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A new approach for a new generation

Young people in Burma have long struggled to play a significant role in the country’s political landscape.

Conservative ideals in a society where age is often valued over innovation mean that the country’s leaders are mostly seniors.

However, as the country opens up, young people are finding their own platform through technology.

Moe Thway is the co-founder and president of Generation Wave, a youth group founded after the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

“I feel guilty. I feel I have a responsibility to stand up to injustice, so I am becoming more and more involved in politics,” said Moe Thway.

When Generation Wave first formed, under the former military rule, they had to work underground and spread their message through art—distributing music, publishing poems and drawing graffiti.

Now that Burma is reforming, political youth groups have been allowed to operate openly and a whole new youth movement has emerged, with members flocking online to join their party of preference.

“I think that Facebook, Twitter and email are really helping to mobilise young people so you can reach many places in a very short time to distribute and share your news,” said Moe Thway.

The political scene in Burma is dominated by the older generation. Government ministerial positions are reserved for those over 40 and several notable MPs are in their 80s.

For a technologically savvy generation, the Internet has become a critical tool to express views on politics and to connect with others.

“If we want to be at the front row I feel like we need to make our own road, we need to build our own stage,” said Moe Thway.

“I feel like some of the youths are creating their own space and they are building their own platform to walk on. “

Even within well-established political parties, the obstacle of age routinely blocks the ambitions of many young people, who are rarely able to assume leading roles.

Parties such as the National League for Democracy (NLD) have been criticised for failing to promote their young members.

But with more than half the country’s population aged under 30, young people are increasingly recognised as vital for Burma’s future. Technology, business opportunities and improved information flow are now providing the young generation with opportunities their parents never had.