5.8 Raising political awareness among young people
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Below are some initiatives towards raising political awareness on a Flemish level.
The Power of your Voice (De kracht van je stem)
Since 2003, the Power of your Voice is the educational project regarding education for democratic citizenship of the Flemish Parliament. This project is supported and financed by the Flemish Government. The project is oriented to children, young people and their teachers and offers:
- educational materials for teachers and pupils to work in schools on democracy
- programs and activities for pupils in the Flemish Parliament
- education and training to teachers and students in teachers trainings
Debattle (in Dutch): Informing young people on elections and youth policy
Debattle was a project of the Ambrassade and the Vereniging Vlaamse Jeugddiensten (now called Bataljong) with support of the Flemish Youth Council and various youth work organizations. The major objective of Debattle was, towards the municipal elections of 2018 and the corresponding planning year, to inform, sensibilize and activate as many young people and youth organizations as possible. More concrete the project had the following four objectives:
- to provide young people with information about the elections and the local youth policy,
- helping youth in their communications to policymakers to make them clear what good local youth policy is about and to give them tools to ensure that policymakers commit to it,
- to stimulate young people and to provide them handles to organize a local debate towards municipal elections,
- to inform young people and provide them tools to weigh after the elections at the local level
Flemish youth parliament (Vlaams jeugdparlement)
The Flemish Youth Parliament (Vlaams jeugdparlement) is an association that organises simulations of the Flemish Parliament for and by young people in the parliamentary benches. They did so in the autumn of 2013, 2015 and 2016. The project is aimed at Dutch-speaking youth living in Flanders who are between 17 and 27 years old. The Flemish Youth Parliament wants to make young people acquainted with the ins and outs of democracy in Flanders. Combined with the appropriate coaching each participant is allowed to participate in the Flemish legislature, and this in all its facets. Several days they are immersed in relevant and contemporary social issues on which they have to apply the democratic principles of debate, file knowledge and coalitions. The Flemish Government and the Flemish Parliament cooperate in this project.
Next to these regional initiatives, there are also initiatives on a more local level, organised by municipals or by schools (often related to the above mentioned cross-curricular themes in education).
Finally, at national level there is also a foundation that fund projects that work on the development of citizenship among young people. The Foundation P&V supports active citizenship and fights against social exclusion of young people. In order to combat this 'political alienation', Foundation P&V's launched in 2016 a multi-year project that seeks to reintroduce young people and young adults to social engagement and the political system in general, by showing them that through collective action, personal problems can be solved and dreams can be achieved. In May 2016, they launched a call to organisations in the broadest sense of the word (non-profits, schools, de facto associations, …) that work with and for young people and are able to coordinate a project that brings young people together who want to willingly start a collective project to find a solution to a problem they are experiencing or to realise a dream within the areas of work, health, neighbourhood, mobility, education, etc. The general aim is to make young people and young adults aware that through collective action and starting dialogues with (local) authorities and public institutions, they can solve personal problems or achieve their dreams. They also want to encourage political institutions to be more responsive to young people's problems and dreams.
At the moment there are no new youth-targeted information campaigns about democratic rights and democratic values. However, the Debattle website (see also 5.8) is still active and strives also after the municipal elections of 2018 for more participation of young people in municipalities.
Besides there is also the Campaign "I am #youth policy" ("Ik ben #jeugdbeleid"):
In February 2019, the Flemish Youth Council, Bataljong, Debattle and VVSG launched the campaign "I am #youth policy". With this campaign the involved organisations want to battle for a strong youth policy. With their campaign they wanted to reach every alderman (via e-mail or social media) with the message to increase youth participation, by taking young people into account, by questioning and involving them from the start.
On 12-19-2016 the Flemish Minister of Youth Sven Gatz launched a call for in projects that promote diversity in youth work in Flanders and Brussel. The Flemish government will invest 750,000 euros into projects that ‘build bridges’ within and towards youth work. The minister wants to encourage organizations in this way to work together, to know each other better and broaden the participation offer for all young people. This way minister Gatz also wants to accomplish some of the recommendations of the Citizen's Cabinet for Youth (Burgerkabinet, see also 5.4) that took place earlier 2016. In this Citizen’s Cabinet young people asked to organize local initiatives in order to reach more young people. With the call the Minister of Youth wants to provide financial support to organizations or groups of organizations that offer a youth work better reflects the diversity of society. Through their cooperation they can also contribute to increased solidarity and integration in a diverse society. .
In 2016, the Working Group Diversity Policy of the Commission on Youth Work worked on a vision of diversity in/and youth work. Partly based on this vision, a roundtable discussion with the youth work sector was organized, which was built around four themes: the theoretical framework, the local policy, the integrated youth policy and the challenges of youth itself. The Youth Minister went there in conversation with experts from all policy areas and a hundred youth workers from a wide range of youth (work) initiatives. He follows the two goals of the vision statement: "More and more equal opportunities' and 'social inclusion'. The call for projects aims to realize youth work for children and young people in vulnerable situations. The central element of the call is that projects should bridge the gap between existing youth actions in leisure and / or other organizations that reach children and young people in their wide diversity.
In the Commission Youth information The Ambrassade brings different information players across the sectors (youth, education, welfare, media, …) together. This Commission wants to be a reference point for policy on youth information in different sectors, both at the level of regulation as that of the organizations. For both functions (bringing together organizations and inspire inclusion policy role function of youth information) to fully record, the Commission is working with two structures:
A core group, consisting of 10 permanent members, takes on the policy work and meets at least three times a year. The core group of the Committee on Youth Information has as main objective to monitor, discuss and try to influence youth information in Flanders. She does this by
- Analysis of policy texts
- Discussion of current topics
- Preparing opinions or positions for the Flemish Youth Council
- Exchange with the Flemish Youth Council
- Establish policy action ((open) letter, press release, playful action ...).
The Ambrassade also keeps its finger on the pulse when it comes to information needs of children and young people and creates, together with youth information actors, a diverse range of information tailored to children and young people under the name Youth Guide. Children and young people are involved in this.
Finally, the Ambrassade coordinates the website WAT WAT (on behalf of the Flemish Government). WAT WAT (WHAT WHAT) is a platform of more than 70 organizations (working on gender, employment, rights, culture, democratic participation, …) that want to inform and guide young people for advice or help. By joining forces under one brand name, WAT WAT, the platform prevents the fragmentation of initiatives, websites and campaigns aimed at young people.
StampMedia is an organisation subsidised by the Youth Department of the City of Antwerp, the Flemish Community, Department of Youth and the City of Genk that aspires to strengthen the voice of young people between 16 and 26 years. They try to achieve this close the gap between the media and young people. StampMedia teaches young people the tricks of the journalistic profession and disseminates what is being written in the mainstream press.