop encouraged them to express themselves through writing. Reflecting the society they live in is a brand new pursuit inspired the 13 young people who live in one of the Myanmar’s central dry zones, Myin Chan.
The five-day workshop was mainly participated by young people who completed the Extended and Continuous Education and Learning, EXCEL, supported by UNICEF and implemented by Thiri May, Women Development Cooperative Society, a local NGO. The course reached out to school children with Life Skills and HIV/AIDS prevention education.
The writing workshop was designed to help young people with basic writing skills and encouraged them to use it to express their hopes and aspirations, wishes, dreams, fears and observation on what it is like to grow up in Myanmar.
Culturally, children and young people in Myanmar have little say in issues that directly or indirectly affecting them. As a step to promote the right to freedom of speech and expression and encourage participation, the workshop underlined that children have the right to express their own views in matters that affect them.
After learning the rubrics of writing, participant in the workshop wrote one story each – thirteen stories reflected diverse life experiences and imagination framed in the newly learned crafts of writing.
Poe Pwint Phyu,13, a participant, found the experience joyful and exciting. “I didn’t know I am fond of writing until I actually tried it,” she said.
“Children like me, who had to drop out of school and work to support the family income, have different stories to tell. I did not think that I could share my story in writing. After the training, I realized we don’t need to wait someone to write for us, we can tell our stories. Yes, we can do it! “said Poe Pwint Phyu.
The stories written by those children illustrate their dreams and hopes and testify the hardship faced by some of them. These stories will be shared in UNICEF’s publications and in future Reading Promotion Program of EXCEL.
Learning the basics of writing brought the young minds the power of self-expression. Their participation was recognized by handing the budding writers certificate of completing of the writing workshop.
Tin Htun Wai, Poe Pwint Phyu and friends were exposed to a whole new experience of learning to write. They came to know about the principles of self-expression, about thinking, choosing, organizing – lessons that will serve them for a long time to come whenever they have a chance to connect the pen on paper and beyond – in relating to the larger perspective of life.