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, RKI 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.
Over 100 youth work professionals participated in the visits and shared their own experience.
Twenty youth workers from our partner countries familiarized themselves with gender-sensitive youth work and equality promotion during a four-day visit.
The participants met MP Jani Toivola (The Greens), who spoke about gender and colour sensitivity in society and organizations that promote gender sensitiveness, safe space, and equality, such as Tyttöjen Talo, Poikien Talo, Nicehearts’, Monaliiku’s, Seta’s and Seta youth committee’s activities.
Scottish Jill, one of the participants of the study visit commented the week: “One of the most important things, was to be able to have interesting conversations with the other participants, and to challenge each other, based on our biases and cultural situations.”
“Intersectionality is an important topic that touches many groups, also outside the LGBTIQ+ community. I think it’s important to return to a spot where Pride started, which is a protest, not just a party,” says Finnish Jana, one of the participators of the study visit.
One week study visit was organized parallel with the Ljubljana Pride parade, and they both focused on intersectionality. During the visit, the participants familiarised themselves with youth work among LGBTIQ+ and shared experiences and practices on working against hate speech or bullying among sexual and gender minorities and other groups that face discrimination.
During the week, participants familiarized themselves with topics like religious diversity and anti-discrimination in youth work. They also attended events of the Scottish Interfaith Week, an annual week promoting understanding and cooperation between different religious communities. Many of them agreed that faith and religion play an important role in people’s lives. Fabio from Portugal thinks that there are still considerably 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 week focused on community-based youth work, its challenges and how to overcome them through cooperation. One of the aims was also to think about how to get the rural youth more involved, as a lack of resources tends to concentrate youth work mostly in urban areas.
The week included visits to a local orphanage, and an NGO working with substance abusers, that works in the streets offering practical help for people. The participants also visited a rural youth centre that aims to arrange activities and various workshops for youth.
“During the visit, I understood better how complicated many social issues are and how we need multilateral cooperation in addressing them. One actor can’t solve everything and that’s why the need for collaboration is even greater,” Finnish Jason says.
During the one-week study visit in Lousã, a group of youth and NGO workers and volunteers gathered to learn and share good practices in inclusive working practices. Lousã, a municipality in Coimbra district, is known for its aim to create a model for an accessible city, that is a central question for Portugal as an accessible tourist destination.
Inclusive and intersectional working methods were at the core of the week. One of the highlights of the week was to frame better guidelines for the future. How to be more inclusive and how to take different aspects of accessibility into consideration? Together with physical accessibility, we also need to think about social accessibility.
The participants agreed that instead of talking about 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. 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.