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Youth advocacy for LGBTIQ+ inclusive education in Asia

Youth advocacy for LGBTIQ+ inclusive education in Asia

In commemoration of the 2023 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), 17 May

17 May 2023, Bangkok – Inclusion in and through education is the cornerstone of a transformative education agenda. Creating inclusive learning spaces in schools improves both the quality of the learning experience and the achievement of education and well-being outcomes among all learners, including those with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities or expressions (SOGIE).

UNESCO is committed to partnering with and empowering young people to promote inclusion in education and embraces the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) as an opportunity to amplify the voices of four youth leaders and their respective organizations that are working in Asia to support the creation of safer, more welcoming learning spaces for all students, and to remind us of the power of youth advocacy for transforming education systems and for creating more just and equitable societies.

Under the 2023 IDAHOBIT theme, ‘Together always: united in diversity’, UNESCO Bangkok has produced a short video on the advocacy journeys of four youth leaders who are championing education that is inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other diverse identity (LGBTIQ+) learners in Asia, to draw attention to their educational experiences and why LGBTIQ+ learner inclusion is a relevant issue for the education sector.

Inclusion in education is allowing our young people to express themselves, not being discriminated [against] and stigmatized in their own schools. Because when the environment is good, we try to grow and be a better version of ourselves.

Alex Bernal, Youth for YOUth Organization, Philippines

Young people in Asia and Pacific region are leading the way to address all forms of identity-based exclusion, especially, the discrimination in learning settings experienced by students on the basis of their diverse SOGIE. UNESCO interviewed representatives from three youth-led organizations that are working on this issue, to showcase their advocacy actions. Through multiple approaches, such as peer education on diverse SOGIE, allyship workshops with students and parents, and LGBTIQ+ youth leadership training, the three youth organizations are accelerating efforts towards LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

We provide introductory sessions to allyship, and how people can move from being a passive ally to being an active ally…With our Allyship workshop, we feel that we reach more parents, which has definitely improved the quality of conversions and improved the care that queer children get.

 Medha Acharya and Varsha Ganesan, Inter-University LGBT Network, Singapore

UNESCO and its partners in the Asia-Pacific region have developed a strong platform for tackling the root causes of SOGIE-based discrimination and for protecting the human rights of all LGBTIQ+ persons – including the right to quality, inclusive education of LGBTIQ+ learners, education provided in learning environments that are free from violence in all its forms and which promote the health and well-being of all persons. As a member of the Inter-Agency Task Team on Young Key Populations in the AIDS response (IATT on YKP), UNESCO collaborates with numerous youth-led and youth-serving organizations to support and capacitate young people who are living with HIV and who face compounding stigma and discrimination due to their health/HIV status and their SOGIE identity, whether within or outside of learning settings.  

The new UNESCO advocacy video forms part of the IATT’s 2023 IDAHOBIT commemoration and will be featured in a special webinar on 17 May 2023 as part of the group’s ‘Spill the T on YKP’ online series of public webinars. These webinars gather diverse young people to reflect and dialogue on key human rights issues impacting YKP, and promote cross-learning, networking and collaboration between these diverse groups. Not only does the video call on audiences to recall that inclusion in education means that everyone should feel included; additionally, it serves to spread a message of encouragement delivered from the spotlighted youth advocates to peers who may wish to take action on this issue.

Just be who you are and believe in yourself…wherever you can, you can just support and make an impact of your own. You can write your own journey to support the advocacy in your area.

Chitsanupong (Best) Nithiwana, Young Pride Club, Thailand

Since 2004 the world commemorates IDAHOBIT every 17 May to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people, and indeed all those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions. The 2023 IDAHOBIT theme, ‘Together always: united in diversity’ aims to celebrate diversity and promote solidarity, community and allyship across many movements and self-determined identities.

By Worapot Yodpet, Consultant, and Jenelle Babb, Regional Advisor, Education for Health and Well-being Team, Inclusive Quality Education Section, UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Bangkok