Youth: Open Space #2 : Inequality & Vulnerable yet Overlooked Communities

Published by AYF Secretariat on

The pandemic is indeed affecting everyone differently as it exacerbates inequality. Youth raises concerned towards how the pandemic affects the most vulnerable groups in the region.

On The 7th of June (Sunday), ASEAN Youth Forum conducted the Youth: Open Space for youth to discuss inequality and vulnerable groups which are less highlighted in COVID-19 conversations and mechanisms. called on the youth in Southeast Asia to come together and discuss how youth are taking action in the region. Over 50 youth in Southeast Asia attended the session. The participating youth are coming from 9 countries, which are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, The Philippines, Timor Leste,  and Vietnam.

It was an entirely youth-led discussion, co-hosted by Nazza from Timor Leste, Pirun from Cambodia, and Abel from Malaysia.

Youth have concern over people's right to education as most educational institution have gone online and required more tools and expenses. This condition is indeed a challenging one for youth living in poverty and living with disability. Some also think that the government should respond better to accommodate vulnerable groups, such as sex workers, migrant workers, etc.


Here are some highlights from the session

I know that there are many minorities in my country. I think the most important thing is that people who migrate to other countries to work. Most of them don’t have enough money to support their family. And it’s hard to find it (job) here because it’s closed.

Chouly (Cambodia)

I'm going to talk about overlooked sector. I want to talk about sex workers. In Philippine, the government give subsidy especially for those who don't have work right now. Since COVID, sex workers can't really work. But they are not really considered to be applicable or eligible for that. They have been kind of abused by our local policeman. I think that should be addressed. They still human, they should be taken care of by the government.

Danielle (The Philippines)

some people who are living in rural area, they are struggling their right of education. Because like in Sabang, Serawak, they need to go along the river to go to the school. So how come they can have the internet connection for studying. Some parents in the family they are not more focusing on their children education, it doesn't means they don’t care. But right now they are facing the economic problem. Parents have to working and working and nobody taking cares their children education. People suffering in poverty gonna be hard facing this situation. So what I am try to say is, kids who are studying but living in poor family are vulnerable right now.

Yuvaraj (Malaysia)

In our country  for example especially, we have difficulties in learning on online learning. We can’t start learning because may people don’t know how to use like zoom or something like this. This is something difficulties that we are facing right now during the pandemic

Nang Sam (Myanmar)

The government in Timor Leste still extended lockdown and already three times and this situatuation give impact for those people who living a village. Many students not going to school because of this situation. Many kids in Timor Leste also not have a good access for the internet to online learning in school.

Cesaltino (Timor Leste)

The most critical problem here is many people are having difficulty access to online education. In my city, many people don’t have a good understanding of how to use technology and sometimes the signal is very bad here.

Hafira (Indonesia)

I guess we need to protect the people who are working in the cleaning sector of South East Asian countries where they are being overlooked. They clean the roads, collect the garbage and keep the country clean during this period but still people don't respect them or value their services instead see them as people who are untidy.


Young workers difficult to find work because of the domestic violence and parents focusing on working and working.

Laica (The Philippines)

People who works in services industries, for example those who are doing construction stuff. This particular people who are really- really poor because of the lockdown. For example in the Philippines they are not able to get any salary at all. They receive some help from the government like food supplies. If they have family I don’t think that would be enough to sustain for living. And people enforcing them, while blaming them, they have to work, they have to go out but then we can not really really tell them what should they do.

Geril Gabriel (The Philippines)

Digital technology skill is one of the problem that youth facing during the pandemic right now.  I am also from the main land of South East Asia so I can do lot of policies moving forward digital learning learning as well in Cambodia. So I definitely emphasised with the issues. Youth who are having laptop is one thing, but knowing how to use the laptop is another. Same like having a phone, but knowing how to use it like facebook is another thing. Those are would be obstacle for youth right now. 

Pirun (Cambodia)

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