MEET THE YOUNG ACTIVISTS RAISING THE RAINBOW FLAG FOR CHILDREN
Save the Children believes that it is fundamental that the human rights of LGBTIQ+ children are protected and promoted.
In Thailand, our Highlighting Equality and Respect Towards all SOGIESC project (HEARTS) aims to ensure that children and youth, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), can live their lives free from fear and discrimination.
To raise awareness in local communities about SOGIESC and LGBTIQ+ issues, Save the Children (Thailand) Foundation supports child campaigners and youth groups with seed grants to implement community-based projects or campaigns that promote the rights of LGBTIQ+ children.
Let’s get to know more about Sangsa and other young campaigners around Asia:
SANGSA, 18, THAILAND
“Protection is a human right that everyone is born with, but why do so many LGBTQ+ children and youth have to fight for it?”
Sangsa, 19, is a campaigner with the Rak Dek Foundation in Thailand. Save the Children supported her by providing her with a grants to help her launch a campaign to raise awareness about the rights of LGBTIQ+ children in her community.
“Most of their families and communities are not open to the idea of LGBTQ+. They still believe in binary genders – only male and female – and anything besides those two is unacceptable. So a lot of children and youth cannot express themselves, either through their clothing or personality, and living under that pressure makes them depressed,” said Sangsa.
“I’m very glad to be fighting this cause. It’s not an easy task because I’m also a stateless person - sometimes I’ve faced ignorance and discrimination because people do not believe who I am. A lot of the time it got me down, but I never gave up of speaking out for our rights.”
Sangsa wants to see a future where there are LGBTQ+ people among her country’s leaders.
“I believe it is very important to have LGBTIQ+ representation among our decision makers, because then those leaders can drive positive changes in policy and laws that actually enable us to truly enjoy our rights. Because we’re all equal.”
ANGEL, 22, NEPAL
“It’s so important to teach kids that bullying and harassment and discrimination are not ok.”
Two years ago, Angel made history when she became the first transgender woman in Nepal to be a finalist in the Miss Universe pageant. But her trailblazing doesn’t stop there: She’s been campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights since she was 16 and, with support from Save the Children, she visits schools to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ rights and speak out against bullying and discrimination.
“I campaign for LGBTQ+ rights because as a kid I went through a lot of bullying and discrimination. It was very hard for me growing up, expressing myself as a queer person. The majority of a kid’s time is spent at school, so it was really important to me that we make school a place where LGBQ+ people are seen positively. It’s so important to teach kids that bullying and harassment and discrimination are not ok.
“I don’t want other kids to go through what I had to go through growing up,” Angel said.
Nepal is often said to be one of the most progressive countries in Asia when it comes to recognising LGBTQ+ rights. But Angel says there is still a long way to go.
“One problem we have is how LGBTQ+ characters are represented in the media. In the media you’ll often see hateful slurs used as if they’re normal. Kids grow up seeing that, and they see LGBTQ+ people represented as these comic or exaggerated feminine caricatures. I have to teach them that we aren’t comic characters to be laughed at.”
But Angel is hopeful that things will change in the future.
“I’d like to say to all LGBTQ+ people: Be yourself, and the world will catch up. It will take time but we will get there.”
BUAY, 15, THAILAND
“I’m proud of what I’ve done, becoming a voice for other children and youth who might be facing discrimination and hatred just because of who they are.”
Buay, 15, is a campaigner with the Rak Dek Foundation in Thailand, which aims to raise awareness about LGBTIQ+ rights among migrant and stateless children and youth living on the Thailand-Myanmar border.
“What we do is to help protect and strengthen the rights of LGBTIQ+ children and youth through working with their families and local communities: both with those who are accepting and those who are unaccepting of LGBTIQ+.”
Save the Children supports campaigners like Buay by providing grants to help them launch campaigns to raise awareness about the rights of LGBTIQ+ children in their communities. Buay says they are proud of what they’ve achieved for marginalised children.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done, becoming a voice for other children and youth who might be facing discrimination and hatred just because of who they are. A lot of them are living under great pressure from their family members and community that do not accept LGBTIQ+, which has caused some of them to suffer with depression and mental health issues.”
THANH KHAN, 22, VIETNAM
“LGBTQ+ children don’t feel that they can be who they are and that makes life tough for them.”
With support from Save the Children in Vietnam, Thanh Khan runs a campaign called ‘Rainbow Schools’, which works in schools training students and teachers on how to support LGBTQ+ children and tackle discrimination.
“When I was at school I was picked on because of my identity. Children shouldn’t have to face discrimination while they are trying to learn. That’s why I wanted to prioritise campaigning in schools,” Thank Khan said.
“Because of my own experience, I’m able to talk to kids and help them feel like they can be themselves. There was one child I helped who was 17 and had just tested HIV positive. They were in shock. They told me they wanted to end their life and asked me how they could do it without any pain. It was very difficult to hear. I talked to them and helped them get through it. Later on, they said to me ‘because of you I am still alive’. It’s a good feeling to know I have helped someone like that.”
Thanh Khan says that many children in Vietnam don’t have reliable information about LGBTQ+ issues.
“They still think that being gay means dressing up in a ridiculous way,” he said. “There are so many harmful stereotypes about gender and what it means to be a man or a woman. People think that men have to be strong and have to dress a certain way.”
“In the future I want to see LGBTQ+ children and young people have more freedom to be themselves without discrimination.”
MEEN, 21, THAILAND
“It started with me. At first, I didn’t accept myself as LGBTIQ+, but the more I rejected who I was, the unhappier I became. So, I decided to move out of my safe zone and start doing my own social media page where I share my own experience with those who might be struggling with similar things. Although it is still a small community, I’m glad to be speaking out and also learning and growing with others who are involved.”
Meen is a campaigner who campaigns under the name ‘Meen Khan’, promoting LGBTIQ+ rights through her social media page. Save the Children supported Meen and her group, Sao Bang Po, by providing a grant to help them raise awareness about the rights of LGBTIQ+ children in their community.
“Teaching children about LBGTIQ+ is very important because they need to learn about diversity and respect."
"It also encourages children and young people to stop hiding and to feel safe to come out, which will eventually help society to have a better understanding and acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people.”
DADA, 21, THAILAND
“In Thailand’s deep south, LGBTIQ+ people face a lot of discrimination. Most families in the deep south do not accept LGBTIQ+ children, and a lot of children need to hide themselves from expressing who they are. For those who do the opposite and express themselves freely, many have experienced threats and abuse such as having their hair cut off, or having rocks thrown at them.”
Dada (she/her), 21, is a campaigner with LookSouth Peace, an organisation that promotes LGBTQ+ rights for children in Thailand’s deep south. Save the Children supports campaigners like Dada and LookSouth Peace by providing grants to help them raise awareness about the rights of LGBTIQ+ children in their communities.
LookSouth Peace produced a video to promote mental health support services for LGBTIQ+ children and youth in Thailand’s deep south. The video reached over 2,000 social media accounts and was shared by the local Department of Mental Health.
“It was not an easy journey for us. When we first started our campaign, we were frequently threatened in many different ways, both verbally and physically. For example, people put nails in front of our car tires. Even though the threats scared us sometimes, I was never discouraged from what we do. I’m happy that we’re able to get through all that and continue speaking out that we will not tolerate violence any longer.”
“I hope that one day all LGBTIQ+ children and youth can become whoever they want to be without living in fear of discrimination. I hope they will be able to do any job they want and pursue any career and even have a happy family in the future.”