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Voices of Asia’s youth

© UNICEF Cambodia/2005
Youth delegates interview UNICEF’s Executive Director, Carol Bellamy and Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Anupama Rao Singh.

By Maya Dollarhide

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 30 March 2005 - During the 7th East Asia and the Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children that took place last week in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 40 youth delegates representing 19 countries in the region spoke out on the issues, at a special ‘Children’s and Young People’s Forum’.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy was present, and took part in the discussion. The young participants, aged 11 to 21, discussed common concerns affecting children all across Asia today.

Here are some highlights of what the youth delegates had to say.

“If people are old enough to have sex, then they are also old enough to learn about sex. You can’t stop people from having sex. But you can help save their lives if you give them the right education. Peer education is one good way. It’s about positive peer pressure to do the right thing.”
Tanes Rianglaem, 18, Thailand

“Sex education should be made compulsory in schools if governments and adults are serious about protecting our well-being, health and our future. We need trained teachers to teach us – teachers who can teach us the facts without being embarrassed or judgmental.”
Chan Kit Sze, 18, Malaysia

On education

© UNICEF Cambodia/2005
Youth delegates share their thoughts with Ms. Bellamy.

“There are some young people in my country who stop their education after secondary school. Sometimes it is because they don’t realize how important education is for a better future. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the interest to continue schooling. And sometimes it is because of cost - there are not enough places in local universities and it is too expensive to go to private colleges.

“I also feel that there is a difference in the quality of education in urban areas compared to rural areas. Schools in urban areas often have better facilities and infrastructure. It is a shame, as my peers in rural areas lose out. I also feel that our education system does not encourage students to think. Students study just to pass their exams.”
Foo Shyh Hua, 17, Malaysia

On the media

“The media has the power. As a child, I want that power so I can change bad things for my peers. I joined a children’s media club called ‘Thai Youth News Center’ in my school two years ago when I was 13 years old. I am now the chairperson of my club and I help produce and host a weekly news programme revolving around topics relevant to people like me, like sex education, quality schooling, etc. I use the opportunity to also interview senior Government officials, even the Prime Minister of Thailand, so I can help highlight the problems of children.

“I hope that all the ideas we get from this Forum will not just remain on paper. I hope that all of us will develop our ideas into concrete action so we can make life better for all children in this region.”
Tipsuda, 15, Thailand


The youth delegates at the forum represented the following countries: Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.



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