“We want freedom, because we don’t have any freedom yet,” says a young woman, one of the Myanmar Youth Stars; a group of young people under 25, who represent people most affected by HIV in Myanmar. In Myanmar talking about sex is taboo, and therefore so is talking about HIV prevention or any issues to do with LGBT or sex work.
The Alliance, Alliance Myanmarand PhotoVoice joined forces in January 2014 to work with the Myanmar Youth Stars to enable them to confront some of the stigma that exists. Challenging discrimination and misconceptions will ultimately reduce the risks that young people like the Youth Stars face.
The Mysterious Youth Eyes project wanted to increase visibility of key groups including sex workers, LGBT people and people living with HIV. The project trained young people from these groups in photography and then held a public exhibition of their photos. One participant took a powerful photo of two women holding rings together. “I chose about gay marriage because in the US and other countries, they already have gay marriage,” she said.
Another participant said, “The main thing I want to get from the exhibition is that when the general public see my photos it might change their minds. I’m looking forward to reducing stigma and discrimination towards young stigmatised people. I am very happy and also proud of myself for taking part in this process.”
The project also built young people’s skills so that they can be effective advocates and peer educators in the future. “At the Photovoice project we have a chance to provide training in photography and how to take photographs in a meaningful way to express feelings, and to advocate to people about the needs and issues of the key populations,” says Thiha Nyi Nyi, from the Alliance Myanmar.