Yes, together we can make a change! YO!Fest and EYE 2016

 

YoFest_2016

Previous YoFest (Yo!Mag, 2016)

 

Guest article written by Salome Modebadze, a YO! Mag correspondent for YO! Fest and the European Youth Event.

Are you between 16-30? Do you believe you have the power to change the world for the better? Do you think your power to make a positive change is being underestimated? If yes, follow me through one of the most inter-cultural youth festivals in Strasbourg this May and yes, together we can make a change!

So, as I prepare for the annual political youth festival YO!Fest which is the part of the European Youth Event (EYE2016) of the European Parliament and European Youth Forum as a YO!Mag correspondent, I keep asking myself ‘what is this all about?’ ‘why do I need to participate?’ and ‘what will it change in my personal/professional life?’ And I just say ‘it will change a lot’ because for a young woman from Georgia – a small country in the Caucasus- it is a great challenge to meet with the European decision-makers, exchange opinions with peers from all over the world and catch political messages from the young musicians because this is how we young people can express ourselves more easily.

Scheduled on May 20-21 in Strasbourg, YO!Fest will be focused on many issues and I, together with the YO!Mag team, will be visiting as many activities as possible on the six main themes: War and Peace, Apathy or Participation, Exclusion or Access, Stagnation or Innovation, Collapse or Success and Health & well-being. YO!Fest will bring together youth aged between 16-30, coming from all 28 European Union member states and beyond. Georgia itself does not yet have EU membership, but my country is making steps toward final acceptance. This is why I feel a double responsibility; to cover the event for YO!Mag but also to represent my country at an event which combines political debates, interactive workshops, educational activities, simulation games, live music and artistic performances at hundreds of panels, debates, workshops and activities inside and outside the European Parliament.

“When it comes to achieving positive change in our society, I put my trust in youth organisations. We see day in and day out that when young people come together and organise, their impact is direct and long lasting” – the Secretary General of the European Youth Forum Allan Pall says.

And indeed, have you thought about who will replace the current politicians when they retire tomorrow? Of course, those young people who are taking steps into political life today. And without active participation, or at least an attempt to participate, share and exchange opinions, the voices of youth will never be heard.

Follow me and I will lead you through various events scheduled both on Friday and Saturday in bigger workshops/panels/roundtables; smaller, less formal workshops; and short drop-in activities that will take place in the hubs. Throughout these activities, we will explore youth participation in decision-making at EU level, share real-life examples of active participation and discuss how to ‘youth up’ the current political systems to ensure inter-generational cooperation between politicians and young people. I will also focus on education around peace-building and conflict solution, recognition and protection of youth rights and dealing with discrimination on the way to achieving equality.

european youth event
From European Youth Event on Flickr

Guess my age, I’m an MEP would be an excellent start on Friday, especially for those who think they are ready to enter the political stage despite their young age. Have you ever wondered how it feels to be a young Member of the European Parliament? Do you want to discover how they actually got there? Can young MEPs become role models for young activists and youth leaders? Join this unique talk organised by European Movement International – with the MEPs ready to share their stories and answer all your questions!

If you want to explore what has changed to YOUth for the past 20 years you should join a fascinating journey with illustrious European Youth Forum alumni, linking the struggles of the past with the challenges of the present and celebrating 20 years of European youth co-operation. Eager to learn a few tricks on how to effectively advocate your concerns or the demands of your organisation towards decision-makers? You should definitely practice at stand up, speak up: lobbying for beginners later on and practice your skills on spot. Do you agree with the idea that youth organisations can be good laboratories for youth empowerment? If yes, join this panel debate and help us demonstrate the social value of youth organisations. Let’s see how it will work in real-life.

For those who believe that we are all equal despite our age, gender, race and beliefs, let us stand against homophobic bullying in our classrooms – a workshop organised by Be the Change Initiative, MAG Jeunes, and La Station. Have you ever been the victim of bullying, witnessed someone being bullied and not known how to react but want to stand up against bullying in the educational sector? Join this interactive workshop on making the classroom a safe place for everyone.

Seek for freedom of speech when the Internet is full of hate with the No Hate Speech campaign of the Council of Europe and pay a visit to the Council of Europe’s living library. Living library will be open for visitors earlier on Saturday as well where you can borrow a human “book” and challenge yourself to better understand groups facing discrimination. The Living Library is an equalities tool that seeks to challenge prejudice and discrimination where books are people, and reading consists of a conversation!

Do you see yourself as an actor for change? Join an inter-cultural dialogue with the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s flagship initiative for promoting a culture of non-violence and peace. Empathy, active listening, critical thinking, non-judgement and non-violent communication are some of the main skills that the workshop will teach you!

And of course, we should all take a puzzle of humanity as a challenge to our faith and belief. How does religion affect politics, communication and our daily lives? How does religion interfere with human interaction? How can inter-religious dialogue help to create peace at community level? Come and discuss these issues and consider the role of young people in contributing to inter-faith dialogue.

Everyone has stereotypes, don’t they? Surely, we can agree to disagree by joining Fakebook, multimedia interactive exhibition exploring participatory democracy, particularly for marginalized groups at SnapChat Democracy, No Hate speech Campaign – a short video inspired by the commitment of young people to combat the hate speech and make your EYE bag unique with a slogan of your own.

These are just a few of the activities you can join at the YO!Fest and there are so many other things that will draw your attention, inspire you to speak and encourage you to make a step forward immediately.

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