Democratic warriors: my journey through the ‘Young activists for democracy training course
May 27, 2024

Democratic warriors: my journey through the ‘Young activists for democracy training course

In the spirit of engaging with youth and supporting their activist causes, I had the opportunity to take part in an amazing project. From 15 to 21 April, 2024, I gathered with people from over 20 countries to embark on a ‘Young activists for democracy’ training course offered by the Youth Department of the Council of Europe. As part of the ‘Youth Revitalising Democracy’ project, we all came together in the European Youth Centre in Budapest to enhance our capacity to advocate and engage in processes that aim at strengthening democracy in Europe.

In today’s world full of anger and a sense of helplessness, activism still burns in young hearts. The eagerness to make a change, a hope for reform – this is the fuel. Advocating, engaging oneself, putting effort – all in the name of making the world a better place. Whether it is as simple as raising your voice in a discussion or as complicated as proposing a policy, the determination remains the same – to see a difference on the local, regional or global level. Activism is part of the identity of many people, a motivation, a means of expressing one’s disagreement or a way not to feel helpless.

It was a wonderful journey through human rights, democracy and the power of activism. Thanks to the well-developed programme, dedicated trainers and engaged participants, each workshop was a pleasure to attend. Step by step, I dived more deeply into my path as an activist.

In that one week in Budapest, I uncovered and tackled a variety of issues. As the training unfolded, it became clearer that our cultural and background mix made the whole project more insightful and horizon-broadening. We started with microscale, where I mainly explored my identity as an activist and acknowledged what truly fuels my motivation. As the days went by, we shifted into large-scale concerns, such as challenges to democracy and human rights. With non-formal education came the possibility of exploring diverse perspectives in an engaging way. We got involved in various forms of learning, simulations, discussions or artwork. I truly appreciated the variety of ways and possibilities to test myself in different settings and around different people.

The most captivating aspect of the training was exploring the Reykjavík democratic principles and diving more deeply into the realm of human rights. It is interesting to observe how these principles are connected, how they reinforce each other, and to see how they are actively present in our daily routines.

The training also placed an emphasis on youth participation and its role in strengthening democracy and human rights. I gained a nuanced understanding of the complexity of the concept of activism itself. It felt empowering to know that there are a variety of forms of participation in which we can involve ourselves. However, the long list of threats associated with activism – fear of persecution, physical violence while protesting, restriction of freedom, isolation, stigmatisation etc. – revealed to me an additional layer to the multifaceted nature of activists’ efforts.

The most practical aspect of the course came at the end. The workshop on ‘Activism step by step’ set us an important task. In line with the Call for action of the Youth Action Week in 2022, we had to prepare an action plan that addressed pressing youth issues. Therefore, my journey with the ‘Young activists for democracy’ did not end when I left the European Youth Centre in Budapest. Now, I am entering the next phase – online learning and mentoring that will lead me to implementing my action plan in my own community in Warsaw, Poland during the Action month (15 September – 15 October, 2024). Excitedly, I look forward to organising my action-focused event with the help of the Youth Department of the Council of Europe and EU Neighbours East.

The ‘Young activists for democracy’ training course has significantly broadened my horizons in the field of activism, democracy and human rights. It was a fascinating mixture of education and culture. As the course developed, we got to know each other, whether it was on the forum or in the halls. In just a week, we built our own “little Europe” – multicultural, empathetic and considerate. The possibility of being around such welcoming people made me appreciate even more the complex concept of culture. Building bridges – discovering our differences and similarities, even learning about funny customs in our home countries – this is what made me feel connected. Every day, we motivated and supported each other with the aim of achieving a common purpose. The bond we made extended beyond the training course. It was beautiful to see great relations being made and amazing ideas developed. Such training is an extraordinary opportunity for youth’s ideas and thoughts to gain a platform to flourish and thrive.

I found out that my involvement went beyond mere learning. It was about diving deeply into my persona with a precious touch of intercultural connection and mutual support. After all, the dreamy vision of a better future is what connected us, people from all across Europe and beyond. The training course provided us with a safe space in which to discuss the pressing issues facing youth, a platform to express ourselves, as well as to meet like-minded people. I believe that the ‘Young activists for democracy’ was an invaluable and essential milestone along my journey, on my activist path.

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