This year’s Children’s Day was unlike others because four of us - Top, Ruangkao, Haris and Nicha, all members of UNICEF Young People Advisory Board (YPAB) – who were given opportunity to be Bangkok Governor and Deputy Governor for a day, shadowing Bangkok Governor, Mr. Chadchart Sittipunt, and Deputy Governor, Mr. Sanon Wangsrangboon.It was an unexpected opportunity to learn about urban development and the development of children at the same time.
The journey began at Children’s Discovery Museum in Chatuchak, where we learned about Bangkok through a virtual reality and 4D movie. Later, we learned about urban planning at Benjakitti Park with the presence of the Governor of Fukuoka from Japan as guest of honor.
Since it was Children’s Day, we participated in two Children’s Day events at Bangkok Youth Center (Thai-Japan) and Angoon Garden. Although both events were part of the Children’s Day activities, the lessons we learned at each place were different. At the Youth Center, there were various activities to support the uniqueness and diversity of young people. These activities were the fruit of a strong, collaboration between government, civil society, and private sector, celebrating diversity and aiming to reduce inequality in children’s lives.
Children’s Day activities at Angoon Garden were organised under the theme of “Gender Inclusive for Every Child”, advocating for gender equality. We met with a network of children and youth from Children and Youth Council who shared aspiring stories and challenges they face in Bangkok. Later, we joined the meeting titled “The Power of Civil Society Network and Trends for Development of Bangkok”, with representatives from each district and Deputy Governor Sanon. Here we learned how civil society and policymakers are working together to solve issues that affect the life of people living in the city. From this meeting, we learned that mobilizing our society requires a balance of three powers: policy, knowledge, and society.
Have you ever wondered what skills Governor Chadchart and Deputy Governor Sanon use to change Bangkok for the better? After a careful observation for a whole day, we found that they both have leadership skills and act as captains for their ship, planning the course and steering it to the right direction. However, being a leader does not entail only one aspect.
Leaders Who Follow
It is not easy to solve or develop something without listening. especially to those who are really affected by the issues. Looking closely, we found that Bangkok’s policies reflect people’s needs. This way, they are “owned by all of us”. This would never happen if the Governor made decisions based on his own ideas and experiences only, without listening to others.
Leaders Who Recognize the Essence of Time
Being a leader means understanding that time is essential. Governor Chadchart does not let children or other participants wait. He always checks the time during his engagements to not affect others. There are many responsibilities that come with the position of Governor. Therefore, efficient time management is the key. We believe that punctuality is a skill that everyone can build.
Leaders Who Think Outside the Box
Throughout the day, we were offered chances to express our opinions and ask questions regarding our surroundings. This is a good practice to develop critical thinking skills, to question information that we have learned and things that we have seen. Asking questions usually leads to new ideas. If we confine ourselves to traditional ways of thinking, there would be no innovations, no new policies.
Before the day ended at Rod Fai Park, the four of us and UNICEF staff gathered on the ground and discussed what we learned and what we could improve. Shadowing the Governor and Deputy Governor allowed us to experiment new things and be part of one day in the life of policy makers , with support from the UNICEF Team. This discussion gave us the opportunity to reflect and express our viewpoints. We also learned about “5 whys”, a problem-solving method that explores the underlying cause-and-effect of particular problems as well as how to implement macro public policies to cover all groups of people in society. We learned that having empathy starts from being open-minded and listening well.
UNICEF Team is like a mail carrier who acts as a middle person to link networks and share the voices, hopes and dreams of the new generation to relevant authorities. . They always support and encourage children and youth. We strongly believe that the UNICEF Team should bring this kind of opportunity to other youth in various formats, such as activities, designing policies, building networks, advocating, and volunteering. Overall, every one of us can be a youth advocate who creates and sparks changes in our society.