June 24, 2018

By Mekong Youth Assembly

As a young woman who always advocates for youth voice to protect Mekong river, Saroeurn Leakhena, a young activist traveled to attend the 8th World Water Forum  “Sharing Water” that was held from 18 – 23 March 2018 in Brasilia, Brazil,  to bring stories, concerns and the situation in the Mekong river to be heard in the international level.

Leakhena was nominated by the coordination group of the world youth parliament to be one of young speaker to speak about “the role of youth to project Mekong river”.

From that, Mekong Youth Assembly had the chance to discuss with Leakhena about her experiences at the 8th World Water Forum that she attended which it was the chance for her to speak about the situation and youth role to protect river in the Mekong region as she hoped that those stories in the Mekong river will be heard by international audiences in this forum.

“I am one of speakers for the panelist discussion on ‘Youth in the public participation’. I saw this was the opportunity for me to raise the issues that are happening in our Mekong river and youth role to protect Mekong river to wider international audiences. In my speaking, I shared about the situation of Mekong river under the treat because a lot of dams are planning to be built on this river and that will cause significant impacts to local people including  indigenous people, women, youth and children who their lives reply on Mekong river,” she shared in our discussion.       

Leakhena (second from the right) speaks on youth participation on protecting Mekong river  at the 8th World Water Forum
Photo by Leakhena

Leakhena said she was impressive when a group of youth and communities from Brazil who also attended the forum shared her that the stories and the situation of Mekong river that she shared are similar to what are happening now on rivers in Brazil.  From that she realized it is important to have forum where youth and communities from Mekong river and communities in the world that are facing the same issue come together and share stories and take action together.

During the discussion, MYA asked Leakhena that why it is important for youth to attend this forum. To answer a question, she shared that  from her experience working with local youths in her community to raise awareness about the importance of Mekong river for making livelihoods, she can see that youth contribute a lot  to protect Mekong river and environment in the community , but their voices  have not yet well recognized and heard by policy makers.

Leakhena (in the middle) raises awareness about climate change to children in the local school, Cambodia.
Photo by Leakhena

“I think it is important to have a space for youth to share about their concern over the Mekong river, and I saw that  to attend this forum is chance to show that youth voices and roles are matters to play important role  for protecting Mekong river and environment , and so their voice and their rights must be recognized. Thus, I see that my participation in this forum is a part of  movement to advocate for that, especially to raise issues that youth’s concerns to be heard in this  international forum,” she emphasized.  

She also said that youth can do many effective things and they are productive to make change in the society. So it is crucial to include them in every process of decision making on development and policies because those directly affect to their lives which mean it will impact to the way of how they will grow up and live.

At the end of our discussion, Leakhena suggested she would like to see more Mekong youths to participate in this international forum to share about the situation happening in the Mekong river, especially about hydropower dams that cause huge negative impacts to people who live along Mekong river, so that this will be a greater youth movement to take action to protect rivers together all around the world.