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Elevating Youth Voices in ASEAN
2023 ASEAN Youth Social Journalism Contest
February 2, 2024


Twenty exceptional youth from across ASEAN tackled a range of community resilience challenges – spanning climate justice, inclusive education, and nutrition – through creative campaigns as part of this year’s ASEAN Youth Social Journalism Contest.

Working in two-person country teams, the ten finalist teams put their new skills to work by running month-long social media campaigns directly following the workshop. Their campaigns highlighted a range of community resilience concerns such as nutrition, inclusive education, and reducing plastic waste and included both online and offline activities. The teams displayed boundless creativity, strategic thinking, and dedication in service of the social causes they identified.

For Abby Grace E. Bermejo and Krystel Mae J. Penaflor, finalists from the Philippines and co-founders of Youth Climate Navigators, their AYSJ campaign was driven by their motivation to engage and empower more Filipino youth in environmental advocacy and climate action. Krystel and Abby come from Los Banos, a remote, disaster-prone area along the Pacific typhoon belt where communities face up to twenty typhoons per year. Krystel explained that their AYSJ campaign, #ClimateResilientIslandsPH, sought to “use citizen science journalism to provide early warnings and preparedness during super typhoons… to use social media platforms for localized information dissemination to bridge the communication gap during typhoons, an approach that aligns well with the ASEAN region’s aim to enhance community resilience to climate change, particularly on remote and vulnerable islands with limited access to mainstream media.”


For their compelling campaign, which reached over 140,000 social media users in just a month, Abby and Krystel clinched first place in this year’s AYSJ Contest. Looking ahead, Abby and Krystel have an ambitious vision to expand their campaign beyond. According to Krystel, “Winning first prize in the competition was a major achievement for us, but it’s just the beginning. We’re now actively exploring opportunities both locally and abroad to mobilize and increase engagements for our campaign, both online and offline. One area we are particularly focused on is the development of our Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction training modules. We plan to use a portion of our AYSJ prize to support this important project. And were actively seeking seed funding and microgrants from organizations like USAID and other agencies to launch more impactful activities.”

Abby and Krystel were joined at the top by Wai Liam Phyo Kyaw and Po Po Myint Shein of Myanmar, who won 2nd place, for their campaign to spread knowledge about nutrition and promoting healthier lifestyles and Soon Ping Wong and Yung Kang Lo of Malaysia, who won 3rd place, for their campaign to promote inclusive education and combat dropout rates among indigenous community students.

Recognizing the ongoing challenges posed by political upheaval and pandemic recovery, the Myanmar finalists relayed that their participation in the AYSJ contest provided “motivation and new hope to continue [their] passion using the power of communication, journalism, and storytelling.” Finalist teams from Cambodia and Lao PDR also received special recognition for their campaigns to address water, sanitation, hygiene management, and promoting sexual health education, respectively.

Background of the AYSJ Contest

The AYSJ Contest was first launched in 2017 by USAID’s ASEAN-U.S. Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development and Security (PROGRESS) project and continued through the ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimization within the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT) project, in collaboration with the ASEAN Foundation and ASEAN Secretariat. Since 2017, over 75 youth have participated in the initiative. The first AYSJ was held in Bander Seri Begawan while the second was conducted entirely online in 2021. Past AYSJ finalists have gone on to pursue studies in civic engagement, as well as careers in creative writing for NGOs and media outlets. USAID has continued the AYSJ Contest and other youth-focused initiatives to promote youth engagement and empowerment to active youth leaders as catalytic change-makers, helping contribute to addressing critical challenges in their communities as well as the wider ASEAN Community.

CONTACT USAID/ASEAN Office jakaratusaidasean@usaid.gov