‘U-Talk' live web chats boost youth voices in Myanmar

From disinfecting robots to live chat shows, youth in Myanmar spread hope, ideas and actions in the fight against COVID-19

Sandar Linn and Saw Wai Moe
UNICEF
©UNICEF/UN0338224/Htet
01 June 2020

Myanmar’s coronavirus lockdown has served to spur youth on to boost young people’s health, rights and opportunities, all from the safety of their own homes. 

A new, online youth task force, organised through U-Report, UNICEF’s safe, free and anonymous mobile empowerment platform, is also driving ideas and actions in the fight against COVID-19. 

Augmented reality quizzes, online comics, and a range of social media campaigns and home-based challenges are set to encourage safe, healthy behaviour around the virus and empower young people. 

Even though I live in [remote] Northern Shan State, I can join the online task force meetings,” says Thu Ta, the U-Report focal for Shan State, in the North-East of the country. 

“I wanted to share my ideas on how U-Report can keep having a positive impact for young people like me, and it’s also essential to stay connected with friends and family.” 

U-Talk, a new Facebook live chat-show, recently brought over 10,000 young people from across Myanmar together to talk tech, health and young people’s rights and concerns.

U-Report
U-Report Myanmar
Young people participating in U-Talk, a new Facebook live chat-show

Instead of waiting for adults, young people should take the initiative,” said Me Me Myat Noe, a student at Yangon’s Technology University, who shared her story of creating a robot to spray disinfectant in hospitals on U-Talk. 

“There are so many opportunities for us to learn, grow and experiment.” 

Regular, upcoming U-Talks are set to share stories from innovators and influencers on a range of topics, including online learning, physical and mental health, online campaigning and more. 

“When some of the FM radio stations we worked with had to stop broadcasting, we came up with the idea of a live, two-way talk show hosted by U-Reporters,” explains Kyaw Zin Hein, who has volunteered for U-Report since it was launched in Myanmar in 2016. 

U-Talks also show how U-Report shares life-saving information on COVID-19 through chat-bots on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber and help share insights from polls across the country. 

“The U-Report task force sets a great example to other young people on just how to keep working together for the good of everyone through tough times", said Saw Wai Moe, UNICEF Myanmar’s youth engagement assistant. 

“Through quizzes, comics, campaigns and inspiring U-Talks, we’re aiming to boost U-Reporter numbers in Myanmar, so all young people’s voices are heard on the issues that matter most to them.” 

 

Raising youth voices  

In a recent poll covering online education in Myanmar, most of the nearly 10,000 respondents said they favoured waiting for schools to re-open for face-to-face lessons rather than moving all classes online. 

And in an ongoing poll around mental health, nearly two-thirds of over 9000 respondents say COVID-19 is impacting on their mental health and 40% of respondents say that getting back to school will be the first thing they do once the lockdown ends.  

 All poll results in Myanmar are shared with the government to aid in planning. 

U-Reporter numbers in Myanmar, now at 37,000, are rapidly rising off the back of U-Talks and the social media campaigns around COVID-19. 

“We cannot stop U-Report because of COVID,” adds U-Report Task Force member Khant Zayar Paing. 

“We’ll do our best to ensure U-Report stays a vital space for the voices of children and young people.” 

U-Report
U-Report Myanmar
Me Me Myat Noe from Laboratory of Robotic and Artificial Intelligence (L.O.R.A) team explaining the functionalities of disinfectant spraying robot

Crucial global tool  

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, U-Report has evolved into a vital platform in the fight against the virus, sharing clear, scientific facts through SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber worldwide. 

As a result, U-Reporter numbers have surged to over 10.5 million globally, with new and existing users across 68 countries including refugees, migrants and other vulnerable groups. 

Young people can take simple actions to raise awareness, prevent misinformation and promote community spirit and support.   

By sending the word ‘Action’ to U-Report Global Facebook, WhatsApp or Viber channels they play an active part in fighting COVID-19!  

Here’s how to join:   

  • On WhatsApp: Send “Action” to +66 80 024 9442.    
  • On Facebook Messenger: Send ‘Action’ using Facebook Messenger at http://m.me/UReportGlobal  
  • On Viber: Follow the ‘U-Report’ Public Account (Go to Discover). Send the message ‘Action’  

U-Report partners with governments, non-governmental organizations, business, schools, universities and youth networks to aid children, young people and vulnerable communities.