On August 15th, 2020, more than 100 youth around the globe came together virtually in one session, Youth: Global Meet Up. The session aims to strengthen the bond and solidarity among youth around the globe and to accommodate the youth voices on human rights, democracy, freedom, and justice. This article sums up the key highlights of what youth had discussed during the session. The theme for the session was Human Rights Situation around The Globe.
The participating youth are coming from Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Europe and Africa. It was an entirely youth-led session that also allows inter-generational collaboration to conduct the session. The discussion was facilitated by five awesome youth. They are Ruthra from Malaysia, Jessica from Panama, Saad from Singapore, Rehhan from Malaysia, and Reshal from India.
As the participants came from different walks of life, the discussion was also diverse. Youth were able to connect the dots and pointed the intersections between human rights and socio-economic issues, such as gender inequality, environment, drugs abuse, freedom of expression, and more.
Here are some highlights of what youth said during the session:
COVID-19 has brought Uganda in a economic crisis, in this situation many of the parents decided to marry off their young daughter with a man. They thought that by getting a husband for their young daughter it can help them, even less, from crisis because she will have another people that have willingness to share something especially food for her.
Because of pandemic and crisis, many young teenagers coming down to the street sharing some foods like tomato and banana to help each other. Because they realized that food sharing is a way to be able to survive together meanwhile the government are not able to fulfill the needs of the food for people.
Based on the International convention of human rights, we know that all people in this world must be in equal level of life and respectfull. Especially in Uganda there are 174 tribes that almost all of them are life under prosperity. Some of the tribes are isolated in rural area and frequently marginalized. There still no humanity movement that has intention to take them out from worse condition.
Government did not put education problem as a priority to be solved during pandemic era. Ruby and many of students has difficulty to follow some of examination that is still running despite lockdown in pandemic era. Government did not have any alternative like another country did, this is a kind of violated for students like us.
And the right situation in Guatemala is honestly very critical because they don't know what their rights are. Some just know a few aspects. They don't really know in depth the scope of their rights. They don't seek for information nor do they have the means to have access to information on what their rights are and why it's important. And the connection between the sexual rights reproductive reproduction aspects I considered that in my country, these rights are being violated. There is no social equality, and there's a lot of discrimination in the different social spaces here in Guatemala. The society is very classes, separating people in groups, and they see you depending on your economic group. So who comes out in the best position is those that have more power, more money. And there are a lot of vulnerable communities. For example, indigenous people, also the environment it's not well protected for us. There are four ethnic groups in Guatemala: Maya, Xinca, Mestizo. I'm Mestizo which is a mix between two races, and I'm always participating in aspects regarding the defense of human rights for the youth, for children and women.
And someone mentioned earlier about the situation of the environment. I can relate to that as well. We really do not have in place local regulations that protect the environment and guarantee health aspects for the local people. Actually, the human resources in Guatemala are being massively exploited. There have been draft bills presented to the legislative assembly of the Republic, but they have not been passed. And so they haven't been ratified because there are interests where some people in government do not find that these are beneficial to them. Because they're not going to get revenue or have improvement in their power. A lot of the indigenous communities have been treated as criminals because of protecting mother earth. They've even been taken to prison and assassinated because of their defense of the environment.
Now, we are in the period where our human rights are slowly deteriorating because our leader itself admitted that he violated human rights. In our country, there is this law where anyone can be branded as a teroris. In our country, our human rights are abused by our police and military. They are all prone to abuse.
Noi, The Philippines
I want to say something about the human rights environmental issue. When I walked at the previous job, we found that waste water discharges to the rivers. And then, we found that local people live around the river banks, they suffer from the impact of this wastewater discharge. Mostly in our country, the local people used to shower, take a bath, wash their clothes in the river. They started to have skin problems that came from diseases. And some people try to drink the river water. So they got stomach diseases. I think the government should take it seriously, on the people who suffer from this wastewater. And I found that there is no serious taking action for this problem and people suffering.
Tut Se, Myanmar
In Peru there are many issues. And one of the most important challenges for the youth is everything regarding gender violence that affects girls and adolescents, in schools. There is a very strong situation of sexual violence and non desired and early pregnancies due to this violence. And there are clandestine abortions that often take place. So I would say that this is one of the most severe aspects because violence is transferred, so they're mainstream. One type of violence goes hand in hand with another type of violence and being a country that has had internal civil Wars and also has gone through colonization aspects. There is the composition in our culture of racism and misogyny, and a lot of the more vulnerable girls and women suffer from sexual violence.
And this situation in the context of COVID-19, the pandemic is more severe based on the experience that I'm seeing, coordinating with the indigenous communities in the region is what I have observed. And I think that now in this context where there are digital resources, it is so important to be able to connect with each other because it is both a challenge, but an opportunity to elevate these matters. And I just wanted to share this, to get this out there and thank you for the opportunity of sharing what's affecting us.
Families in rural areas don't want girls to study in school. They just allowed the boy to go to a modern school. I don't know why, but some say that if they support boys the family will be better than support girls. I think the situation has to be resolved because nowadays we have to live in equal rights. girls and boys need to be the same in the same class. Like, not just only for boys, not just only for girls. I believe in the new generation of the young people now.
Thongchan, Lao PDR
So many children who are not getting education and they're supposed to work with their parents and they're, they're not getting any payment for that. So I wanted to create awareness among them. They are less likely to attend school, trapping them into poverty. Girls and boys going to work everyday, at least selling cigarettes on the street. So they should get some education and if they are working, they should get any payment for that to live their life.
It's an interesting story that you would touch on the topic of gender violence, because it is persistent in this society as a plague. We have evidence of a lot of men having power over women, patriarchal systems, misogyny, and the fight against us has changed. And we should not give up because there's always something that we can do. And then she emphasizes how there has been a rise in the corruption that perpetuates this situation.
In Malaysia, we have a company, a mining company called Lynas and operations produce radioactive waste to the community. But the thing is, the governments allow the operation to be carried out in Malaysia. I would say this is a very dangerous thing that actually violates the human. Because I think we already knew that the mining company operations discharged the radioactive waste, which will affect human health. And not only to human health, but also the entire ecosystem or the entire environment. As young people we are doing protests, asking for change or asking the government or the Lynas company to operate in Malaysia. However, the government does not consider it at all. They still allow the Lynas company to be operated. So I think I don't know how to say it. I would say this is sad.
Kah Ye, Malaysia
I see many similarities with my colleagues from Guatemala and Peru and similar things is what we address as an organization. How these forms of violence are generating so many gaps and are causing so much damage in our society. And especially during this pandemic, I don't know if things are becoming more visible. Homicides have increased in Bolivia and it's very painful. Sexual violations have gone up. I think it is so sad within the pandemic.
I think it's so important to highlight the work that we do with the youth in these spaces. Because to some degree, I believe that we are those voices. We are that body that is going to step forward to defend these people and to try to achieve changes because rescue by doing laws, having advocacy before the government. So that we have protection in place with the hopes of seeing decrease in numbers in the future. I just wanted to highlight the work that we're doing is so important. It's important to recognize who our partners are. And I think that this space is useful for that to come together with other people who are also working on what we're doing, things that we can relate to and learn from each other.
To be a woman in Guatemala affects you for many human rights is even the right to decide on your own, body about your sexual reproduction, etc. And besides this, if you're a woman and you belong to the LGBTQ community, you're criminalized twice as much. Because here homicide gets many to this community. In fact, they consider the body of women as men's property. And this comes because of the machoism. And when I read in the news about murders against women and it spread gossip that evolved around this. People say, who knows she was with her, who knows what she was doing, she got what she did served, maybe who knows how she was dressed. This is common. And so they'll always try to justify violence against women in that way, especially if they're from rural. And I'm glad to focus my comments on the rural sectors, because that is my context, not as much the urban areas.
So here in the rural community to express yourself or about human rights and sexual reproductive rights in a community is seen like, Oh my gosh, what is she talking about? Or who is she to speak about this? Or how old is she? Why is she even talking about this? And so besides that, let's say I live in a community that is a bit more free or developed, but not as much as other communities that I have visited. And that is when I realized that by the age of 12, 13, or 14, they don't have the right to even decide that they want to marry or not. They're arranged into marriage or they're exchanged by their families. For example, for addressing an economic situation, your parents might decide who your partner is going to be. And you don't know if that person is going to abuse you or is going to treat you well or not. Or if they're going to not allow you to choose what you want for yourself, I've realized, and I've heard that they say, ‘well, when you get married, you have to do everything that the man says’. And that is where girls are being wrongly educated. And they're being subject to being abused by men. So we don't have the right to decide over our body and our lives. You pretty much belong to someone else
Only 25% of Indians can fully enjoy human rights without being subjected to violence or pressure from others. Especially for girls, there are only few of them that can enjoy human rights like a man for example to access well education or proper job. Many of Indian girls are induced to get married when they are still a teenager, in 15 – 17 years old. Once they got married, they were restricted from getting an education, getting an opportunity
Everyone should have the freedom to live, freedom to speak, and freedom to choose whatever what they want. The problem is in the hand of government, we know that they try to control our mental and our life. By not giving us a proper way to decide our life and not giving us a chance to fully implement human rights.
In Vietnam, young people are so great: they are involved in lots of projects and orgs that raise awareness on social issues. The only problem is in the restrictive government.
We have some organizations doing campaigns in social media, to lessen the impact of mental health, violence prevention, and doing actions that promote local gardens, for hunger.
There's organizations creating spaces to discuss and work in issues, and fostering leadership in young people.
As youth, we should raise awareness and the importance of health services, especially to the poor people. We could raise funds to help people who are in need and help them the way we can. Also, as a future medical student, I have hoped to help and free medical service to communities who need it.
As youth, we play a big role in the community and can influence other people, especially with people our same age, as simple as sharing authentic information to our social media and making an advocacy for a better change. It will make a big impact already. it's important to generate a space, to exchange experiences, and share methodologies that are innovative, being designed by youth organizations.
Keep on raising awareness on the importance of education, on how beneficial it is to us. Participating in volunteering programs, to teach people in rural areas.
I'm going to organize an online campaign on a tax on sanitary pad and being taxed to raise awareness among all people and take this issue on life before the government with the help of a platform by action.
Strengthening young groups in different contexts. We should conduct more leadership training programs to influence more youth, to showcase their leadership skills.
Be volunteers. I'm seeing a lot of voluntarism. I hope this inspires you. And I hope you through this, you see that the role of young people is really powerful.
The Global Meet Up Session on SEAYouth Festival is a safe space for youth to voice out their concerns and be connected to each other. The festival has zero tolerance towards hate speech, discrimination, violence, harassment, and any other views and harmful behaviors targeting specific group of people.
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