Breaking the walls between different nationalities

Being EVS volunteers at the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO, Özge Bozkaya and Ramazan Aygat form Turkey have decided to produce an anti-racism movie tackling the issue of racism and discrimination. Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. Therefore, digital and social media are very important tool to share actions, movements and policies.

In this short movie representatives of 14 nationalities promote and spread the idea of anti-racism. These 14 young people represent their national backgrounds and countries of their origin. They believe that there is no difference between human beings and the racism should be eliminated from our life to live in a much more peaceful world.

Özge Bozkaya from Turley is the director of this movie. She is a volunteer in Armenia and this project is very important for her. She shared with us why this topic is so important for her:

“I am from Turkey and problems between Turkey and Armenia create thoughts in two societies which can be a hedge to communication. However, during my EVS in Armenia I have seen that those beliefs that Armenians and Turks have developed through books, articles and TV programs about each other are just prejudices. I can truly say that knowing and communicating to Armenians and the Armenian society is quite different from reading books about the culture of these beautiful people. That’s why breaking the walls between nationalities is the most important thing in order to become a part of peaceful world. Communicating with everybody, touching souls and experiences, sharing your life with everybody opposes racism and is the point of tranquility. So, our movie aims at promoting anti-discrimination and anti-racism movements and actions. We believe that this our world and we should speak out against racial discrimination! I would like to thank all our friends who took part in this project”.

Özge Bozkaya, EVS Volunteer

Love means Love։ LGBTI Rights in Armenia

When I first decided to take up the responsibility to realize a project to support and protect LGBTI rights I also had to break the wall of prejudice, ignorance and fear in my surrounding. This is why it was quite hard to make a video about LGBTI topic. In Armenia fighting against discrimination and homophobia is an every-day struggle.

During the first step of this project I was thinking what could be the best way to show to everybody that homosexual people need to have the same rights as everyone else. That very day I was talking about this issue with an acquaintance of mine and he said: “why are you fighting for some else’s rights? It should be their job, not yours!”
In that specific moment the poem written by Pastor Martin Niemoller came to my mind:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me

So, why must we speak out for someone else’s rights? Why must we fight for someone else’s struggle? Why must we stand up for someone else’s battle?

The answer is very simple: just because we are all equal, just because we are all human beings and there should not be any discrimination. Everyone should fight for human rights.
Everything which is related to human rights concerns the whole society, and everything which is related to society concerns you too: a world without discrimination will please everyone. I don’t need to be a tree to fight against deforestation! I do not need to be black to believe that racism is one of the biggest illnesses in the society!

Starting from this logical reasoning it will be very easy to reach the second-level step: recognize that everyone deserves the same rights.

Fighting for the rights of a discriminated social group will let you know that no discrimination makes sense; you will understand that people are equally dignified and that diversity, when it harms none, must be supported and praised, and not hidden: it is a virtue, not a defect and it should not be hidden.

In Armenia the struggle of LGBTI people is quite hard: there are a lot of prejudices. Those prejudices bring fear, and fear brings violence. We must stop this vicious circle with knowledge.

Some information: in 1974 homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In the first version of 1952 homosexuality was still a psycho pathological condition among the “Personality Disorders sociopaths.”
In 1968 it was considered a sexual deviation, such as pedophilia, cataloged among the “non-psychotic mental disorders”.

Finally, in May 17 1990 the World Health Organization wiped homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, calling for the first time “a natural variant of human behavior.” Today this date is celebrated as the International Day against homophobia.
Homosexual, bisexual and transgender behaviors occur in a number of other animal species. Such behaviors include sexual activity, courtship, affection, pair bonding, and parenting, and are widespread; a 1999 review shows that homosexual behavior has been documented in about 500 species.

To be gay is not an illness. To be gay is not unnatural. To be gay is not immoral. To be gay is not abnormal.

This is how I came to the idea to make a short move about the daily life of a homosexual person. I want to show that there is no difference between “them” and “us”, because love means love!

Ester Violante,
EVS Volunteer

International Training Course on Migration and Youth is Being Launched in Yerevan

Current migration’s processes largely affect youth since a tangible percentage of migrants are young people. In reality, many young people face discrimination at their home, public domain and very often are subject to bullying. What is more, youth is often excluded from the public debate and discussions; their voice is hardly heard. And here, youth organizations and youth workers are often the ones who promote intercultural dialogue through human rights education among young people.

“Armenian Progressive Youth Progressive Youth” NGO together in partnership with “Active Ukrainians in Europe” NGO launches a multi-layer project entitled as ‘Unity in diversity? From challenges to opportunities’. The project will gather 32 youth workers and youth educators from Armenia, Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine from 30 March to 7 April 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.

A conference on Migration and Youth will be hold within the project on April 5th which will highlight the importance of youth workers and young people in the debates on migration and discussing how youth workers can use the intercultural dialogue tools to combat intolerance towards migrants.

The youth workers will come up together to analyze the emigration and immigration situation in participating countries and to find out the causes of migration, to share experiences and best practices of integrating young migrants in youth organizations.

The most important outcome of the training will be the development of Recommendation paper and Toolkit for the youth workers. It would include the participants’ best practice examples (various games and exercises on intercultural communication, inclusion tools) and recommendations on the work with young immigrants. It will help to avoid prejudices and cultural misunderstanding. The ToolKit will be uploaded on Salto Tool Box to make the material accessible for other youth workers to be applied in their daily youth work.

Let’s Talk – A debate on sexism, male chauvinism and gender-based violence

At least one in five of the world’s female population has been physically or sexually abused by a man at some time in their life: this is one of the most important data that all the society must deal with. On February 18th in APY office took place an interesting debate about three very “hot” topics not only in Armenia, but in the whole world: sexism, male chauvinism and gender-based violence.

The three of them are very connected to each other, the main reason is that our culture, education, traditions taught us a way to think which is basically not more appropriate nowadays. During the debate a lot of people start a “little revolution”: the simple act to join a meeting and talk about these topics is very important to make the first step of change into the society: that’s how the peaceful revolutions are always starting.

Sexism can be a belief that one sex is superior to or more valuable than another sex. It is the prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls. During the slides-show, we had the chance to discuss about some advertisement pictures which we found very sexists: in some pictures women were mistreated, or showed just like men’s objects. Someone of the participants of the debate claimed that maybe some behaviors that we consider as sexist ones are instead just “funny” male jokes, but after a little discussion we concluded that it is not just about silly jokes or behaviors, it is about the prejudice that underpins the sexist culture.

Why is it so dangerous for the society? Because everything that we think, that we say, that we do can make possible some sexual harassment, abuses or discrimination. The male chauvinism is simply the belief that men are superior to women: these men patronize, disparage, or otherwise denigrate females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit. It comes from the patriarchal society, which imposes different roles for each gender. No one from the group agreed with this mentality: everybody asserted that this way of thinking is outdated and very shameful. Although one of the boys said that even the religious tradition brings a lot of examples in which the female role is lower comparing with the male role: during the marriage ceremony the groom “takes” the bride as his own property, and this could be seen as a sexist tradition.

During the discussion we came to the idea that even if the ritual is outdated, the most important thing is the intention of the groom and the bride to be equal, and to have the same opportunity and treatment. We asked to ourselves: how can we reach this important goal for the society? Here is the answer, from different points of view: Education plays an essential role: it should eradicate these two dangerous ideas (sexism and male chauvinism) from every child’s mind, otherwise they will flow very easily into the third and most dramatic problem: the gender-based violence.

When schools ignore sexist, racist, homophobic, and violent interactions between students, they are giving tacit approval to such behaviors. And the society will pay the dramatic consequences: “Violence against women” as a synonymous of gender-based violence is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and means all acts of gender-based violence that result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women. The debate was very lively at this point and the result which we reached is that violence against women is not just a “women issue” but it is an issue that concerns all men, and not just the perpetrators. Everybody could give an example in which he or she was involved in this topic.

Personally I can tell the story about my neighbors’ fight: when I’ve heard the punches I called the police, they should protect the victims of violence. One boy told us that when he saw a boy beating his girlfriend he immediately interposes himself to stop the fight. These are very simple but effective examples that we should take in consideration every time we see violence around us.

Some slides reported the important data about gender-based violence: around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a man in her lifetime. If we want to stop this shame nobody should justify any form of violence against women by saying that this mentality is rooted in cultural institutions, traditions, beliefs, norms and practices. There is no justification for violence. Stop thinking sexist, make your own revolution, prevent violence!

Ester Violante, 
EVS volunteer in APY

APY workshops are motivating young schoolchildren to act eco-friendly

On 11 March, we – APY volunteers, awarded fourteen 6th grade students with certificates of accomplishment for the #AmEco Basics of Ecology course. This is a course aimed at teaching middle school students about the environment we live in, the dangers that now threaten us, and how we can change it.

For four weeks we were headed to Shirakatsi College and every time we entered the classroom our students greeted us with joy and were eager and enthusiastic to learn more about the planet that they are living in.

During our four meetings, the students managed to learn a lot. They learned about reusing and recycling paper and plastic. They also gave a second life to plastic bottles with our help and their bright imaginations. They also learned about the various ways we can save water and electricity, as well as about alternative ways of creating electricity. All of our classes were fun and interactive, filled with various games and group activities.

We also dedicated a class to teach them about Armenia’s flora and fauna. It is crucial for kids to know about the incredibly rich heritage that we have and that now more than ever we have the responsibility to save our rich biodiversity. The students gained a deep sense appreciation for our nature and realized that they can save it by adjusting their behaviors accordingly. During our last meeting our wonderful students prepared short presentations about various environmental topics. Two of the groups showed us how they save water and electricity, and the other group told us the story of a plastic bag which unfortunately does not degrade for 1000 years.

Ani Khachatryan APY volunteer

My story of volunteering with APY

by Nonna Hovhannisyan, APY Volunteer

10676158_816765975044813_754716978132158981_nAPY (Armenian Progressive Youth) is a place, where a volunteer is appreciated and a place that gives mass of opportunities to achieve your goals and dreams. Many times being in a new community we try hard to become a part of the group doing our best to succeed. Sometimes our attempts turn to have been in vain. However, for me, this doesn’t apply to APY at all.

I got accepted to volunteer with APY in March 2015 and being a newbie I have never felt like an outsider. Warm environment, interesting events, suggestions; time just disappears here and for any young person getting away from reality sometimes can be a necessity. Being a part of this world, one shouldn’t forget about his or her responsibilities that are the unbreakable part of every day. Here, everyone has their tasks that are essential to develop one’s personal skills. Being in the PR team, in a short time I have already attended mass of interesting events and got some experience in running them as well.

It is interesting to have the opportunity to do things in fields that have direct connection with my major and the things I like as well. Overall, let me just say that APY is a big family which is always there to welcome anybody.

How to survive the multicultural society?

by Dave Poghosyan, APY Volunteer

Unity of cultural diversity is and has always been one of the strongest factors of human nature’s further development. But still no matter how far we go into science and Mother Nature, there are still dozens of factors which represent barriers for effective “human race” communication process. The training course “How to Survive the Multicultural Society” organized by Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) and JUB International (the Netherlands) was implemented with  teaching methods that supported participants not get confused and actually understand “how to survive in multicultural society”.

We were from different corners of the word. Indeed each of us was different from others but for none of us that weren’t strange as none of us was feeling more special as all of us was special in our own way. We cooperated with each other and discovered that how enormous strength is being united and how wealthy we become with our diversity, too.

Non-formal education was leading our way every morning. Intercultural love becomes a factor to hold on and never give up with positive hopes about the future. We learnt respect while being respected, to hear by being heard, to see the whole picture by being part of it and to care more as everyone was carrying about us. Life will go on, it will change, change us as well. But the plants of “peace”, “friendship” and “care” that we grew in our hearts will never make us to change the attitude to each other and to world because we for see each of us is part of big world, big diversity, big future.

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Trainers Against Discrimination

by Vahe Tumanyan, APY Volunteer

Training of Trainers “Trainers against discrimination” is a project implemented in three phases. The first ToT was conducted on September 9-16, Rustavi, Georgia. During the training 18 participants from Armenia, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Poland and Croatia gathered together to further develop their competences and skills as trainers. Furthermore, the training aimed at evolving participants’ skills on how to facilitate a simulation game. After a 7-day intensive work the group created a new simulation game which reflected the issue of discrimination.

The training was followed by a practical phase where participants implemented the game in their own countries. On 30th and 31st of November 2015 several young people gathered together at ”Institute For Democracy And Human Rights (IDHR)” NGO’s office to participate in a simulation game powered by ”Armenian Progressive Youth” NGO. Simulation game is a model of demonstrating the reality when the participants play certain roles and develop alternative approaches to problem-solving. Besides, simulation games are very useful tools to create trust among people. Before starting the game the participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better via some funny games.

The topic of the simulation game was national minorities’ issue. The participants were given a situation often encountered in life, everyone had his or her own role in it and they had to discuss the issue and find the best solution to it.

The aim of the game was to increase the awareness of national minorities’ integration and current problems among the young people, to create a platform to discuss discrimination and conflict issues and to help participants develop new skills and competences. The game was implemented in English because some of the participants were APY EVS program volunteers.

The project was held by ”Creative Development Center” and ”CRISP” organization, after which followed the meeting of the trainers in Split, Croatia. During the meeting the participants evaluated on the games implemented in their local realities. They shared experiences, good and bad practices, challenges they faced as facilitators and established networks for future cooperation.  The training gave the participants unique opportunity to learn to use a simulation game as a powerful tool in dealing with a wide spread discrimination issue and provide young people with a platform where they can make their own decisions and come up with solutions to the problem.

Rock with APY

Rock music is not just some style of music, it is precisely the one, in which youth will continue living in our souls and it’s the one which raises the feeling of freedom of self-expression and makes many youngsters more self-confident than any other condition can ever make.

On 27th of August there was a huge event for rock music lovers in Irish pub organized by APY volunteers Nonna Hovhannisyan and Dave Poghosyan. The place was fulfilled with youth spirit and energy which also resulted for high mood greetings for two cool Armenian rock bands: “Fairwind” and “Route 11” whom we were honored to meet in Irish pub.

The event itself was about mixing youth life’s corners with volunteering and appropriately before all got started APY’s volunteers showed several short-films which they had made. There was an informative short-film about being a volunteer made by active media group member of APY Khachatur Tovmasyan and two others about generally Armenian folk and rock music mad by talented volunteer Karina Mikayelyan which was followed by applauses.

APY was also very glad about “Route 11” band’s member Nare Nikoyan who is still involved in volunteering and at the same time she is deeply involved in rock music culture as she is one of the singers of “Route 11” and “Nairi” rock bands. The event was organized well but it could not been even better without “Fairwind” and “Route 11”s’ performances as if the informative part was insured by APY’s volunteers’ hardworking result the high mood and active atmosphere was continuously insured by this two great Armenian rock bands. We can proudly announce that Armenian Progressive Youth in cooperation with Irish pub, “Fairwind” and “Route 11” bands made everybody’s evening.

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Chance to come closer to Europe

All of us dream about success and luck but neither success nor luck manage to visit us all. Sometimes all we need is more information about more opportunities but no matter how hard we search, if we seek in wrong place we’ll never find the needed chance.

On May 8 APY volunteers implemented campaign disseminating Erasmus+ opportunities for Armenian Youth. A group of ambitious youngsters from Armenian Progressive Youth NGO decided to share with young part of the society opportunities of studying and getting experience abroad. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, we must build a door”. Studying opportunities are everywhere but unfortunately not every faced lesson can be useful for our further activities or future success. And for pushing youth to better future Armenian Progressive Youth’s active volunteers decided to make an event of sharing information about access to abroad education in shapes of Erasmus+ opportunities.

APY volunteers distributed fliers informing about the opportunities available for Armenian Youth and disseminated them near universities and public places where young people come together. The main aim was raising awareness about world’s opportunities regarding studying and youth exchanges with educational purpose.

Hovsep Karoyan is an APY volunteer. He studies in University and already used several opportunities given by Erasmus+ and Youth in Action programs. He told us that he’s very happy to have a chance of sharing some valuable information with his society and being useful for some Young people future career. He said that the most important gift for him is feeling himself helpful for something or somebody. “Life is given once. If we want to be successful we must never skip opportunities of life as well as some of them will never be met again. I wish that all Armenian youngsters will manage to use the given opportunities”,-added Hovsep while sharing his motivation with us. The action was implemented as contribution to Europe day information week taking place in Armenia during May, 2015.

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