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Thailand - Thai Prime Minister joins students in raising their voices to end violence in schools
Prime Minister Vejjajiva joined the youths in Bangkok at the Young Hearts Youth Arts & Media Festival - to end violence against children in schools - where he added his voice to the youths' call for their right to an education free from fear.
The festival is part of Plan’s global Learn Without Fear campaign which was launched after research conducted by Plan exposed the extent of the pandemic of violence, particularly sexual and gender-based violence, in schools across Asia. Thailand’s Children and Family Protection Centre, part of the Ministry of Education, revealed that every week at least one teacher sexually abuses a student (UN, Violence Against Children: Regional Consultation in East Asia and the Pacific, 2005). The real figure is certainly much higher as many girls are discouraged from speaking out. Research showed sexual violence was exerted by both girls’ teachers and their fellow students and included ‘sex for grades’ by which teachers procure sex from girls in exchange for high marks. Sexual abuse is emerging as a major contributing factor to the gender disparity that exists in schools in Asia as girls drop out to escape it.
Under the Young Hearts project, such children received training by media professionals to provide them with the tools they need to speak out through youth media. On display was an impressive showcase of films, radio pieces, musical performances, short stories and visual arts pieces produced by them that provided an insight into their experiences of violence in schools.
Prime Minister Vejjajiva toured the exhibition, impressed by the talents of the young artists. He then demonstrated how these youths can further make themselves heard when he joined them in a social media workshop at the festival, and answered their questions online via his Twitter account, demonstrating for them in real time how social media can be used to spread a message to the world. He signed a pledge to support young people as they raise their voices through youth media and to help end violence in schools.
The weekend was an empowering one for the young media producers. Sisil, a girl from Indonesia, said: “It’s really thrilling. It makes it all worth it. When I see the crowd’s reaction and they are all so enthusiastic about our performance, all the tiredness and all the sweat doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
Soraya, a girl from Thailand added, “I feel special when people see our film. We have met the children here at the festival through youth media. This is our passport to go around the world.”
Leah Grace Bañares from the Philippines concluded, “We were inspired to produce and, in that process, we were able to understand more the conditions of fellow children who, like us, are faced with a lot of challenges in education. Our works produced under the Young Hearts project will help shape opinions of others that could make a change in the life of us children.”