[YFS holds youth organizing exchange]
Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS) successfully held an exchange workshop on youth organizing last October 29, 2018. It was hosted by the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT) in their collective cultivation area in Klongsai Pattana Village, Suratthani. The exchange was attended by 26 participants representing 12 organizations from seven countries. It was held after the back-to-back assemblies of Asian Peasant Coalition and People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, both of which also supported the exchange.
Sandy Ame of Pembaru (Indonesia) began the session by sharing the orientation and a short history of YFS. Lester Gueta (Philippines), YFS secretary general, then delivered an input on the general situation of the youth. He highlighted the urgent need to organize and mobilize the youth for food sovereignty amidst a global crisis as seen in the rise of militarism, and worsening poverty and hunger.
Regrettably, participants from Cambodia had to leave early because of conflicting flight schedules, leaving 17 participants to finish the workshop. Each participant then shared about the situation of the youth in their country, their efforts in engaging them, and the challenges they face.
The problem with militarism was affirmed by the participants. Saad Dagher of PAF (Palestine) pointed out how the Palestinian youth have become the “main blood” in the political struggle against Zionist occupation. Amidst this, he shared how some have been trying ecological agriculture as a way of resisting the rule of chemical companies in food production.
Another common issue is the rise of urban and overseas migration among the rural youth. Shibli Anowar of LRC (Bangladesh) laments how even parent farmers dissuade their educated children from farming. Efforts LRC has been doing in addressing this include providing agricultural trainings and other capacity-building programs to rural families. Anowar describes as a challenge however the sustaining of students’ support to farmers as many forget their advocacy after graduation.
Ame addressed this in his sharing by focusing on the necessity of closely integrating students with the struggles of grassroots peasant and worker organizations, in order to concretely build a sense of service among the youth. Gueta affirmed this in his explanation of the dynamics of the youth movement in the Philippines. Student leaders and lawyer-advocates supporting SPFT (Thailand) agreed with this. They also shared particular issues faced by students in schools such as the repression of their rights to organize and to speak.
Myo Thant of FAN (Burma) expressed the same concern and initiated sharings on what strategies other participants has been doing in order to build and advance their youth movements amidst political repression.
By the end of the workshop, everyone expressed firmer commitment in concretely and collectively working to address the common problems of the youth. Participants without much youth engagements particularly committed to working towards building rural youth organizations in their countries.
A young leader from the SPFT Youth closed the program by stressing that the youth is a main force for changing a society of injustice and poverty.