With 9 days to go before political parties depart on their campaigning trail, children are calling for politicians to adopt a winning strategy: prioritizing children, according to a media release from UNICEF on 28 August.
Up to 50 children, aged 12 to 18, will meet with representatives of political parties at a debate at the Park Royal Hotel in Yangon on 28th August 2015, to voice their hopes, dreams and concerns for the country. The event is organized jointly by UNICEF and the NGO Child Rights Working Group (NCRWG), in collaboration with the Union Election Commission.
“As political parties are gearing up for the election campaign, this forum provides an opportunity for children to directly influence the shaping of political party agendas and manifestos,” said Ni Ni Hla, Save the Children’s Head of Programme for Child Rights Governance. “This is also a platform for the voteless to speak for themselves.”
In Myanmar, children make up a third of the population and investment in children is key to ensure their needs are prioritized. Yet despite recent progress, over 4.4 million children in Myanmar between 5 and 18 years of age do not attend school, while 10 million children live in poverty. Myanmar has the lowest spending on health and education in the ASEAN region.
“Visions for development must all start with children, because children are the future of the country. Political commitment is the only way the country will achieve its development goals.” said Myo Myint Htun, Plan International’s programme manager for child rights and protection.
The event will encourage representatives from more than 80 political parties, to propose new commitments for children as part of their election campaigns for the country’s prosperity and unity. Simultaneously, it will urge parties to build on the initial plans that have already been put in motion, which will benefit children.
“We know that the primary motivation for voters participating in the upcoming elections is national development, which means that parents will vote with their children’s futures in mind,” said Mr. Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar. “Putting children at the top of the political agenda is good for political parties, good for voters, good for children, and good for the country. It is a clear winning strategy.”