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YANGON—Visiting a youth development centre today, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark highlighted the work of the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in promoting healthy choices and lifestyles for young people in Myanmar, including preventing teenage pregnancy and ensuring contraceptive protection for those who are in intimate relationships.

Princess Mary, who serves as UNFPA Patron supporting the agency's work to promote maternal health and safer motherhood, met with a group of youth to learn more about what it is like grow up in this country, notably what pressures and problems teenagers face, now that Myanmar is undergoing a massive transformation both politically and socially after decades of military rule. 

The Crown Princess was greeted by a group of 25 eager and excited teenagers at the UNFPA-sponsored Youth Development Centre in central Yangon.

“It is a special occasion for us when Crown Princess Mary takes the time to visit one of our youth programmes," said Janet Jackson, UNFPA’s Myanmar Representative . "It comes at a very important time for Myanmar. Her visit highlights the importance of young people's participation and inclusion amidst the changes that are happening. Young people are key in helping to set the tone for now and for the future. This gives added impetus to the work we do in ensuring that every young person’s potential is fulfilled. It also confirms that we are on the right track in working closely with the Government of Myanmar to develop a youth policy to address youth issues nationwide.”

It was difficult for the more than 25 teenagers to contain their excitement ahead of the arrival of the royal visitor. It was the first time that they had seen a "real" princess in person. The teens had been busy preparing for days, rehearsing a specially choreographed dance, part of a visibility campaign which emphasizes the wish of youth to grow up in safe environment and be part of a HIV free generation. 

Ahead of the performance, the Princess talkws with the group about the pressure on young people to get a good education and a good job in Myanmar's fast-changing and increasingly competitive environment . Many youths end up becoming disillusioned, drop out of school, lose contact with their families or become vulnerable to drugs and promiscuity. 

“The pressure felt on Myanmar youth to adopt a healthy lifestyle and do well with their lives is massive, and it can lead some to go down the wrong path,” said Dr. Ne Win, UNFPA’s Assistant Representative and expert on adolescents, youth and reproductive health. 

To prevent this, UNFPA has teamed up with the Myanmar Medical Association to increase young people's knowledge of basic sexual and reproductive health and motivate them to adopt healthy lifestyles and be part of a happy family environment. UNFPA is contributing $150,000 yearly for the youth development programme. The programme helps to fund youth centres in Yangon and in other parts of Myanmar. 

“Our job is to try and steer them in the right direction, by establishing youth-friendly space and equipping them with leadership skills to help motivate other young people to adopt healthy lifestyles,” said Dr. Ne Win. 

About one quarter of the world’s population falls between ages 10 to 24. In Myanmar, young people represent 30 per cent of the population. Young people's access to a comprehensive package of youth friendly services, including sexual and reproductive health education and services, is integral to their potential being fulfilled and to preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. 

Through her foundation, The Mary Foundation, and her patronage, H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary is particularly dedicated to humanitarian, health and social issues such as improving lives of children, adults and families. Denmark’s Minister for Development Rasmus Helveg Petersen and a team of diplomats and media accompanied the Crown Princess to the youth centre.

For more information or media inquiries please contact:  
In Yangon:         
Malene Arboe-Rasmussen; Tel:  +95-1-542910-19 Ext : 149;

In Bangkok:  
William A. Ryan, Tel: +66 89 897 6984;