Both young men and women expressed how difficulties with education, livelihoods and general wellbeing had increased during the Ebola crisis and how, for young women especially, the restrictions on mobility and independence heavily impacted their education and heightened their everyday vunerability. For most young women finding a job was extremely diifcult, and had to be balanced with the demands of family, education and childcare.
However, our research found that some young women were challenging gender boundaries in order to find work and the government was actively targetting them to join traditionally male-dominated occupations such as motorbike taxis.
Many young women and men in Kachin State, Myanmar are volunterring in the internal displaced people's camps, at church events and by distributing foods and health supplies within conflict areas. While some are volunteering to help get employment, many are volunteering in an act of nationalism - to help build Kachin and make it stronger.
Youth groups are also working towards a more integrated society with a vibrant and expanding network of civil society and youth-led community organisations. For example the Myanmar Muslim Students and Youth Network organises events with other groups on religious holidays to take part in each other's festivals, such as Christmas and Eid.
‘Othering’ is learned from a young age and cements divisions between different ethnic groups. One young woman commented that “Religious leaders and parents [....] always tell us how bad people from the other religions are.”
In this context, efforts by young people to bridge divides are remarkable. Many young men and women purposefully develop social and economic relationships with youth belonging to different religions and ethnic groups. Referring to this as the importance of ‘mingling’, they attend each other’s weddings and mourn together at funerals, participate in both Christmas and Sallah festivities, and continue to use services and buy goods from different ethnic groups.
They also seek support in their inner circle of friends by creating peer groups and ‘educating themselves’ to abstain from violence. They promote discourses that counter public perceptions of Islam as a violent religion and Hausa-Fulani Muslims as violent people.