What does interfaith work in Scotland or gender-sensitive youth work in Finland look like? What could we learn from each other about youth work and activism regarding these topics?
In 2017 and 2018 we did a series of five study visits with our partners from Slovenia, Romania, Scotland and Portugal. The theme for the visits was inclusive youth work and its practices in different European countries. Altogether over 100 youth work professionals participated in the visits.
Equality and Gender-Sensitive Youth Work in Finland
We invited twenty youth workers from our partner countries to Finland to familiarize themselves with gender-sensitive youth work and promoting equality through youth work methods. The study visit was organized in March 2018.
During the visit we got to know better the gender-sensitive youth work practiced by the organizations in Helsinki metropolitan area. We visited for example Tyttöjen Talo and Poikien Talo in Helsinki and explored Nicehearts’, Monaliiku’s, Seta’s and Seta youth committee’s activities.
Jill, from Scotland, was one of the participants of the study visit. “One of the most important things was to be able to have interesting conversations with the other participants and being able to challenge each other based on our biases and cultural situations”, Jill says.
Intersectionality in Ljubljana Pride
“Intersectionality is an important topic that touches many groups, also besides the LGBTIQ+ community. I also think it’s very important to come back to where Pride started and that it was a protest and not just about being happy and partying”, says the Finn Jana about what she thought about the study visit.
Organized together with the Ljubljana Pride parade, the one-week-long study visit was focused on the theme of intersectionality. During the visit the participants got to familiarize themselves with youth work done among LGBTIQ+ youth. They also shared experiences and practices about working against hate speech and bullying among sexual and gender minorities and other groups facing discrimination.
Interfaith Dialogue and Youth Work – Study Visit to Scotland
A group of youth workers from Finland, Romania, Scotland, Portugal and Slovenia participated in a week long study visit to Glasgow in November 2017. The aim of the visit was to get familiar with interfaith cooperation and learn how to foster dialogue between different youth groups.
During the week the participants addressed various topics in workshop-like groups, for example religious diversity and anti-discrimination in youth work. The participants also attended events of the Scottish Interfaith Week, an annual week promoting understanding and cooperation between different religious communities. The participants agreed on that faith and religion play a big role in people’s lives. Fabio from Portugal thinks that there are still a lot of misunderstandings between different religious groups. “By joining all these different perspectives, we can understand the similarities between religious communities and find a common ground where we can all be in peace”, he says.
The participants of the project represented different organizations all working with youth from minority groups and youth in the risk of marginalization. The study visit was supported by Erasmus+ and hosted by the organization Interfaith Scotland.
Social Inclusion and Mixed Abilities in Portugal
During the one week study visit in Lousã, a group of youth and NGO workers and volunteers gathered together to learn and share good practices for inclusion. Participants from Finland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland and Slovenia explored the accessible town of Lousã in the central part of mountainous Portugal in September of 2018. Lousã, municipality in the district of Coimbra, is known for its aim to create a model for other towns to follow in terms of inclusion. The project has been fundamental in bringing up the question of Portugal as an accessible destination.
The week included various workshops about inclusive and intersectional approaches by reflecting and sharing experiences and perspectives with a diverse group of international participants. The field visit to the local association Arcil gave a practical example of the daily activities, care and rehabilitation services that Arcil offers. The association aims for social and professional integration and inclusion for people with mixed abilities.
One of the highlights of the week was embracing new ideas for the future. How to be more inclusive and what are the different aspects of accessibility? Another important observation was that it is not only about physical accessibility but also about social accessibility. The participants came to the conclusion that instead of disabilities we should talk about mixed abilities. Words and concepts have the power to create negative attitudes and prejudices but also the power to change or break them. Therefore, it is important to focus on diverse abilities instead of a lack of abilities. By changing the way we speak, it is possible to create a safe space for everyone.
Communality and Cooperation in Youth Work in Romania
In November 2018, RKI sent four Finns to Romania to get familiar with community-based youth work, evaluate the challenges it is facing and how to overcome them through cooperation. Jason, Daria, Mira and Mikko spent the week mostly in Bucharest but made several smaller trips to the rural areas in order to visit local organizations and actors in youth work.
The aim of the study visit was to reflect on the challenges of Romanian youth work and focus especially on the difficult task of getting also the rural youth more involved. Overcoming these challenges requires even more cooperation between different operators of the private sector so that youth from everywhere can participate in different activities.
The study visit week involved for example a visit to a local orphanage as well as a visit to an NGO working with substance abusers. The NGO provides practical help for people living on the street. The participants also visited a rural youth center which aims to arrange activities and various workshops for youth. One of the workshops focused on recycling and gave participants the possibility to craft their own recycling bins and learn more about the topic.
Jason from Finland was one of the participants and thinks that the study visit was interesting and thought-provoking. “During the visit I understood better how complicated many societal issues are and that we need multilateral cooperation to address them. One organization or actor can’t solve everything and that’s why the need for collaboration is even greater”, he says.