Disrupted but Not Defeated

Young Thais from Southern Provinces to Make Positive Changes Despite COVID-19

Vilasa Phongsathorn and Songporn Leelakitichok
A group photo of young people who participated in Generation Unlimited challenge in Thailand
UNICEF Thailand/2020/Hilmee Unirahsta
23 July 2020

UNICEF is working with young people in Thailand to encourage their active participation in finding solutions to challenges that affect youth in the country. 

In the forefront of this effort is the Generation Unlimited (GenU) Youth Challenge, which is a global social innovation initiative that brings together young people to develop big ideas for education, decent work and civic engagement, engaging them as creators of solutions to life’s challenges.

This year, the Youth Challenge in Thailand was co-hosted by UNICEF, UNDP and Saturday School Foundation, with a focus on young people aged 14 to 24 from the southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwas and Songkhla. The COVID-19 outbreak had disrupted all activities around the world, including the planned face-to-face workshops for these young participants. As such, the design workshop and idea pitching process and other activities shifted online, with the Zoom and LINE applications becoming the key channels of communication.

Two young people are enjoying a breaking activity during Generation Unlimited challenge.
UNICEF Thailand/2020/Hilmee Unirahsta

After a three-month online training process, 54 participants from 12 teams took to Zoom to present their ideas to a diverse panel of judges from UNICEF, UNDP, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Global Compact Network Thailand and King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, as well as to audience voters, such as UNICEF Thailand’s NextGen members and last year’s global winner, Fantastic Four. The pitching sessions were carried out over three days in June to allow each team sufficient time to present their ideas and get feedback from the judges and were broadcast live on YouTube to allow a wider audience to take part.

While COVID-19 may have caused disruptions, what all 12 teams clearly demonstrated during their pitch was their resilience, sheer determination to make a difference and ability to rise to the challenge.

“Online workshops were a new experience for me. I was confused at first but eventually learned to master them. It made me feel professional!” said Afham Bueraheng, 15, from Team OLIVIA. “Similarly, I hope our proposed e-learning solution can help children in the migrant community continue their studies and inspire them about their future,” he eagerly noted about his ambition for the project.  

In the end, five teams with the most promising solutions were selected to progress to the next round and were awarded $1,000 each to support their projects’ implementation and scaling.  Chosen for their innovativeness and potential to scale, the solutions designed by the five teams include board games to tackle bullying; game cards to raise awareness about the importance of equality and respect for diversity; an e-learning platform to support education continuity; a digital counselling platform to address school drop-outs; and career training in juvenile detention centres to build employability skills among young people in conflict with the law to prevent re-offending.

One of the team who participated in Generation Unlimited challenge
UNICEF Thailand/2020/Hilmee Unirahsta

The five teams will receive further mentoring support throughout the month of July. In August, two teams will be chosen through another round of pitching to a national panel of judges to represent Thailand globally. If selected as the global winners, the teams will receive further funding of up to $20,000, along with a tailored global incubation programme from Generation Unlimited partners to support them in scaling up and making an even more meaningful impact.

Although they may be from different backgrounds, all teams share the unique experience of growing up in a region where long-standing conflict and instability have affected every aspect of their lives. The issues that they chose to address are reflections of the challenges they themselves face, ranging from dropping out of school and educational inequality to bullying and unemployment. 

“COVID-19 has posed a greater challenge this year for the teams to coordinate and co-create initially. But at the pitching stage, everyone was equally confident and presented their problems and solutions with élan. With effective investments, GenU will be able to accelerate these young people’s pathways to employment,” said Kuttiparambil Beena, UNICEF Thailand Chief of Adolescent Development and Adolescent Participation, with confidence in young people’s ability to make positive changes in their communities.

 

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Watch the live pitching sessions here:

 

For more detailed information about Generation Unlimited or related activities, please write to contact-TH@unicef.org.