The human-rights focused “YEP! Youth Empowerment Priorities” initiative, held in Florence in August 2015, brought together the Support Youth Leaders co-founders and 35 other young people from 14 different organisations and various European and Middle Eastern countries (Georgia, Armenia, Macedonia, Albania, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain and Italy).
The week-long initiative, which took place from the 23rd until the 30th of August 2015, comprised an intensive cultural exchange experience and a training course organised by ICSE & Co. (International Center for Southern Europe) as part of the Erasmus + projects, funded by the European Commission.
Some of the topics focused on throughout the Youth Empowerment Priorities training course included immigration, refugees, ethno-religious discrimination, non-violent development intervention, and international cooperation. Particular attention was paid to refugees from Mali now living in Florence, who took part in the working groups as part of the YEP initiative.
The project, aimed at promoting and providing mechanisms for youth participation in social, political, economic and cultural development in the context of the participants’ environments— including in countries affected daily by fundamental violations of human rights— took place in the Salvemini residence, in collaboration with the DSU (Regional Entity for the Right to Education) and the University of Florence. As maintained by one of the project trainers, “the most important result has been understanding how hospitality and sharing are the first steps to obtaining freedom and justice.”
Non-formal training methods including dynamic games, cultural visits, guided discussions, workshops, and role-playing were used to encourage active and constructive participation, creating the opportunity to learn about and reflect on some of the following themes: human rights, diversity, language, culture and equality.
The main objective of the project was achieved: to promote activities that would have a multiplying effect and could indirectly and positively influence the participants’ communities, changing their attitudes concerning the prejudices and stereotypes existing in their communities.
This project presented a key opportunity for the young leaders gathered in Florence, comparing and learning in a European cultural metropolis through mutual listening and exchange, useful tools to improve conditions for peaceful coexistence and constructive comparison in their respective contexts. The experience also created a networking opportunity for future project-sharing in different countries.
The participation of Malian refugees, who have been part of the 2014 hosting project by the Florence prefecture, followed by the ‘Cenacolo’ cooperative, added great value to the activities. The project successfully demonstrated the positive impact that sharing goals and ideas can have for reciprocal sharing of emotions and finding solutions to existing problems. Samba, a refugee from Mali who arrived in Sicily, said: “This has been one of the few nice moments, helping us to forget all the bad experiences we’ve been through”. Although many of them are still not in a place to do so, the chance for them to laugh together has been the first step to acceptance. “Given the great success for the positive exchange climate that has been created, in future we would like to have greater participation on behalf of youth in Florence in similar activities, and create further opportunities for exchange even outside the scope of Erasmus+ projects” maintained Aferdite Shani, the president of ICSE & Co. association.
Full article in Italian: