UNICEF's Young People Advisory Board Empowers Thai Youth for Positive Change

A Three-Day Leadership and Advocacy Camp.

Sirinya Wattanasukchai
A group of people are looking at a whiteboard while sharing and discussing ideas.
UNICEF Thailand/2023/Khiaojan
YBAB members are sharing ideas and expressing their voices at the UNICEF Young People Advisory Board workshop.
26 September 2023

In just four days, 11-year-old Atichat Butchan embarked on a transformative journey of a first-time experience. Hailing from Sakhon Nakhon, Atichat boarded a plane and traveled to Bangkok alone for the first time.

Atichat is the youngest member among the 51 participants of UNICEF's Young People Advisory Board (YPAB), representing young individuals from various educational and socio-economic backgrounds in Thailand. Together, they collaborate with UNICEF Thailand to bring positive change to children and youth in the country.

A boy is talking and engaging in cooking session.
UNICEF Thailand/2023/Khiaojan
Atichat Butchan, 11, from Sakhon Nakhon engages in cooking session titled 'MasterChef'.

Introduced by UNICEF in 2021, the YPAB program aims to amplify the voices and meaningful participation of young people in decision-making processes, creating a vibrant and inclusive coalition that makes UNICEF more participatory, relevant, and effective for Thai youth.

As part of the second cohort of YPAB, Atichat and his peers traveled to Bangkok to participate in a three-day leadership and advocacy camp organized by UNICEF and Tact Social Consulting (Tact), from May 26-28, 2023.

During the camp, Atichat immersed himself in a range of activities, including engaging discussions and a memorable cooking session titled 'MasterChef'. By the end of the third day, he had already formed connections and relished the opportunity to collaborate with fellow participants.

The second year of YPAB witnessed a significant increase in diversity, with participants spanning from 11 to 23 years old. The group comprised individuals from primary school to fresh graduates, representing various socio-economic backgrounds, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and children with disabilities.

A group of young people including children with disability are participating in group work.
UNICEF Thailand/2023/Keawpeai
The second year of YPAB comprised individuals from primary school to fresh graduates, representing various socio-economic backgrounds, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and children with disabilities.

The camp was structured in three parts: an initial online preparatory meeting, a three-day in-person camp, and a follow-up online session. The YPAB members were divided into five groups based on their areas of interest: mental health and well-being, education and employability, stopping violence against children, participation and inclusion, and environment and climate change.

Ploynapat Jaroenkocharit, Adolescent Development Officer, expressed admiration for the YPAB members, stating, "These remarkable youth have united their voices with UNICEF to advocate for change and improve the lives of children and young people in Thailand.” 

"The YPAB members not only provide valuable advice but also amplify the voices of children and young people in Thailand, addressing a wide range of issues that have a significant impact on their lives, " she added.

The diversity among participants proved beneficial. To ensure inclusivity, the camp was thoughtfully designed to accommodate individuals from various backgrounds, facilitating active participation and support among attendees of different abilities, experiences and age groups.

2 girls is communicating with another girl, using sign language.
UNICEF Thailand/2023/Khiaojan
Woruethai Chusen (in white T-shirt) is communicating with Narinrat Pornwiwatsuk (in yellow T-shirt), using sign language.

Saengsawang Chongkham, an ethnic Dara-ang participant from Chiang Mai Province, highlighted the significance of the workshop in providing a platform for every young attendee to share their experiences, voice, propose, and solutions.

"I could see a significant difference, urban students appear more confident. It feels like we, in our village, live in a different world," she shared. For her, this is a pressing and personal pain point, coming from a village where the annual festival offers only a football match exclusively for men.

Saengsawang expressed her hope that similar activities as the YPAB camp can be hosted in remote areas, enabling other disadvantaged students across the country to develop their confidence and knowledge, just like their urban counterparts. "With this kind of workshop, there will be hundreds of smart and confident students spreading their wings around the country," she said.

Saengsawang is indeed a good role model for her community. A month ago, she eloquently shed light on the pressing issue of statelessness during a recent seminar jointly organized in Bangkok by the Royal Thai Government, UNHCR, and UNICEF. She eagerly looks forward to joining the Faculty of Social Administration at Thammasat University, Lampang Campus, in August.

A girl wearing a mask and standing next to a white board.
UNICEF Thailand/2023/Khiaojan
Voting, sharing ideas and expressing one's voice are common at the UNICEF Young People Advisory Board workshop.

Woruethai Chusen, 15-year-old student with hearing disabilities from Prachuab Khiri Khan province, came to the camp to explore ways to improve waste separation and address occasional food surplus at her school. However, during the camp, she made a more profound discovery. "It's a place where I learn about others and others learn about me," she said stressing how the workshop fostered better understanding and empathy by successfully bridging the gap between able-bodied individuals and those with disabilities.

Narinrat Pornwiwatsuk, 17, from Setsatian School for the Deaf, openly discussed the challenges she and her schoolmates faced, including failed attempts to convince the school management to reconsider strict rules like the ban on fashionable hair clips and the lack of student activities. Through the workshop, Narinrat gained a valuable lesson on the importance of engaging with like-minded individuals. "I've planned to discuss with some friends and work together on a more persuasive approach to convince the management," she said.

The YPAB members are encouraged to collaborate on projects initiated during the workshop and Tact will organize follow-ups and support through an online meeting in the coming weeks. One exciting proposal is the development of an online exhibition focused on environment, health, and well-being, aiming to raise awareness and engage a broader audience.

Through their collective efforts, the members of YPAB are making a positive impact and shaping a brighter future for children and young people in Thailand. UNICEF and the YPAB program continue to foster youth empowerment and participation, ensuring that every child's voice is heard and their rights are protected.

UNICEF Blog

The UNICEF Blog promotes children's rights and well-being, and ideas about ways to improve their lives and the lives of their families. We bring you insights and opinions from young people, our partners, child rights experts and accounts from UNICEF's staff on the ground in Thailand. The opinions expressed on the UNICEF Blog are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect UNICEF's official position.

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