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.
From June 27 to 5th of July together with JUB International from Netherlands we hosted the international training ”Gender Perspectives in Europe: 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. 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.
Republic 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!).
I 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!
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.
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.
Sharing 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.
One 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 the 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.
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.