Burma Young Community Leaders Programme still at risk?
The six students this year have been an interesting mix. We have two from ethnic political parties, a journalist, one from Save the Children and two from smaller local NGOs. These young men and women will return home better prepared to work effectively as Burma transitions to democracy, as demonstrated by our seventeen alumni who have all taken up positions of responsibility and leadership.
All six have improved their English language skills, and learnt about and seen how human rights are applied and how citizens are engaged in a participatory democracy – in central government, local bodies and community organisations. Individual members of the group have also focused on their own areas of interest. Yamin, the journalist, spent time in the press gallery with Radio New Zealand and at the New Zealand Herald; others learnt how organisations can campaign together around a shared goal, and ways of attracting young people to engage in political activity. Everywhere they go, the students impress with their enthusiasm and the quality of their presentations – at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Human Rights Commission, schools and unions – about their work and the changes taking place in their country.
Returning students can also apply to UnionAID for small grants for a field work project. Successful projects to date have included human rights training on the border, English language courses, organic gardening and compost preparation, teaching for critical thinking and community development training, and computer courses.
Although John Key has stated publicly, after meeting our impressive alumni at a function in Yangon, that the government will continue to fund our programme, there has been no formal confirmation to date.