To support the development of young leaders in political parties in Myanmar, DIPD held a series of youth party leadership training sessions from November 24th to December 2nd. The training program was conducted at the DIPD Dialogue and Resource Center in Yangon and convened 42 youths.
Report by Ran Lunn Aung, DIPD Youth Project Coordinator in Myanmar
The youth participants came from three existing party alliances – United Nationalities Alliance, Federal Democracy Alliance and National Brotherhood Federations; and from three major parties – National League for Democracy, Union Solidarity and Development Party, and National Unity Party. Through the training sessions, party youth leaders analyzed different models of party youth wings and leagues, developed strategies for amplifying youth voices in parties, and agreed to seek to implement youth structures, training programs, and other initiatives in parties.
Youth Participation in Parties and Elections is crucial
Youth participation is essential to make Myanmar’s political dispensation more inclusive and democratic due to the high amount of youths within the country – according to Population Reference Bureau approximately more than a third of the population is between the age of 15 and 35 years. In answering the question “Why should parties care about the youth?”, a participant in the training answered, “Youth are many in numbers… as it is said youth constitute one third of the population. And we, as youths, can mobilize our peers to vote for us and to join our parties.”
Political parties can be a valuable channel of participation for youth in Myanmar. However, youth have limited access to decision making processes in parties and to meaningful roles in parties and party activities. Few parties have youth wings, and most of those wings are inactive. Youth representation in leadership is low, with few seats on Central Executive Committees of political parties, and youth representation in the National Assembly less than 5% of elected representatives. In the light of this, the training program aimed at strengthening the role of youths in party structures and increase youth participation in parties’ decision-making and policy formulation by helping them develop strategies, techniques, and action plans that address increased youth participation in these key areas.
Building trust among youth leaders
Jeremy Liebowitz, who is the political party expert of DIPD Myanmar shared different models of party youth wings and organizations from a range of developed and developing country contexts, including Denmark and South Africa. During the last session, participants developed individual party action plans, drawing on the SWOT analyses, models of youth organization in parties, advocacy strategies, inclusiveness, and the stakeholder influence mapping exercise. Common areas of focus identified by the groups were increasing youth participation in leadership and policy formulation, building youth structures and increasing opportunities for youths as campaigners and candidates.
The training session not only provided valuable information on models of youth wings based on the DIPD publication ‘How To Build a Youth Wing’, but also helped the party youth leaders build trust within and across parties. As a participant said, “The training not only enriched our knowledge but we [also] feel that we (youths of different parties) are more close to each other after sharing our experiences. I found that they (youths of the other parties) are quite open to us.”
The way forward for DIPD is to empower political youth leaders so that they can take on new roles and bigger responsibilities within their parties and also build youth structures to increase youth participation.
For more information on DIPD and Myanmar
Contact Senior Advisor at DIPD, Hanne Lund Madsen at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Coordinator for Myanmar, Thazin Myint at email@example.com