Conflict vs Connection: A Training for Young Peace Builders in Armenia

Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) in partnership with TeachSurfing (Germany) hosted 45 youth workers from 12 different countries; Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. The country representatives were hosted in Yerevan from 10th to 17th of April in the frames of the international training course “Conflict vs Connection” funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.

The objective of the training for Young Peace Builders was due to the existing conflicts in the region, which in their turn negatively impact both Armenia’s and the neighbouring countries’ development. The ambition to build peace has been among the political and diplomatic circles of the participating countries. However, many of the conflicts are still unresolved, influencing young people living in those countries. More often, young people are the ones who become victims of violent conflicts and wars.

The course focused mainly on the topics of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peace building and conflict management, which are very relevant in the participating countries. The training has been conducted by 3 professional trainers by using lots of interactive exercises and non-formal educational activities, identifying the reasons of conflicts, possible solutions and the role that young people can play in conflict resolution processes. Apart from discussing the cross-border and international conflicts, they discussed also interpersonal conflicts and learnt about effective strategies to overcome them.

Except the academic part of the project, the participants had a chance to get acquainted with the Armenian culture and national cuisine during the Intercultural evening, excursion to Garni and Geghard, City Rallies initiatives. Moreover, the participants were able to present their national cuisine and culture as well, by creating a real multicultural atmosphere.

Within the project a public “Human Library”event has been organized, where many local and international participants, including 12 country representatives, had a chance to meet and talk to Muslims, Buddhists, people of different nationalities and groups, ask them about their daily life, ambitions, aspirations and concerns. Human Library worked as an ordinary library: readers came to the library, choose a book and read it. The only difference is that books are humans, and the reading is a real conversation.

The participants were willing to share their impressions and the outcome of the project with the readers below.

Maria Argyride from Cyprus talked about the importance of the project, “Through this training I learned a lot of practices and techniques that I can transfer to other people especially to children because I’m a teacher. I think, that now I understand how conflicts begin and can find the right way to solve it. And I feel so cool with knowledge, good feelings, positive energy thanks to your project.”

Viktor Petrov from Ukraine highlighted “I’m a youth worker and trainer, so this topic and this environment are pretty good for me, for my profession and personal development and also I’d love to contribute to peace-building and this topic is very important for me. The most important thing for me is that we gathered people from 13 countries here, different cultures with the same goal and this is the most important.
In our society there are many conflicts and I truly believe, that if we spread the information as much as possible, we can get closer to peace, so I’d love to continue the trainings and spreading information and knowledge I gained.”

“I learned many things in this project and the most basic one is that there is no such a thing “the big shark eats the small one”, we all can collaborate and become the winner in any kind of subject. Peace is an abstract term, for me at least, and in order to make it more substantial you need to work for it.  I think, if many positive people gather together they can do great, amazing things, but people being apart and fighting against each other is something terrible and we can see the results… because it happens centuries.” mentioned Giorgos Gkaraklidis, a participant from Cyprus.

International Human Library Event in Yerevan

Have you ever read 13 books within two hours? If you think that this is something impossible, then the evidence of that fact was nearly 150 readers, who participated in International Human Library Event in Yerevan, at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel.

On April 14, the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and PINK Armenia organized The Human Library event. The event was aimed at challenging and breaking lots of existing stereotypes and prejudices through real “book-reader” conversations and to create a positive environment in Armenian society.

The concept of the event was that the participants of the event chose their favorite book number from the card catalog and were able to start the reading process with the relevant book in the allotted 30 minutes through a real face-to-face conversation. The most interesting thing was the fact that the books were people of different nationalities, religions, and creeds, and the readers were the 150 participants of the event.

The heroes of 13 interesting stories, as known as the human library books, were willing to answer all the questions asked by the event’s readers about their own life story.  “What is the most interesting principle in Buddhism? Why did the Turkish student decide to visit Armenia and how did people welcome him in our society? Would the young Indian like to live in Armenia? Are people aware of the real principles ​​of Islam and why is Islam considered to be one of the interesting religions? Have people become more tolerant towards homosexuality in our society or not?” these were some of those numerous and sometimes bizarre questions that were of interest to readers.

In the end of the event, many of the book-heroes stated that this was a unique opportunity to interact with new people, without selecting them, but being selected by them, and to share their experiences about their own lives.
“If I could, I would erase all the borders of the world, and only in that case the most important thing would become the real human values regardless of nationality, religion or other features; I am here to prove it,” said Ahmet Yavuzele, one of the human library books.

As response to the positive feedback and the enthusiasm, which followed the event, the organizers promised to have another similar event in the near future.

 

Youth for Rights

Last week a group of young human rights activists from Armenia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Russia and the EU came together at the “Youth for Rights” Eastern Partnership Youth Conference 2016 to make stronger links between countries and participate in training and capacity-building activities. The EaP Youth Conference was organized by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) and held under the patronage of the Slovak Presidency in the Council of the European Union.

The “Youth for Rights” conference held on 27-28 October in Slovakian capital Bratislava has brought together 145 young people who advocate for democratic development in their societies. Armenian Progressive Youth NGO was also invited to the conference as a part of the Armenian delegation comprised of civil society organizations, human rights activists and active young people.
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The main aim of the conference was to facilitate cooperation and contacts between the participants and to create stronger and trust-based links for the future. Besides the sessions in plenary, the
participants have participated in training and capacity-building activities and have worked together within the 5 sub-groups entitled “Youth for democracy”, “Youth for environment”, “Youth for inclusion and diversity”, “Youth for education” and “Youth at work”.

As Armenian Progressive Youth NGO mainly works in the area of non-formal and civic education in Armenia, it was represented in the “Youth for education” sub-group by our Vice-President, Mr. Grigor Yeritsyan. The sub-group has focused on the problems in the areas of higher education, non-formal education and civic education in the Eastern Partnership countries and have elaborated a list of recommendations that are addressed to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders responsible for education in each EaP country, including Armenia.

30693620026_3659cc8601_oThe results of the conference, including the above-mentioned recommendations and the resolution that has been approved by the conference, will be presented during the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Annual Assembly, which will take place on 28-30 November 2016 in Brussels. Armenian Progressive Youth NGO is will be the part of the national delegation at the annual conference in Brussels that will be gathering 200 representatives of civil society organisations from the EaP region and the EU.

Another aim of the event was to create synergies between the EaP Youth Conference and the next EaP Youth Forum 2017 (Budapest) that will gather youth representatives nominated by respective EaP governments, and the EU, contributing with policy recommendations to the Forum.

“Young generation fills me with the hope and optimism for the future. They are best suited to address the challenges in their countries and work with the communities at the local level” says Katarina Mathernova, the Deputy Director General of DG NEAR, European Commission.

“Young human rights activists, their organizations and civic initiatives should be encouraged. We should make their voices heard. They should become the shapers of the youth policy in the EU Member States and EaP countries,” commented Hovsep Khurshudyan, EaP CSF Steering Committee Member, Working Group 4 and main conference coordinator.

The idea of the conference was born during the EaP CSF Platform 4 meeting in Brussels on 14 December 2015, the event was consequently included into the EaP 2016 working plans, and stands out as a positive example of efficient cooperation with the civil society within the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership policy.

Please find below the Declaration and the Resolution adopted at the Conference:

 

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Challenge to Change: Gender Perspectives in Europe

The concept of gender equality is highly affected by the culture and the politics of the country where it is discussed. Consequently, the work on policies, norms and juridical systems in favor of gender equality differ greatly around the world. Thus, what do not differ around the world is the structural violence against women. This is a problem present in all societies regardless of development, culture, religion, policies and history. To gather different youth workers and leaders from all over the world to discuss these issues are therefore of highest importance, not only because the youth can bring a change, but because it is an international problem and should therefore be understood internationally.

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From June 27 to 5th of July together with JUB International from Netherlands we hosted the international training ”Gender Perspectives in Europe:13517493_1213558571996820_2261714809289119394_o Challenge to Change” bringing together youth workers, youth leaders, experts, NGO workers, Civil Society Organization representatives working for the promotion of Gender Equality and women’s empowerment in the Eastern Partnership Countries and the European Union.
The project has involved 36 participants coming from such countries as the United Kingdom, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, Spain and Armenia.
Since all participants came from different countries, backgrounds and gender experiences the discussions and exchanges were rich.

Nuard Minasian (Armenia)

I was actively involved in gender related issues before and after the training, but I should confess that the format of the training enriched my skills on how the gender topics should be represented for a mixed audience. The stimulation games and exercises were very useful for me and I’m going to practice it in my work as a trainer.
The main issue is the gender stereotypes which causes gender inequality in our society. Another big issue is the gender based violence which is common for developing countries not having legislative mechanisms to prevent the cases.
There were represented some mechanisms on how to combat against these stereotypes which can differ from country to country, but which still characteristic for every society in a specific way. The stronger the society is the higher will be its level of gender equality. That’s why we drafted some joint projects during the training aiming to engage more people in awareness rising process on gender equality and non-violence.13603353_1216795288339815_1050718266209977591_o
I will address the teenage pupils who are the most target group for being educated on gender issues. This will give the opportunity to prevent gender inequality and domestic violence by educating the generation rather than working on the sad consequences of the absence of gender education.
The training was held in a very friendly atmosphere keeping everyone energized and motivated to take part in each activity. We really enjoyed the training, made useful networks for the further cooperation and went back home with positive and unforgettable memories.

Alexei Croitor (Moldova)

The project has been focused on gender issues, mostly challenges and causes which lead to inequality between men and women. For me this training wasn’t the 1 st course in gender equality issues, as a lawyer I’ve participated in a lot of educational programs which has been based on equality and non-discrimination issues from the legal point of view. This course has specific that approach this theme not from legal but social and cultural aspect regarding countries involved in project. It shows how young people understand this issue and their individual or group attitude to this, the importance of topic in social life, how it can influence society. Due to the Course I much more understand how stereotypes are influence our life and can be powerful instruments which stop development and progress. Only by like these educational program especially for young generation we can eliminate stereotypes from society and clean it up.

13517587_1214565185229492_3695389827692976380_oRepublic of Moldova has problems to solve with intolerance in society, inequality of women in all fields staring of decision making to enterprising. More problematical is non-realizing by the society of that problem which leads to discrimination, domestic violence. Despite of strong legal framework, in practical application of this Moldova is still fail. The situation with non-implementation of existing laws like in Moldova, or improvement of legislation with necessary framework, for states which aspiring for it must take in consideration that it needs not only legal and political approach. It necessary change and open minds of society especially with young generation. That is why the same Projects are strictly necessary, for showing positive examples, giving possibility to participants to come to the idea of equality by themselves, working together on the problem, generating new ideas.

 

Boba Markovich Baluchova (Czech Republic)

Very heterogeneous, but open-minded group of the participants (of different age, from different countries and with different educational background) learnt and talked about gender related topics and the need for gender equality in all areas of our lives. It was not only about equal job opportunities and equally paid salaries for women and men; this training was also about the understanding of the concepts of women’s rights protection, e.g. reproductive rights (which is very sensitive topic in Armenia – what we found out during the training). We also asked ourselves whether do we have an equivalent for “gender mainstreaming” term in our own languages.

I’ve been working as youth worker, journalist and lecturer at Palacky university, so gender related topics are not new to me. In past I conducted the research about the media (re)presentation of vulnerable groups (including women) from developed, as well as developing countries. During the training I was interested in the advocacy campaigns and gender related issues in countries from Eastern Partnership and Caucasus region. Therefore I appreciated the Study tours to local Armenian NGOs: Women’s Resource Center of Armenia, Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK). For example I learnt that ‪Diana Abkar (an Armenian writer and diplomat) was the 1st female ambassador in the World (in 1920!).

13580397_1215348718484472_88981260433290312_oI come from Slovakia, but I work in Czechia (these two countries used to be one big country: Czechoslovakia in past). I contributed to the international conference (as a part of this TC) with the presentation: “Portrayal of women in Czech and Slovak media (journalism and marketing products)”. I talked about a significant difference in portrayal of women and men. Sexual harassment and sexism are big issues in my region. I showed the examples of annual competition “Sexist pig” focused on the most sexist adverts in Czechia. As I understood (based on the discussion after the conference) there are very similar experiences and examples of gender insensitive language’s usage from other European countries.

I think the training courses and youth exchanges (using non-formal learning methods) can be always an opportunity to face our own stereotypes and work on their reduction. In my case study/research of portrayal of women in media: educational seminars for journalism students about gender related issues and topics would be helpful.

Even though the group participants had different age, educational background, cultural and religious values, together we created very safe space for the opinions sharing and open discussions about feminism, women’s reproductive rights or LGBTQI+ topic. I believe that was the most important outcome of the TC.

Florian Kleinhoven (The Netherlands)

I think what mostly changed for me is my view on different cultures. Not only was travelling to Armenia a great experience, such a project with so

many members partaking from numerous cultural backgrounds was also helpful. I learned to see how many European cultures regard the problem of gender inequality and anything related to it from a similar perspective, whereas Georgians or Armenians consider the situation radically different. I think the project mainly taught me to mitigate my opinions as to gender discrimination. As Freud indicated: human behaviors always have a source in society — I consider this very much to be the truth.  I think in Western Europe, the problem of gender inequality is less tangible than anywhere else in the world. In a practical sense, there are the same opportunities for both counterparts. However, on a more microscopical scale, the differences are evident. Many people here are obsessed with equating statistical values: women have to make up 50% of all Physics students, and so forth. The course in Yerevan taught me that these goals are surreal and surpass the goal: the goal is to alter the public mentality, not statistics. Logically, the issue also consists of verbal discrimination, but to be honest, that falls into an entirely different category than ‘gender issues’ itself. The role of discrimination based on differences is a lot greater!13533126_1215305758488768_1580205598643307528_n

A resolution should be a legislative element implemented in society to meliorate a problematic situation. I think the solution many companies have adopted is the best, survey both what men and women want, and tailor your regulations to that — it’s all about democracy after all. I think an understanding of how to appease two or more parties in negotiations would be one of the most useful skills, as this also helps to rule out the problem of discrimination itself (on a small scale).  I think the problem with public education in the field of gender issues in Western Europe is that it is focused mostly on the consequences for women. I, and many others, think the problem persists for both genders. Men can feel discriminated on the basis of their gender as well. The issue should be approached as something mutual/communal; not something merely problematic for women.

Gita Getaute Sveicare (Latvia)

For me the project was about kindness, tolerance, inner values and emotions. Before training I was confident about this topic. I was sure that I know all the indicators and signs that indicates belonging to specific groups or orientation (sexual or gender). In my region are a lot of situations about aggression and misunderstandings in case of difference (either way of thinking or sexual orientation and non-tolerant attitude). It was wonderful experience and opportunity to meet colleagues from different countries and sharing so big working range and categories. Thank you. Hope to have similar opportunity in future.

Roman Hajduk (United Kingdom)

A few months before I was attending another training course, where I needed to find and understand myself and that one became a good foundation for the training in Armenia. In Armenia  I received more experience, created new contacts and my network is bigger now.  I will be also back soon with my photography project.

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Santa Barbara – The Last Episode of the Famous TV Series in Yerevan

After several years of project experience and work with so-called difficult youngsters, adolescents with challenging behavior Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) and Föreningen Framtidståget(Sweden) have recognized that often we speak about important world issues and try to influence global problems, but do not notice, that our relationship with the world very much depends on the relationship with our nearest people.
Santa Barbara is a Training Course aiming to show the importance of personal and family relationship in young people’s future by self-reflection
and making correlations between personal life and social and political engagement.

14409441_1277537758932234_4769751434154556979_oAmong others, the training contained study visits to NGOs in Armenia working on women’s rights. The visits made a great opportunity for the international participants to learn more about gender based violence in Armenia, and to share the situations in their countries with the group. Another session was focused on non-violence communication, which were both practical and theoretical exercises. Naturally, the schedule also allowed to dive into Armenian culture such as visiting the Pagan temple in Garni, which was followed with a traditional dinner in an Armenian family.

One of the participants, Laura Reisele from Latvia, said that for her the training course was about self-development and self-awareness, getting deeper into one’s personal issues, unsolved problems and conflicts which we can see and observe mostly in the family. During this week in Armenia we tried not just to explore others, their cultures, but also ourselves. ”I enjoyed our gender related discussions in order to tackle the topic,  life stories and the friendly atmosphere all around. It was a sincere place – cocoon – where from tears and happiness new butterflies learned to fly.”

Another participant, Iryna Azaranka from Sweden, said that  her main impression was that the course was very good balanced from the beginning to the end. It was just right amount of knowledge and sightseeing. “Also”, she continues, “I liked the involvement with the locals, img_6471when we had to really start discussions to answer the city game questions. Some of the methods used were very interesting. For an example on patterns of communications, it has already been useful in my personal life”!
She described that the group contained different levels of gender awareness, which from time to time was difficult to relate to. Furthermore, she highlighted that the sightseeing to the Armenian countryside and mountains were a magnificent experience. “For me it was a calming time and also time of insights”, she adds.

Mihai Lovu from Moldova says that the training course tought him about the differences between Moldova and Armenia in stereotypes and gender issues. He also adds that he will definitely remember the people from the training. Pedro Soares from Portugal also emphasizes that he will remember the participants and that the group was a very good experience.

 

 

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Unity in Diversity? From Challenges to Opportunities

From 30th of March to 7th “Armenian Progressive Youth Progressive Youth” NGO together in partnership with “Active Ukrainians in Europe” NGO launched a multi-layer project entitled as ‘Unity in diversity? From challenges to opportunities’. The project gathered 32 youth workers and youth educators from Armenia, Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Moldova, Poland,Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine  in Yerevan, Armenia to discuss how current military conflicts and migration processes affect young people and analyze the current migration challenges in Europe trying to offer solutions from the perspective of youth work.

12967419_1160384577314220_72783385713376247_oAs a response to the recent refugee crisis Armenian Progressive Youth NGO has also organized a conference on migration and youth. The conference aimed at highlighting the importance of youth workers and young people in the public debate on migration and discussing how youth workers can use the intercultural dialogue tools to combat intolerance towards migrants and refugees. The Conference involved Civil Society Organizations, youth workers, experts, academics, young migrants and refugees from Armenia,Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Sweden,Turkey and Ukraine.

Kateryna Bublyk, a participant from Ukraine, says that the word “unity” in her language means standing close to someone,  supporting each other, feeling safe and friendly. “It is the sense of a fellowship, and it doesn’t matter what nationality, religion, sex or social status the other person obtain”, she says.

Maya Zakhova, 31 years old from Denmark, adds that for her these topics are very important because she is herself an immigrant in Denmark. “Copenhagen is very multicultural city and I’m a part of it. For me “unity and diversity” are not just words but daily reality.”

Olga Sevcenco, 26 years old from Moldova, describes that for her the training is about inclusion of immigrants, which is highly relevant at this time. Melanie Celina Jane Marchand, 36 years old from France, concludes that the project was about how to get united even if we are coming from different countries. How to create an awareness of the different problems that migrants can go through and in that way create tools to make them feel 12891097_1156090134410331_508253120229537994_obetter in their welcome countries and give them the opportunity to build their personal and professional live. From the trainings, she continues, I got a more precise idea of that is going on in different countries in Europe and inspirational ideas for new joint projects.
Tatiana Prodan, 27 years old from Moldova, adds , “We must understand that the refugees do not come to out country to harm us, they flee from their countries to find better living conditions. That is why we should not marginalize or exclude them”
. Kateryna Bublyk recognizes the importance of these topics in her home country: “As military actions are hold in my country, a lot of people are forced to leave their houses and move with their families all over Ukraine. Trainings like these help us, the Ukrainian youth workers, to overcome the difficulties in communicating with our own refugees.”

Olga Sevcenco stresses that one of the highlights from the training was the session were they were giving theatrical performance based on given12983991_1163573413662003_8122491659337591728_o

scenarios: ”It was very challenging to put ourselves in the place of an immigrant, to act as them and to receive feedback of others etc. From my point
of view, unity, is a term that can be interpreted differently by everyone but the most important is that it brings us together and remind us to respect each culture, vision and diversity. She adds that: ”also, the project was a great opportunity to learn a about culture and history of wonderful and amazing Armenia. The breath taking view of Ararat and delicious Armenian cuisine is still in my mind and heart.”

”After “Unity in Diversity”, Kateryna Bublyk inserts, ”I became more active in social life. Now I try to take part in the majority of projects and activities organised by our local NGO “Centre for European Initiatives”. And I like it! I feel like even being just a simple local citizen I still can participate in the city life, do something good and change the world.”12970881_1161312393888105_5060455718478023478_o

“Where Does Hate Come From?” International Training Course in Yerevan

From 15th to 23rd of July Armenian Progressive Youth NGO together in cooperation with Active Ukrainians in Europe from Sweden hosted an international training course on the topic of combating hate speech among young people in Europe.
32 youth workers and youth leaders from 11 different countries such as Sweden, Romania, France, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and Armenia gathered in Yerevan to participate in the training and to learn more about Armenia and the reality in it. With the background of migration crisis in Europe and extremism spreading in the world- the objectives of the training were to explore the notion of hate speech and its main roots. Furthermore, it aimed at inspiring youth workers to find innovative solutions to fight hate speech in their societies.

13710570_1224005424285468_8273794439592331678_oSharing the growing sense of concern towards the rise of hate speech in Europe, the two organizations also came up with an initiative of organizing a panel discussion to bring together policy-makers, experts, civil society activists, youth workers and youth leaders from Armenia and Europe to get engaged in interactive dialogue, debate and discuss the possible solutions for tackling hate speech and its repercussions on young people. A Panel Discussion  entitled as Freedom of Speech VS Hate Speech.

In the end of the project participants have also planned and organized a flashmob to reach out to public with a number of different activities they have prepared about raising public awareness on hate speech targeting different vulnerable groups to join the European Action Day for victims of hate crime.

Some of the participants agreed to share with us their personal experiences within the training course and to reflect on the content and learning achievements they have had.
13782065_1228848567134487_8139831020236367909_nOne of the participants, Radu Dalidis, a 23 year-old NGO worker from Denmark, says that the training course has helped him to understand the roots of hate speech and how to tackle it in daily life. Also, he adds, that he now acknowledges how to avoid stereotypes and prejudices when meeting new people and when facing different situations. Radu points out that in Denmark, there is a need of greater tolerance for the Roma people. To conduct education on the hate speech topic to youngsters and youth workers would be preferable, since they are more likely to be receptive. There are various methods to do this, such as social media campaigns, flyers distribution or social events implemented in relevant locations.

 In general, Radu emphasises that he was very satisfied with the overall quality of th13680390_1224007730951904_5069318212312835807_oe training course as well as with the accommodation and food. According to him, the trainers were very professional and did their best to ensure the highest quality of the training course

 Arpen Sargsyan, a 24 year-old youth worker from Sweden, says that for her the training has been about digging deeper into why and when we experience feeling of hate, in order to understand how to prevent it. Radu continued that before the training he was unaware of the consequences of hate speech and how it affects our nowadays society. However, now after the training he feels that he has the knowledge on combating hate speech and dealing with it. “Furthermore, the training course enabled meetings with amazing people from different countries, with different cultural background. This improved my interpersonal skills and expanded my network”, he adds.13730829_1228849113801099_8819751485246743864_o

Arpen recognizes that specifically right now in Sweden there is a need to build a greater tolerance towards refugees. And that tolerance can be build
only with interactions with tolerance. On how to combat these issues she responds ”I think everyone in my society would benefit from this kind of education. Children are certainly a group to address with such an education. They are the future so we do have to think a lot in educating them in order to prevent future hate speech acts. But I do believe that everyone in my society do need to develop a greater understanding.”
Robertas Sunokas, 34 years old from Lithuania, also highlights that it was very interesting to have participants from different countries involved in discussions and sharing their own cultural beliefs.

“Extremism, no thanks!” International Training Course in Yerevan

From 23rd to 30th of August Armenian Progressive Youth NGO together with International Youth to Youth Initiative from Lithuania hosted the international training course “Extremism? No, Thanks!” aimed at looking deeper into the issues of extremism, migration, discrimination, nationalism, intolerance and intercultural misunderstandings. It brought together youth workers and youth activists from Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Georgia, Macedonia Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russian Federation, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom in Yerevan to discuss and understand the causes of extremism and where they develop. Taking into account the ongoing extremist movements, raising xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe, the gathering of active young people, youth workers and activists is highly important to tackle questions of multicultural society, interreligious and intercultural dialogue as well as to think about some practical tools how to fight discrimination and combat extremism.

14184451_10153683023411400_3608782133671794835_nSaida Ibrahimava, one of the trainers and co-founders of Youth to Youth Initiative, reflects on some of the core parts of the project, “The training course became for me a crucial point where I have finally connected my professional development as a youth worker with academic background focused on youth radicalization and the ways and means of de-radicalization. This course was supposed to inspire youth workers across Europe and neighboring countries to start actions preventing violence and countering extremism, building peace and sustainable dialogue. It was designed to equip one with practical knowledge on how to eradicate radicalism through youth initiatives and the power of narrative. Based on real case studies, simulations and personal experience sharing, we tried to rediscover the topic and learn different practices and methods that could foster change and make a difference in our diverse communities and cosmopolitan world. I sincerely hope we managed to deliver the message and inspire all participants for action.

The training included, among others, a workshop on discrimination and types of oppression, as well as cultural influences from Armenia, such as a excursion to different picturesque places in Armenia. The participants have also had an opportunity of having traditional dinner in an Armenian family and got to try Armenian traditional food.
The participant Ambra Aielli from Italy, shared her impressions of the training course with us telling that she felt that the idea behind the training course was to work with the concept of extremism in a critical way and offer us, as youth workers and human beings, the tools to tackle this issue in our professional and daily life  “I am a teacher, well, I hope that this will become my permanent job, therefore I think it’s essential to be able to promote integration and intercultural dialogue in school. I think education is the best and most effective tool we have to prevent the rise of extremism, and unfortunately I feel that the educational system of my country doesn’t really offer the possibility to work in this way”, she says.14231908_10209067523997017_9147289830416482983_o

Roman Melnyk, 25 years old from Ukraine, has described the project not as a very theoretical training but rather a training of an organic understanding of how social tensions, injustice and other factors create a growing ground for developing extremism. He says, that in his opinion extremism is a monopoly on truth and privileges and at the same time a lack of education.

Another participant, Tania Kebak, 25 years old from Moldova, explains that she has learned that we can not relate all kinds of extremism to Islamic extremist groups, extremism is more than that, we daily experience extremist situations.

14053706_1254211624598181_1855148114584072684_oDuje Jakovcevic, 27 years old from Croatia, adds that for him extremism means a narrow-minded, intolerant and exclusive approach to certain social or political concerns. He also points out that the topic of extremism is very important to him because he lives in a society which is defined by experiences of nationalism, especially since the breakup of Yugoslavia, and recent economic hardships have exacerbated this tension, thus created a potential for radicalization. – ”And that is a problem that he interacts with on a daily basis. Not only in my home country, but all across Europe and the Western world, right-wing extremism is on the rise and it is a phenomena that affects me whether I like or not”, he says.

Anna Razmakhina, our project participant from Belarus, also works as a teacher, and likewise emphasizes the key role of education: “Many young14046163_1255333207819356_2475526833033521692_n
people I work with these days are not used to any sort of critical thinking or forming their own point of view by studying different sources. In my work I try to break through these tendencies. And English classes is actually a great tool. “According to me”, she says, “no other subject allows the teacher to elaborate on topics that would actually not just raise their motivation to learn the academic material, but develop them as humans, broaden their outlook and expose to new experiences, let them meet exciting people. As I see it, the more a person learns about the world, the less stereotypical mind set he/she has, which is a great deal in building a non-violent, tolerant and simply kind society”. Anna Razmakhnina, also points out that the training course brought together over 30 people from all over Europe and the immense diversity of their experiences, opinions, characters and live stories. So it 14138197_1254211314598212_3243678792597668696_owas also about getting to know people who are so different from you.

Overall, meeting people from so many different backgrounds was very useful in order to gain knowledge about different outlooks and perspectives regarding the same problem, Duje Jakovcevic says. Ambra Aielli also mentions that one of the highlights of the training course was the possibility to meet inspiring people who can push her to commit more and accomplish more in social activism.

“CHALLENGE 2 CHANGE: GENDER PERSPECTIVES IN EUROPE” International project launches in Yerevan

June 26, 2016 – Yerevan, Armenia – From 27th of June to 5th of July Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and JUB International from Netherlands will be hosting an international training course in Yerevan bringing together 36 youth workers, youth experts, activists, community leaders, Civil Society Organization and NGO representatives from 14 European countries. During 8 days they will be discussing and tackling the key challenges and perspectives related to gender equality, women’s rights protection and advocacy in the European Union, Eastern Partnership and Caucasus region. The Training Course will unite participants from Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Spain, Russian Federation, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

The main aim of the project is to compare the realities related to gender equality and equal participation of women in political, social and economic aspects in the European Union and Eastern Partnership countries, share and exchange the best practices of civil society organizations in the field, promote the importance of gender equality in youth work and develop strategies for women empowerment and promotion of gender equality in Armenia and different European countries. During their stay in Armenia, the participants will exchange their skills and experiences on gender mainstreaming, gender discrimination, gender-based violence and gender-related perspectives in different parts of Europe. The project will be unique platform for sharing practices and exchanging experiences.

On July the 1st an International Conference “Gender Equality in Armenia and Europe: Challenges and Perspectives” will be held in the scope of the project aiming at bringing together NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, activists, community representatives, experts, academics who work for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Armenia as well as the Eastern Partnership Countries and the European Union.

A keynote opening speech will be delivered by H.E. Mr. Piotr Antoni Świtalski, Ambassador, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Armenia The Keynote speech will be followed by guest-speakers from YSU Center for Gender and Leadership Studies, Women’s Resource Center NGO, OxYGen Foundation, Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO, JUB International NGO, Oxfam Armenia, Society without Violence NGO and the Near East Foundation.

The main aim of the Conference is discussing the current challenges and perspectives related to Gender Equality in Armenia and other European countries and providing the participants a platform for networking and developing partnerships, good quality projects locally and internationally.

 

Armenian Youth stands 4 Peace

There have been many who have wanted to achieve peace and received peace prizes for their work. But peace cannot be achieved until now. All over the world young people are the biggest victims when wars break out. On May 25th Armenian Progressive Youth NGO in cooperation with IPYG (International Peace Youth Group) has organized a “Peace Walk” dedicated to peace and cessation of war. Young people have gathered in the APY office and started marching through Saryan and Tumanyan streets reaching the Northern Avenue and the Republic Square.

The aim of the Peace Walk was to raise an awareness about the importance of maintaining international peace and security ensuring the acceptance of principles of the Charter of the United Nations and other international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Through the Peace Walk APY volunteers and staff members wanted to acknowledge that all members of the human family enjoy human dignity and equal and inalienable rights, and that these rights represent a necessary tenet of the preservation of freedom, justice and peace throughout the world.

Peace cannot achieved by one man’s hand but citizens of Yerevan confirmed the importance they attach to peace and agreed with us that achieving peace and stability in our region should be the primary task of everyone!