Experience sharing and peer support among youth from Finland, Bangladesh, Nepal and Slovenia were central elements in Demo Finland’s project Youth Creating Solutions for Meaningful Participation (YCSMP) that comes to an end in December. The project is supported by the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission, and Demo Finland’s partners are the Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar, ASMITA Women’s Publishing House, Media & Resource Organization from Nepal and Youth Network MaMa from Slovenia.

During the year 2015, each of the partners has organized an international training program with active young people and youth workers from all four countries participating. The project aimed to increase the knowledge and skills of youth to actively participate in their societies, tackle concerns in their societies and promote democracy and human rights, as well as to enhance mutual learning among the project countries. Topics of the training programs were non-formal education, human rights, development and democracy, and women in decision making.

Working in small groups
Working in small groups

Peer learning and new perspectives

All programs included a training of trainers and a pilot training that was designed and conducted by the participants for local youth. Central results have been not only the increased understanding and knowledge on the topics of the trainings, but also enhanced practical training skills that enable the participants to share what they have learnt with their own target groups. Dialogue between participants from different countries and with varied backgrounds has also been a significant part of the project, as it has resulted in peer learning and in finding new perspectives.

“It is totally different to read about human rights violations in the news than to meet a person that has been imprisoned for his opinions.”

“Major highlight was to face global challenges together.”

According to the participants, they learnt a lot on and got new perspectives to the challenges that youth face and to youth participation. The participants from the four countries are active in very different ways, as some of them are involved in formal politics and some work for youth issues in non-formal ways. Different points of view made the experience sharing interesting, and good practices were shared and received.

“From the very beginning, the variety of the group was both a frightening challenge and a huge opportunity.”

“I got new knowledge about the situations of women in other countries. It inspired me to do more workshops with young women in my country.”

Pilot training with a group of local young women in Nepal
Pilot training with a group of local young women in Nepal

Feelings of success

The biggest learning experience was achieved while planning the pilot trainings as participants were working in international small groups. Tensions were also not avoided in the tightly scheduled planning processes that required compromises between different ways of working and thinking. However, the outputs were good, and the process was appreciated. Working closely in multicultural groups for achieving mutual goals was global education at its best.

“Forcing different personalities and people from different backgrounds into a joint process for three days was a damn clever idea from someone. I myself learnt something very crucial about democracy during the three days.”

The local participants of the pilot trainings also gave good feedback, and for many of them it was the first opportunity to take part in such a multicultural event. They were particularly interested in the personal stories and experiences of the trainers from other countries. On the other hand, organizing the pilot trainings was a rewarding experience for many of the participants of the project, some of whom did not have previous experience on being a trainer or speaking in front of public.

Trainings ended with distribution of certificates. Photo: Nina Požun
Trainings ended with distribution of certificates. Photo: Nina Požun

The YCSMP project has offered an opportunity for the participants to work together, as peers, on challenges that youth face and on finding solutions. It has also increased intercultural understanding and cooperation. Active young people from varied backgrounds have a lot of good practices and ideas to share, and many things that are often taken for granted are seen in a whole new light when there is an opportunity to come together with new people and in new environment.

Demo Finland thanks all the participants of the training programs and the political youth and student organizations that supported in the practical arrangements during the project!

The quotes are excerpts from articles and feedback written by the project participants.