Youth Leader Jeremiah – om udfordringer ved at være ung i Myanmar

Young and Century Challenges in Myanmar
My country, Myanmar, is a developing country that is in the process to become a peaceful democracy. The process is moving slowly and Myanmar is still quite far from reaching the goal. One of the main problems is the fact that locals really don’t understand what is democracy, yet.
In the following, I will describe some of my opinions about the main problems for the youth in my country. If the youth did a group discussion about the problems and challenges that the youth in Myanmar faces, there could be many ideas and opinion of how to change our lives. The youth has never had this opportunity, so we really don’t know which opinions and ideas we share.
Now, Daw* Aung San Su Kyi is trying to change the education system and empower youth. We all believe in her, but she is not a Goddess that can change Myanmar by herself. Everyone has to participate, but not everyone does, because they don’t know how. People from Myanmar are waiting for change and blame the government when nothing happens. Not many of them take action themselves. Our Foundation for Change (FFC) is trying to especially empower young people who want to be leaders and make a change in Myanmar.

*Daw is something you call people to show respect (for women “Daw” and “U” for men).

<em>Saw Jeremiah, 20 år, kristen, fra Pathein, bor nu i Yangon
Saw Jeremiah, 20 år, kristen, fra Pathein, bor nu i Yangon 

My name is Saw Jeremiah and I am 20 years old. Saw (for male) represent Karen ethnic group in Myanmar. I have finished high school and studied History through distant education at Pathein University. The level of education is very normal in Pathein. I was born in Pathein Township, the country side of Myanmar (the Delta region) where a lot of Karen people and Burmese live mixed.








Jeremiah spiller meget fodbold. Det er hans måde at koble fra efter en travl dag
Jeremiah spiller meget fodbold. Det er hans måde at koble fra efter en travl dag

People from Pathein are very simple and very respectful to their religion – mostly Christians and Buddhist live in this region – and they are kind of conservators of the religion, culture, and tradition. As I am a 90s kid, I was not influenced by the technology that are popular nowadays until 2013, because we were raised at underdevelopment period. I was raised up in a Christian community, which is almost disconnected from the country situation, as if politics is not our business. I used to learn just how to worship the Lord, to follow the Christ ways and to maintain my language (Karen) and culture.

<em>Jeremiah fejrer Karen nytår med vennerne, iført traditionelt Karen tøj
Jeremiah fejre Karen nytår med vennerne iført traditionelt Karen tøj



My parents are also raised in a Christian based society, though my father less than my mothers. My father is half Buddhism because of his father. My mother finished her school with Theology and she became a missionary but she is retired now. My father works as a church keeper and also as a writer, writing religious articles in a Christian based magazine. But now, they just live a very simple as I planned to do when I get older.
When I was 16 years old, I joined YMCA in Pathein, by supporting and empowering of YMCA I changed a lot, especially my mind set. It is never good to stay the same without changing. I have to change myself first, then I can change the society. That’s why I try to change myself to be more educated, but feel sometimes I am in trouble because I don’t have enough basic education or maybe I’ve don’t try hard enough. Last year, I moved to Yangon to study and my culture view also changed. For example, I used to think girls who wear short skirts and hang out at night were sex workers, because that is what I’ve learn from my society in Pathein. Now, I realize that being good does not depend on wearing traditional clothes. It only depends on how they behave. I am changing a lot and I am becoming more open minded. And in the future, I am probably going to change more and more, but dream about a simple life in Pathein will stay the same.

<em>Jeremiah og en veninde til hendes graduation for Community Leadership training iført traditionalt Karen beklædning</em>
Jeremiah og en veninde til hendes graduation for Community Leadership training iført traditionalt Karen beklædning

But this – the life of Jeremiah – is not what I want to talk about today. Instead, I want to express my opinion about what problems the youth in Myanmar are facing nowadays. The topics I would like to talk about in this post are as followed:
1) The education system
2) The influence of the social media
3) Unsafe and insecure
4) The conservative people of Myanmar
At first, I just want to make it clear that the following is not the ending truth. It is my opinion only, which is based on my experiences and impressions from life in Pathein and Yangon.

The Education system
In my opinion, one of the main problems is the education system. For parents, grades are important. Parents force their children to get very high grades in school, so they can become doctors or engineers, and in that way, they will earn more money when they graduate. The students aren’t learning anything about critical thinking or how to express one’s opinion.So even though some young people have an education, they won’t gain from it inlife. And after theirgraduation, they will focus on doing something that makes it possible for them to take care of their families. This is normal in our society.
Both the students and the parents respect the teachers, but mostly they fear the teachers.The norm is that the teacher is always right. The opinions, views, and perspectives the teacher presents andtalks about are maybe fine, but they’re not ours. And if we don’t do it the way the teacher thinks is the best, we get scolded and it will have a bad influence on our grades. That’s why the students never dare to express their opinion or ask if they don’t understand. Most of the time, we don’t understand what we are taught, we just memorize it. This kind of education has a very bad influence on our generation because it is killing the creativity of young people.

The social media influence
In early 2013, Myanmar was introduced to the smart phone. Now the smart phones are almost everywhere and everyone has one.
In my point of view, theyoung are damaged by the smart phones and they have become addicted to Facebook and others social media. On social media, they see something and they want to try in real life. For example, some found a sex page onsocial media,and they tried before they were adults, which could lead to teenage pregnancy and early marriage. Some young people just spent their days and nights on social media, addicts on social media. They try to connect the world by the social media and they lost the connection to the real world. They even don’t know who their neighbors are. Instead of real life they care for their reputation on Facebook.
Social media could be a tool for mobilizing young people, but the youth is using it in a wrong way. They don’t care about political or social events for change on Facebook and will not show up. They are influenced by what they read on social media and forget to be critically thinking about what is right or wrong. The youth is the future of our country, but they live on social media.

Unsafe and Insecure
Myanmar people are in general very friendly, and the hospitals are good. But the percentage of the crime level in Yangon is quite high. In the previous election period,the government released political prisoners including the criminals, they thought would change for better. After that, I have heard about so many crimes around Myanmar from social media and the people around me, and the crime rate has increased. These stories make me feel unsafe and insecure. I’m originally from Pathein where the criminal rate is pretty low, so I feel safer when I’m back home with my family. I feel like a need to be more careful in Yangon.


The conservative people of Myanmar
“You are younger than me, I’m older than you”,this is a sentence you hear a lot when you’re younger. It’s a sign of overprotection or an excuse for not letting the youth be involved in society. Some elder people are awareof the power of the youth and they are trying to empower youth, but others are still very conservative in their view on the youth. They don’t believethe youth can do anything.
In my point of view, the elder people in Myanmar are conservative. Although Yangon is becoming more flexible and progressive, in our country, we have cultural conservatives and religious conservative. I don’t think it’s a problem to maintain the culture, but the problem is holding on to old values of the culture in a developing world. Culture is important – all cultural things should be maintained; the language, the traditional cloths, and the spirit. The elder people, who hold on to old values, control the youth. The young people have respect for the elders and listen to their advice. Elders in Myanmar are precious, because they take care of us until we are ready to take care of them. In Myanmar it is part of the culture that young people stay with their parents until they get married – they might even stay after marriage. Because we depend on our elders, we have to listen to them. When the conservative elders tell the young people to follow old religious or cultural values, they block the youth’s future, their creativity, their ideas, and their passion. The conservative people have a proverb: “the thought of women could not go through the top of the roof.” What they mean is, whatever women do, they can’t control their own life or have influence. And that point of view, I believe, is a big problem for development.
Some elder people are very good at leading youth and youth love them – but far from everyone does that. The elder people should empower youth, and they should advise us, not be the controller or the decision-making. The reason that a lot of the youth don’t participate in society is because of the elder, conservative people. Young people in Myanmar are very dependent on their parents or elder people, and when these people want it to stay this way, they make sure that this dependence continues – and then the youth will never create new ideas.