Teenagers from the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) are being given a chance to express their views at the Inter-Ministerial Meeting (IMM3) on fighting human-trafficking in Ha Noi today, Feb 16.
Their 15-minute presentation at the high-ranking meeting is expected to make a good precedent for future events. Viet Nam is the first country in the region to make youth participation a focus of the issue. Thailand, the host of the next IMM, has promised to include the young voices in similar meetings in their country.
The twelve teenagers from China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam yesterday also held dialogues with GMS senior officials in the eighth regional Senior Official Meeting (SOM), also on human trafficking prevention.
A lack of opportunities to access education and the right types of work skills are among the reasons that push children into being trafficked, mostly for labour exploitation, according the youth participants.
A number of recommendations, including stricter monitoring of work places, better law enforcement and closer co-ordination between governments, were made by the teenagers with a hope to improve youth employment and human-trafficking in the region.
"The governments should help trafficked young people re-integrate into their own communities," said Nguyen Tran Dang Khoa, 16, from HCM City.
Nipawan Srijun, 18, from Thailand, said she was pleased to feel that the adults were listening to them.
The inclusion of the youth's voice at the event showed "an acknowledgement from the governments of the importance of child participation and also the affirmation of the rights of the child," said Abid Gulzar, regional advocacy and child-trafficking specialist of non-profit World Vision.
Nguyen Hai Ha, head of the Viet Nam Child Protection Department's Child Participation and Development Division head, said the youth participation was very important as children and young people were a central part of the labour exploitation problem in the GMS.
"We hope their voices will be recognised by the States in lawmaking to make the anti-human trafficking efforts more effective in GMS," she said.
Matthieu Cognac, regional youth employment specialist of the International Labour Organisation, said he found some of the youth participants' views, such as missing access to the right work skills and a need to enhance communication between the young migrant workers and employers, particularly important for policy makers in the fight against human-trafficking.
"The youth have their own ideas and recommendations," he said. "We need to put them around the table and include their views, not just the views of the older generations with the excuse that they [the older generations] have the experiences."
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