Mekong Youth Forum uses art to highlight trafficking, migration vulnerabilities

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Thirty children and youth from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam are participating in the week-long 3rd Mekong Youth Forum on Human Trafficking and Migration thatbegan on October 22 in Thailand.

The participants are young advocates who have first-hand migration or trafficking experience, either directly or through a family member. Five Vietnamese children were selected to attend the forum from 85 delegates participating in the Children Conference in August in this year.

Tran Ngoc Dan Trinh, 16, a student at the Cao Lanh high secondary school in Dong Thap province, has taken part in many public activities to increase public awareness of children rights. A child collaborator of "Community based child protection system" project in Dong Thap province, he said, "My activities against human trafficking and migration is to organize for other children events explaining the concept of selling human beings, teaching life-skills including self-defense, taking part in quiz shows on issues related to children and child protection, updating information about human trafficking and how to support trafficked victims, especially children, when they return."

He feels that in the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS), the top priorities are to set up an international network in the Mekong area to fight against human trafficking, especially of children and to develop ways to eliminate or limit human trafficking. He said hoped to learn more about the ways to protect other children from trafficking by attending the forum.

Fifteen-year old Ho Minh Man of Ca Mau Province is a member of the "Tuổi Thn Tiên" Club and a collaborator of the Protection Migrant Children Project. He expected that children's opinions will be listened to and strengthened after this forum and that disadvantaged children will receive greater help to improve their living conditions.

The other Vietnamese participants are Nguyen Thanh Dat of Dien Bien Province, Dang Thuy Duong from Phu Tho Province, and Nguyen Thi Mai An, a native of Kon Tum Province.

To build on pledges made at previous Senior Officials Meetings, the Mekong Youth Forum (MYF) will push for a more sustainable approach to youth participation in the process. Rather than a large scale event held every three years, the forum will call for more regular and local initiatives for engaging children and youth.

Experience from previous forums has shown that children and young people sometimes struggle to tell their stories and express themselves because of language and cultural barriers. To help overcome these, the forum will seek to employ creative arts that can "empower children and young people to reach and influence the public and policymakers. It can be a far more effective means of conveying messages on how to protect children and youth from abuse and exploitation."

Organizers have said that at the 3rd Mekong Youth Forum, groups of artists will be involved as co-facilitators to help children and youth express themselves and prepare their own creative presentations.

 "They will use creative arts methodologies to tell their stories, illustrate the situation of children and youth in the region who are vulnerable to trafficking, and put forward recommendations for future action," they said in a statement released before the event.

The main MYF3 objectives are to show policy makers and the public the range of vulnerabilities faced by children and youth in the region, and the value of consulting them in decision making, the statement said.

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