PDA has also been at the forefront of youth empowerment in Thailand for many years, providing skills training and “life-skills” education to hundreds of thousands of students and their teachers. PDA started the Village Youth Government in 2000 to give a voice to the youth in rural communities; the Village Youth Government is designed to be a permanent village institution which will push future generations toward active involvement in political and community-building affairs. It has been PDA’s experience over the last five years that all former youth government participants, upon compulsory “retirement” from the youth government at age 25, have been elected to the local Tambon Administration Organization (TAO).*
Young people in each village elect eight dynamic leaders between 14 and 24 years of age to become Youth Government officers. To ensure fair and diverse representation, the government must be half male/half female and officers come from different educational levels, including out of the school system.
Youth officers learn about writing proposals, planning projects, holding meetings, public speaking and promoting democratic governance. After training, they manage and organize activities and events around social and economic issues, culture, and health and environmental education.The three main benefits of the Village Youth Government are:
• Youth education: Young people are given the opportunity to take leadership roles and responsibilities. Ownership of problems and social awareness at this early age serves as training for future leaders at the village-level.
• Gender equality: In a male-dominated community, the gender-balanced youth government works to empower women and change attitudes toward traditional gender roles.
• Income generation: The Village Youth Government receives business training and often launches new initiatives within the community.
* A “tambon” is a legal entity at the sub-district level which oversees approximately 12 villages or 9,000 people.