Variety is a Spice of Life: Gender Perspective in Intercultural Dialogue
As part of our 36th YEU Convention, 2 of our participants share the experience related to their personal development and how they used this opportunity to work more in their local communities. How did Non Formal Education helped to develop and how did they actually do it?
Monika Lionaite (Participant):
By joining the convention, as a participant, I was aiming to deepen my knowledge of Southern Europe - different mentalities and balkan culture in particular. The countries selected was a great combination, while developing cross-cultural collaboration and this project was a great step forward. While meeting with local youth communities and having intensive discussions with other participants coming mostly from Southern Europe, I realized that understanding of Non-Formal Education differs from country to country and how each of us differently understands same problems is revealed by our different solutions on the same challenges. At the end, after a lot of rushed and intensive discussions about broad and narrow concepts connected to each stage of life, we created 15 engaging methods to use while working with youth, encouraging tolerance, understanding and rising awareness of different gender perspectives and further implications of it in each individuals and whole communities daily life.
Further on, after convention, everybody got plenty of space to take initiative while improving the methods created during convention and testing these with local communities while getting feedback from participants and writing reports which are being included in the finalized publication, coming out this autumn.
After returning to my homeland Lithuania, I was eager to try out the methods we created with the international team with local one-nation based youth. Thus, I selected Taurage city which does not have many international people with different cultures, thus people tend to be more local minded and by that differ from the capital or bigger cities influenced more by internationalization, like the capital Vilnius. I recruited active youth living in Taurage region, including municipality’s youth, Lithuanian Riflemen's Union youth and Make Love Speech representatives. I was coordinating 180 min workshop session during which I selected 3 methods to test out, in particular reflecting local youth community's view upon themes related to gender perspective in job market, 3rd age/pensioner's respectful relation with the youth and having a different lifestyle or sexual orientation of each individual. During this session youth got very engage in the activities, all of them were based on role-play in the beginning and a following discussion afterwards. The highlights of each method was discovered and the discussion became more open when everybody realized that each and everyone of us have the opportunity to change society in a positive way while starting from small steps towards more open and including society, tolerating different views upon culture, religion, sexual orientation and role of man and woman in the society. This workshop revealed that youth is willing to discuss and be open to understand different views as long as people working with youth takes time to find and try out engaging methods where each person is given opportunity to shape the scenario.
Further on, I came back to my hometown Stockholm, Sweden, to implicate and test out the methods with more international community, coming mostly from Central and Northern Europe. For this purpose, I selected my workplace at Stockholm University Student Union working as International Student Coordinator, where I am in charge of integration of international students coming from all over the world for studies at Stockholm University. Thus, the methods created during this convention should match perfectly with team building while executing this sort of integration of international students and raise awareness of the importance of becoming more including and open society for all cultures and different mindsets - as long as everybody shows respect to each other. Thus, Stockholm seems like a perfect destination where to reach the peak of this process - and that is why this project was started in there in the first place.
Testing out the methodologies was a great way to feel and see the real implications and possible developments in the local communities. Empowering the youth with knowledge and the ability to create a more including and open society for everyone to live in harmony - where youth is creating a brighter future for everyone.
Natalia Shevchuk (Facilitator):
My YEU journey began with the participation in the year-long project "Variety is the spice of life" and later on, this summer I was honoured to try shoes of facilitator and participate in the 36th Convention of YEU. To be honest, it was life-changing experience in all its’ meaning. Convention gave me a new perspective related to non-formal education. In Ukraine, non-formal education is not officially recognized and not all people, even the young ones, understand why society needs it. Even if the whole world goes through globalization and the establishment of a new type of citizenship - world citizens who are open-minded, use critical thinking and have a high level of tolerance- we still need to advocate for non-formal education (NFE). NFE plays an important role in this process and it is important to spread the word about its’ real purpose and tell to society that exchanges, trainings and courses are not just about traveling.
As a student who is majoring in Language and literature teaching and also lucky that I got the opportunity of being a facilitator on this year's Convention, I realized how it is important to choose the right approaches, activities and methods for each of the participants. That also helped me to develop self-confidence, improved my skills on handling discussions on controversial and sometimes too sensitive topics. Additionally, it gave better understanding of different learning types, and that just covers the formal part of learning in this event.
Group diversity of participants from more than 25 countries created safe space for being yourself and gave chance for everybody to be heard and accepted. If you look forward in finding the way to teach yourself to learn, explore and be opened towards new horizons - YEU is exactly what you need! As it was mentioned before, participants had an incredible opportunity to explore gender issues through the different stages of life and it was not just a typical training program on learning more about gender topics. The program was designed in that way, so participants could cover the topic in general through particular stages of life and afterwards had the chance to go deeper in their small "Spice groups" (5-8 participants in each group). Having their own subtopics and discussing them, they tackled realities of each country that were represented in each group. It was interesting to see combination of discussions, group work and especially the process of developing new methods and tools. And the process of creating methods is actually very interesting way of learning, as you are a participant, you take more serious the topic you discuss and think more about how to deliver this issue to others. YEU pays a high attention to give participants the actual understanding of what new things they have learnt. That is why we tried out Badges system as a recognition of non-formal education.
Monika Lionaite (Lithuania)
Natalia Shevchuk (Ukraine)