5.8 Raising political awareness among young people
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In gereral young Poles are not interested in political issues. Media information on participation in social and political life is formatted for middle aged recipients. The Internet is an exception to the rule. It is there that attempts of alternative forms of communication relating to politics and participation are made.
Awareness campaigns are one of the most common forms of citizenship education in Europe, however, the percentage of Polish students who have participated in such activities is extremely high and reaches 92%. Most citizenship education programmes contain information modules. The school is the main place where that kind of information is provided, which is why these campaigns take advantage of such tools as posters, leaflets, face-to-face meetings, and frequently use multimedia. Campaigns promoting participation in elections (to ensure high turnout) are the most common form of information campaigns. Some of them are targeted mostly at young people with voting rights. The following information campaigns are examples of such activities: “This is where I live, this is where I elect” (Tutaj mieszkam, tutaj wybieram),organised by the association “Cooperative of Initiatives” (Spółdzielnia Inicjatyw) and run online through social media and during events and concerts organised specially to encourage young people to join the electorate roll and exercise the right to vote, targeting mainly students studying far from their place of permanent residence, the campaign “Wherever you are, you have a say/so vote”(Gdziekolwiek będziesz, masz głos/zagłosuj) started by the coalition “You have a say, you have a choice” in 2010 and continued until now.
The campaign “Change the country, vote in elections” (Zmień kraj idź na wybory) is an example of activities enjoying nationwide success and targeting mainly young people. The campaign involved over 100 non-governmental organisations. TV/radio spots and announcements in the press were provided free of charge by the almost all of the mainstream media networks, resulting in wide coverage. The campaign was recognisable by over 94% Poles and 14% of the youngest voters (18-19 years of age) said that the campaign “Change your country...” had had a decisive influence on their participation in elections (another 36% said the campaign had encouraged them to vote).
Polish youth’s attitude towards people of different religion and culture, especially of those coming from Muslim countries, is rather reluctant. Such attitudes stem from stereotypes present in media coverage and public debates rather than from personal experience. Therefore, the Ombudsman suggests that more emphasis should be put on activities promoting inter-cultural dialogue and tolerance. The project “Young Assisi. Youth for tolerance and peace” (Młody Asyż. Młodzież na rzecz tolerancji i pokoju”) is an example of activities promoting tolerance and multiculturalism, organised for over five years by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute of John Paul II in Cracow. As part of the project, students search for publications relating to the main theme and collect them, maintain a website, and participate in exhibitions, conferences, workshops and shows promoting multiculturalism. They are also tasked with organising at least three events for students of their own school. It is also possible to take advantage of the workshop offer proposed by the organiser. During the project, 67 schools in the whole country obtained certificates of cultural openness and tolerance. The promotion of inter-cultural dialogue and tolerance is one of the main themes of most international youth exchanges implemented in Poland as part of EU projects. In total, tens of thousands of Polish young people have participated in the programmes Youth, Youth in Action and Erasmus+/Youth within 2005-2017.