To help start the conversation and keep the focus of this discussion thread, please consider and respond to the following questions:
- Share suggestions for strategies on enhancing collaboration between youth and existing movements.
- What lessons have you learned from your efforts engaging youth in nonviolent activism?
- What obstacles do youth face in their activism and how do they deal with this? How are these obstacles different for boys and girls?
- What's the importance of integrating peace education within formal education.
Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments!
In another discussion thread, Leila raises a great challenge faced by activists around the world: government control and restrictions on internet and media. This is especially relevant for those of you working to engage youth in nonviolent activism, as many youth are eager to utilize social media for their actions.
What tactics have you used to tackle this obstacle? Or rather, to work around it?
As Leila wrote, governments indeed try to control the media in many ways, but from our experience when working with younger activist is that they do know how to go around that. During our last training in the MENA region, one of the young activists from Egypt shared how facebook and twitter were used to organize online as well as offline, and with a speed that they were always a step ahead of the government forces. He shared stories how activists used twitter and facebook to communicate with their friends when being arrested, sending photos and films from inside the prisons and also just to let them know where they had been taken. Its a generation that grew up with the internet and is much more used to use it as a tool for their purpose than the "old-fashioned" way of using the internet to get information (or not, in the case of blocked websites and internet access. Of course there is the danger of the internet also being used by the government to get information over activists. C companies such as facebook or google have shareholders, who can demand to have certain information disclosed, which means if governments buy enough shares of an internet company, they can theoretically get to sensitive information of activists.
Also during the Egyptian revolution private information such as emails and facebook of activists was accessed by the Egyptian government despite security settings, which something young people have to be aware of when posting all sorts of information (whether private or political) on the net.
Critical voices also say that activism in the net does not equal real activism on the streets,that many people share political messages and slogans online does not make them political activists. Internet activists on the other hand argue that their campaigns reaches more people, and some people will share the protest online, since they would not be able to attend the demonstration, but that way can help to spread the message further.
Though the internet promises access to information in general, in some countries certain internet sides are blocked by the state. But one activists shared with us a way to bypass those blockings, by using Security in-a-box, a website on tools and tactics for your digital security of human rights defenders (https://securityinabox.org/en). The website is based on an open source program and was started by a group of activists. It includes a tool where one can type in the website in question and will be able to view it via a different server, and therefore can not be blocked by the governement.
The WPP just published an Action Pack with articles on Youth and Activism, unfortunately our website is in the middle of recosntruction, so can not be seen online, but maybe it is possible to upload it on the New Tactics website, or can be send as pdf by us to people inetrested, just send an email to email@example.com
Hi Leila, Hi Merle, hi all,
In addition to Merle's comments, I would like to raise awareness on the resources I have placed in the resource thread on internet security, and activism.
Perhaps they are useful -
Thanks Greetings Jose
In another discussion thread, Ruben and Matilda have raised a challenge that I'm sure many of you have faced in your efforts to engage youth in nonviolent activism:
What tactics do you use to spark new life, energy and hope in youth when their faith in the government has been lost?
One thing we are doing at the youth camp and trainings is to help young people connect their own particular issues with poltics, that the discrimination they face because of their gender, sexuality, age, social class, etninicity, stc is based on structural/institutional conditions and that overcoming discrimination and social exclusion requires for people to get organized and change the system and that changing the system requires challenging and changing public policies and laws. We discuss with them that this is what politics is all about as opposed to the the image that many people have that politics is about a few men getting into governmental offices and gettiing rich with others´ money and resources. In other words, if we want to change politics, we need to push out of office the corrupt politicians and have them replaced by people with high ethical standards. With some of the young people this messeage is hard to get accross because thay are being recruited by corrupt politicians who are offering them a life of conssumerism and luxury, but there are others who truly believe our current government is making poor peoples´life better and, providing young people the opportunity to participate in such pro-poor programs. So we face the challenge of streaping this government off its pro-poor image and disclose their corruption. There are some young people who have it all clear, and they are playing an important role in helping others to open their eyes.
Hi Ruben, hi all,
I think we touch upon an important point here also in terms of engaging youth. Fabienne mentioned in another thread also how important it is to have trainers who truly understand the experience of the youth they are training (coming from the same background - refugee camp), since they serve as role models.
In general, I think it's important when we want to engage youth to have a few others who get the ball rolling; young people who can attract peers, and serve as role models for the activist work they are doing.
Thanks so much for the sharing and I just thought of adding my voice to what you've just mentioned of helping young people connect their particular issues with politics. I have seen that happen around here but we use other terms which basically mean the same thing. We struggle to link community or youth issues with national issues because it is at the national level where certain systems can be changed. This process through simple community dialogue meetings help strengthening capacities for meaningful engagement both at local and national levels.
My feeling here is that in situations like this one way of sparking energy and hope in youth could be by sharing with them examples where youth have been successful in having a say in the nation-building process. This report by Save the Children shows plenty of such examples where youth and even children have significantly contributed to change in conflict situations, and could serve as a starting point in a debate/consultation process with youth, in order to get them involved.
Hello to all,
In an earlier thread today I mentioned creating safe spaces for activists, where people can come together to learn, discuss, and critique. Before we became a movement, New Profile started out as a study group; a group of women who came together to study Feminism, Militarism, and the Effects of Militarism on Israeli Society.Today, as an established NGO, we have a strong interest in education and educating ourselves. As part of this initiative we have developed a network of youth groups in several cities throughout Israel that are active during the school year.
New Profile acknowledges the intense class and ethnic stratification in Israeli society in additional to the national divides, and this makes our interaction with young people a priority. We believe that sexism and the militarization of society are significantly imparted through the Israeli educational system. It is exactly these modes of thinking that we contest and consider them serious obstacles in the achievement of peace in this region. Therefore, although we are banned from entering public high schools by verbal order of Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar, much of our effort focuses on the educational system and alternatives to the contents it teaches and for this we have developed alternative outreach strategies .
Foremost our youth groups not only provide an educational alternative, but serve as well to create a safe space for participants. This safe space, as was with the original study group setting, is extremely important. The participants are ages 15-18 and it is well to keep in mind that while many young people are able to debate matters of the day, there are others who are afraid to raise issues that are considered "outside the box" with their families and friends.
The agenda of the groups is loosely defined in order to allow participants themselves to indicate their own needs. There is an emphasis on diversity in methodology in addition to the focus on different geographical locations. Each group choses topics for discussion independently, depending on the materials made available to the facilitators, but also in conjunction with requests made by a group. Discussions range from political issues in Israel, to geopolitics and imperialism, as well as a broad range of other subjects such as feminism, critical thinking, and ecology. Additional topics that may be freely discussed are the participants' fears and feelings about what it means to be "Israeli", what is military service, what is security, when and if wars are necessary, the role of the media in forming public opinion, and also about activism, sustainable activism and being an effective activist, dealing with our own privileges in society, resistance to the occupation, colonialism, the concept of "equality", refugee camps, the Naqba, the second Intifada and the concept of "no partner for peace", sex and politics, consumerism and conservation, identity in a globalized world, militarization in the educational system, self defense and it's use for aggressive actions, and conflict resolution on a global level.
Additionally, for the past 7 years New Profile has also held an Alternative Summer Camp for youth ibetween ages 14-19, who are interested learning about and taking a significant part in activities for social change in Israel. Here the setting is different than the youth groups. The partipants are exposed to a wide number of preprepared activities that center on raising levels of consciousness to various social and environmental problems. The participants are introduced to many different organizations devoted to these issues and learn about their activities in their specified fields of interest. The camp's focus is on promoting and encouraging individual and collective participation by the participants themselves in different activities.
Here too our objective is to create an environment that is conducive to discussion, critical thinking and learning and also provide a safe haven for open debate. We hope to provide the participants with a knowledgeable basis for increased awareness, promotion of activities and personal involvement.
The youth groups and alternative summer camp are just two of the projects that we consider as a "must continue". We recognize the importance of engaging with youth that is both curious and critical of policies dictated by their elders. We find that Israeli youth knows very well how to question and to vote with their feet.
All comments and questions will be appreciated.
All the best,
Thank you very much for sharing. I think it's an excellent example of working in an environment that is limiting the work you are doing and I applaud the work New Profile is doing - my deepest respect for the continuation of this important work.
I understand the challenges (young) people feel in terms of expressing "views outside the box". I was wondering if the youth participants in the groups are however open to others in terms of their participation; are they afraid to share that they are joining your groups and are they participating secretely or perhaps they are vague to family/ friends about what exactly is being discussed in the groups? Or do they feel enough support at a certain point from the group and/ or are empowered enough to share their "out of the box- ideas" and encourage others to join? How is this topic addressed in the groups? In a sense, the youth participating in these groups serve for others as role-models to join, and expand their opinions and views of the society.
Thanks again for sharing,
Dear Jose and Ruth,
I'm afraid that for many it could be dangerous to participate openly in dialogue programs. Without going into details of recent examples, I think we need to differentiate between thinking out of the box in a country that is in the middle of a conflict or thinking out of the box in a country that has relative freedom of expression. Even when participants feel supported and empowered by others in a group to share and encourage others to join, it might be just too dangerous for them to share.
For the people I know that take part in this kind of projects, there are three different situations: 1. they keep it secret, 2. they are open about it and get into problems, 3. they are open about it and get into problems but at the same time they get lots of support from internationals and from Israeli's.
I would like to hear if there are also positive situations and if yes, how this is achieved? As Jose asked, how do participants in your project deal with it?
Sometimes when we read about revolutions and young adults looking for a change, we miss to think of some backgrounds for such stories.
So, when we say a movement, we are actually looking for a change and seeking improvement. Many questions would rise up here: who are we? What kind of changes? How to seek? And what are the norms of improvement?
Or in a better negative way: are we “we” or many with different lines of thought and needs? Changes can be negative and positive, who has sent who to do that change and what are the strategies built on? When a person seeks, it is his own sought, is this what we are dealing with in the changes we are facing it traumas now? Who is improving and how? HIDDEN AGENDAS!
This is the problem of what is happening with those young adults and youth: they are not at all the drivers anymore, they are the TOOLS for the hidden agendas. We live it here in Lebanon, when you do not belong to any political party, you can easily read it this way, and if you are involved then you cannot go out of the box!
Hunger, no electricity, no work… freedom, equality, justice… anger, sadness and disappointments= no improvement.
So we go down the streets saying we want peace, no more war! This is so wrong to me to put them together on the same strike and the same slogan. Peace does not mean no war; when you have peace, as a consequence then you will not have war. So, What does peace mean? Peace means when you and I are transparent with ourselves, our beliefs and our surrounding. Only when we are able to reach this level then we have peace. So, do we stop what we are doing? No! Life is boring if we do not have this action and activities in our lives. We continue need to do more and to work on awareness more… this is the best part of life that encourages us to wake up in the morning knowing that a change will take place. But, beware the trick of being a tool! Our task to check if what is happening is using those young people for a positive or a negative change, and on what norms? Is what is happening read the social needs or lives the hidden addenda of the hidden drivers? Where are we as activists to act on that and how?
These are very important thoughts Linda, thanks a lot for sharing! I'd be interested in hearing about how you or members of your group have dealth with these issues of finding your place and the productive ways to express your views and work towards positive change.
I think quite often it has proven to be challenging for " adult movements" to successfully engage youth (the examples provided by Ruben and Ruth in this dialogue have to be praised - thanks once again for showing it can be different also ). Please forgive me for the name "adult movements , personally I don't think it's the best name, but I couldn't come up with a better one at the moment. An important aspect I believe related to the challenges in youth engagement is that youth don't feel their inputs, suggestions and ideas, as well as their concerns are being taken seriously and taken into account. In short; they don't feel listened to.
As pointed out by others (Dola, as well as Fabienne also), it's important to focus on issues that youth are challenged with, in a language and using tools that speak to them. While we realize that, I believe there is one aspect we haven't touched upon yet - the need to evaluate projects in partnership with youth also: Evaluation is needed to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what should be done differently. Evaluation also helps the team determine whether it achieved the desired results.
I came across an interesting handbook that I wanted to share: A Tool Kit for Engaging Youth and Adults as Partners in Program Evaluation.
Thank you for sharing this great toolkit for evaluation, I will definitely use it in the future!
In our rap and samba leadership projects we have evaluations on a regular basis. These evaluations are organised for two reasons: 1. to improve the program and 2. to use input and ideas from the youth for future projects.
These kind of evaluations are not difficult to arrange or lead. The challenge starts in following up the evaluations: what do we do if the youth have ideas or opinions that are against our own values or against the project's mission?
that's a good question indeed. The first thing I think about is the selection of youth before the project. I wonder if you have any selection process before the project, to identify the youth which are mostly in line with the project's mission, and are most capable to carry the project forward within their own community or organization? Another thing I think about is to perhaps include a short mid-term evaluation, to be able to identify the different opinions earlier and to be able to address/ discuss this during the training/ project.
I realize that in another thread you mentioned the challenge in terms of the name of the training, and some youth being against the use of the word nonviolence. Inviting these youth to the training can be an eye-opening experience for them, and make them realize the work they are doing is actual non-violent work - hence their values are in line with the values of your project/ organization.
I want to address the topic of peace education. The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that have worked on institutionalizing peace education in basic and teacher education during the last two decades.From the government’s side, efforts were made to make peace education a national concern, through the establishment of a Peace Commission (now called the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process [OPAPP]) including a Peace Education Unit. The task of the OPAPP’s Peace Education Unit is to promote a culture of peace in every community through peace-education programs and activities in partnership with other government agencies and civil society groups.
Peace education in the Philippines is now generally recognized to have a two-fold responsibility. First, it seeks to contribute to a better awareness and understanding of the root causes of conflict and violence at the global, national, community, and interpersonal levels. At the same time, peace education cultivates values and attitudesthat encourage all to engage in personal and social action toward a more just, compassionate, and nonviolent society.
Miriam College, in Quezon City, has been one of the pioneers in the development of peace education in the Philippines. The college has included peace education in its curriculum since the early 1980s and – after gradually expanding the range of courses and studies including peace education – established the Center for Peace Education (CPE) in 1997.
Together with the Mindanao Peace Education Forum (MinPEF), Miriam College also initiated one of the major networks related to peace education in the Philippines: the Peace Education Network (PEN).
In 2004, the Center for Peace Education (CPE) at Miriam College (MC) initiated a twinning project between Miriam College high school (MCHS) and Rajah Muda High School (RMHS), a public school attended by Muslims located in Pikit, Cotabato, a conflict area in Central Mindanao. The aim of the project was to foster understanding and communication among students from different ethnic groups and religions.
The project aims to support participants in gaining a better understanding of each other’s culture and challenging the stereotypes and prejudices that currently exist between Muslims and Christians. From the beginning, letters have been exchanged between students of the two schools and pen friendships have developed. The exchange of letters provided students at Miriam College with a more personalized opportunity to recognize the situation their pen pals in war-torn Mindanao were living in. Through this twinning project, Miriam College is supporting a “people-to-people peace process”. Historical circumstances have created prejudices between Christian and Muslim believers in the country. Although the causes of the armed conflict are really politicaland economic in nature, some have used religious differencesto exacerbate the conflict. Generations of young people have been receiving negative messages about the other side, and this cycle has largely been perpetuated by fear of and ignorance about the other side. The twinning project is doing its share in reducing these biases.
The twinning project has gone beyond an exchange of letters. On April 5, 2005, the students involved in the project published the first joint newsletter, which featured reflective essays, poetry and drawings contributed by students from both schools. Their contributions showed how they appreciated the experience of writing to each other, developing friendships, and understanding the need for justice, cooperation, solidarity, and mutual respect and acceptance, despite differences. The name of the newsletter isPag-asa, a word that means “hope”.
A high point of the project came in November 2005 when the pen pals were given a chance to meet each other personally in a workshop on youth peacebuilding.
I think this is a great example and I was wondering if other colleagues have examples of these from their own work, or are aware of them.
Isabelle of WPP and myself attended a Nonviolence trainers exchange in South Africa and in the experience sharing it came out very clearly that our understanding of NV is very different. There are people who look at NV as a tool for social change that can be used alongside other tools. Later on in another conference in Durban in a presentation dubbed Kingian and Gandhian NV it came out also very clearly that Gandhi and Dr. King looked at Nonviolence as a way of life. This is a serious challenge that I want to throw out there. My take is that NV is a way of life that reminds me to keep looking for injustices and speak out aganst them and also to look at my inner self and be that change that I want to see. I will not give people what don't have.
Young people must understand NV for them to be useful in NV social movement but most importantly have people around them who they can always look at for guidance. MENTORSHIP like I mentioned earlier is very critical.
A movement consists of people or masses if you like and this then means that people must be invited and sustained within a movement. Messaging or packaging our information is very critical in any movement building. These messages speak on our behalf and if people can identify with them then they can be persuaded to be part of a movement.
Yes, that's a great point, thanks for adding that