Özge Bozkaya is from Turkey and this year has come to Armenia to do a 6-month-long European voluntary service (EVS). She tells that participating in projects related to promoting human rights in different societies has always been an important part of her life. “Because of this”, she explains, “the EVS experience was an opportunity to participate in projects focused on social development. “For me”, she continues, “being the part of projects related to human rights is important for my self-development. So first of all, I applied to an EVS programme for the opportunity to work with what I am genuinely interested in”.
“The second reason for me to be involved in this programme was my curiosity about Armenia, Armenians, Armenian culture and Armenian peoples’ perspective on the Turkish identity. Also, my master thesis was related to Armenian students and academics’ perspective on the EU membership of Turkey. EVS gave me the chance to meet with a new culture and try to promote some of the rights I stand for in Armenia. It was a really unique experience.”
Özges was involved in the “Local Events group” at APY, and her main task was about promoting human rights for minorities in Armenia. They were together creating ideas and events that would be beneficial for the Armenian society. “Participating in the events that we organized, offered me new skills and experiences for my future life.One of the best experiences I had with the APY was to shoot a video about antiracism. 16 nationalities came together with the idea of shooting video for prevention of racism. And we were really pleased to have common feelings about the topic. It was really good to get to know them.
Özge has been in many countries in the world. However, she says, Armenia was special to me. “There are some reciprocal prejudices between Turkish and Armenian identities. This I was well-prepared for coming to Armenia. My first aspiration when integrating with Armenian culture was to be an “unbiased human”. Because by breaking walls between nationalities you destroy prejudices. It was a truly unique experience for me as a Turk and an opportunity to develop myself and my skills about integrating another cultures.”
Furthermore, she remembers the social life as a big part of her experience. “I shared many amazing moments with my Armenian friends. Although my EVS programme ended 7 months ago, I still keep in touch with my close friends from Armenia. This makes me really happy.”
Even though Özge really enjoyed her stay in Armenia, there were some things that she never got used to. One of those things were the “mashrutka”, the mini vans that are used for public transport. “Me and my Italian flatmate Ester were one day going to APY by mashrutka. The mashrutka was as usual very crowded and we had to stand the whole way. When we came closer to our stop, we tried to pronounce “kankarum bahek”, which mean “stop”. Ester shouted out: “Kangaroooooooooooooooooooooo” in the bus. Everybody was chocked and they were looking at Ester and me like we are from another world”.
She describes APY as very helpful for the foreigner volunteers. “If we had any problems, the APY staff and members and the president Erik Ghazaryan always tried to find quick solutions. Also I really want to thank my mentor Tatev Grigoryan for all her help discovering Yerevan.” “One of the main characteristic of being Armenian is their hospitality”, Özge remembers. ”I also really like Yerevan as a city. It is a city with a rich history and many inspirational places. So, Armenia and its people have special characteristics which is worth-seeing. If anyone wants a volunteering experience and at the same time to discover an original culture, I strongly advise them to choose Yerevan.I am sure they will enjoy their stay very much!”
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.
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.
The 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: