By Kefan Yang
I come from a little town in southwest China, on the border between Laos and Myanmar. Growing up as part of a religious ethnic minority and as a sexual minority, I’ve understood the struggles facing marginalised youth. Thus, I want to make a difference in my community and turn it into an inclusive one.
This year marks the outset for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I believe that the promoting and implementing of the SDGs, to a large extent, relies on the power of youth. Also, the implementation of the SDGs is not solely the UN's job; it is every country’s responsibility and, as individuals, we have to be actively a part of it. Generally, the UN 2030 Agenda is of mutual concern to everyone in the world.
Whenever I go back to my little town during the holidays, I always seek opportunities to create a civic space where I can share my knowledge and experiences with the local people, so they are able to exchange opinions and, as a result, benefit from the experience. I consider this my contribution to improving my hometown and community.
As an example, in the middle of September, within nine days, I had initiated three workshops on HIV/AIDS, gender equality and non-discrimination, addressing different audiences, including citizens of Jinghong City, leaders of three Tai ethnic minority villages and monk students of the Buddhist Institute in Xishuangbanna Tai autonomous prefecture. Approximately 150 participants attended these workshops, which is expected to reach an additional 10,000 people in the region, particularly within the Tai community.
The topic I chose to speak about was related to sex and sexuality education; this is a subject people do not normally feel comfortable talking about in public, especially with the strong regional influence of Buddhism. Given the topic sensitivity, I think it is extremely important to create a civic space to encourage people to explore these and other topics and to discuss the relevant issues.
Only by doing so can we raise public awareness of these issues and aim to achieve a change in attitudes. Having access to civic space for dialogue about sensitive issues effecting the community , there will be better outreach and social inclusion of marginalised people otherwise excluded, due to the social stigmas and biases.
Kefan Yang is an activist campaigning for the rights of ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups, particularly religious ethnic minority children, youth and women struggling with drug abuse and living with HIV. Kefan is Dai (Tai Lüe) ethnic minority himself from Xishuangbanna, bordering between Laos and Myanmar in southwest China.