The COVID-19 Pandemic around the world has been accompanied by a surge in stigma, discrimination and hatred.
Most marginalized communities have been at the receiving end of this, making it especially challenging to sustain the social fabric of diverse societies in Southeast Asia.
Thailand is home to more than 60 ethnic groups with diverse languages, religions, beliefs, ethnicity, and identity.
Many of ethnic persons are born in nature and are heirs of age-old traditions and customs passed by their ancestors.
Ethnic youth of Thailand today have integrated local wisdom with modern knowledge, perspective, and technology to identify solutions to the challenges their communities face across the country.
Here are the stories of Nam, Siri and Suchart. Their tales are a celebration of how diversity and inclusion can help overcome challenges in one's community.
The Story of Nam
Nam, an Akha young woman lived with her grandmother in a village where diverse local plants and herbs made it to their kitchen everyday. She later moved to the city to receive an education and when she came back she realized that much of her way of life with her grandmother and their local resources had been lost.
So she came up with the Seed Journey activity, where she invited tourists and chefs from all over Thailand to learn about local seeds and taste unique flavours of her native region. Nam's idea helped her community to learn the value of biodiversity. It also attracted more visitors to their village and helped to promote local products.
The Story of Siri
Siri, is Lao-Isaan. She grew up in a Karen family with traditions of rotational farming. They had to migrate many times due to war, and lost many of their local traditions. During COVID-19 pandemic, Siri's community were struggling to make ends meet whiling following health protocols.
Then Siri and her friends had an idea. They started the Rainbow Textile project to create jobs for women and sell handmade fabrics. It helped women from the village to earn income and feed their families. The project also challenged gender stereotypes and empowered women and girls in the community.
The Story of Suchart
Suchart, a Shan young person, has been trying to obtain his Thai citizenship for over ten years. With many of his friends and family members facing the same problem, Suchart decided to create Titang a Facebook page where stateless persons could get help in their citizenship applications and connect with the community.
The page gained over 6.5 thousand followers and helped stateless persons to integrate into society. Initiatives like Titang build empathy and connection among like-minded people and contribute to resilience in the community.
UNDP Thailand with the support from the European Union (EU) invites you to explore diversity through “You Me We Us,” an online exhibition presenting stories from various ethnic groups in Thailand.
Photos: You Me We Us contributors
Words: Mitra Modaressi, Margarita Cherkasova
Based on the Online Youth Dialogue on Leave No One Behind by UNDP Thailand supported by the EU