This yearai??i??s largest annual political youth festival, YO!Fest at the European Youth Event, today kicked off in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, gathering youth from all over to think, discuss and express themselves over the issues going on all around the world.
ai???Iai??i??m really happy that even if Europe is in the middle of many different crises, a lot of young people are feeling left alone, excluded; we come together here and we want to break that ice; we want to include the excluded, we want to feel a positive feeling of having solutions and ideas. Europe is not lost. It just needs to be better together againai??? ai??i?? Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, told YO!Mag, stressing that the European Youth Event (EYE2016) is all about gathering people of different backgrounds, different cultures, different political opinions to get together and give suggestions on the future of Europe to decision-makers.
Wandering around the hubs and meeting young people from as far away as North America or Australia, I discovered I was the only Georgian on the migration map, which shows where all the participants have come from and how they migrate around the world. Making a red stripe on the map I felt the unity between all of us participating in the youth festival around goals to change the world for better.
Surrounded by variety of stereotypes that have roots deep inside our traditions, we – the young generations- keep struggling against the stereotypes that divide societies and boost hatred. Through a unique theatre performance a team of talented young people made the audience think ahead before changing the particular character to come to the final peace.
By gathering a group of thirty people from 14 countries experiencing conflicts, the ai???Excuse Me, Is This Hate Yoursai??? campaign has travelled a lot in the conflict-affected areas before getting to YO!Fest and EYE 2016, adjusting to the existing realities and inviting people to give their own input in the unique theatric performance and tell how they would change it.
ai???People were interacting, they were changing, they were always and always going for love because they were saying love is love and thatai??i??s what we need to work on. Nobody was talking about conflictsai??? ai??i??Tamara Goykovic from Youth For Exchange and Understanding said, stressing the importance of spreading ai???basic human feelings and needsai??? because love is love no matter the background, religion or sexual orientation.
Hate speech online. Response or not – this is the question
Have you or your friend ever been the target of hate speech on Facebook or any other social media channel? If yes, how did you react? The Council of Europeai??i??s #nohatespeech youth campaign for human rights online works on the solutions to all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance. In online communication all around the world we all face hard decisions on how to deal with hatred.
ai???Much information is painful but it is still an expression of opinionai??i?? If we take action, should we take it [the content] down or should we say noai??? – No Hate Speech Campaign Coordinator Menno Ettema told YO! Mag, stressing that there are many different ways of addressing hate speech. The internet can be a great opportunity for sharing opinions, to meet, to dialogue, but at some point we flash a red light where hate speech is used to silence others. It is a personal responsibility no to like, share or comment on the hate speech but also to report it at the relevant level.
When our differences make no difference
Apart from the fact that YO!Fest unites youth from different countries, different cultures, different backgrounds, there are so many young people with special needs attending a variety of activities that one can hardly see in my home country ai??i?? in Georgia. Even though we say we are tolerant towards people who do not look like us, who do not act like us, who do not think like us we often forget about the people who are differently abled. If we do not make sure that the infrastructure within our cities is adjusted to their needs we will not see how educated they are, how motivated they can be and how many amazing decisions they can make on behalf of the entire community.
Expressing his opinion about YO!Fest, boingboing’s Simon Dunkan said that discrimination can enter our lives in different forms based on gender, wealth, ethnicity, sexuality and can cause a lot of damage. This is why he encouraged celebrities to create anti-bullying initiatives using their fame to speak to students, because it is in schools where youth between 8-18 become the main targets of ai???attackai??? form those who have comparative power.
Because diversity is richness
ai???We need to respect each other for who we are, wherever we come from, which language we speak, whichever sexual orientation we have, whether we have disabilities or not, whether we have different religions, cultures, backgrounds, whateverai??i?? diversity is richnessai??? ai??i??Ulrike Lunacer, Member of European Parliament ,said, hoping that this annual event will empower young people to go home with the enthusiasm and make change.
As Lunacer told YO!Mag, it is important to continue protecting people against discrimination not only in jobs, but also in terms of access to goods and services. ai???We need equality in protection levels against discriminationai??? ai??i?? she said, pointing out that she is negotiating this directive in the European Parliament but the problem is not in parliament itself but in the member states. This is why the MEP calls on the participants of the YO!Fest to push their governments in those countries that are blocking the directive to move ahead and give green light to the European Parliament ai???because it is protection for all of usai???.