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Young people with an African background living in Europe came together in The Inclusion of African Youth in Europe project to discuss issues concerning their inclusion in the European society. The project followed and improved the concept of the 2012 project “Debating the future of African Youth in Africa and Europe” and addressed employment, education and security issues in particular. The project consisted of three main phases: preview debates, an intensive training and debate week and an advocacy trajectory.
First, local partners organised the preview debates in Amsterdam, Leiden, Wageningen, Eindhoven and Terneuzen. The debates started with discussions on the topic and a debate training and ended with public debates. The public debates looked at a variety of topics, including the role of migrant communities and parents in building bridges, the ways in which individuals can influence discourse, and personal experiences of discrimination. The debates attracted a lot of people with no previous debate experience and made many enthusiastic for the next part of the project.
The second phase consisted of a intensive training weekend followed by a debate competition and public debate. Aproximately fifty youth of African descent participated in debate seminars by experienced trainers in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. They learned not only how to structure their ideas and give public speeches, but also how to write blogs and effectively influence political discussions. They got to test their skills in a debate competition in The Hague two days later in which they discussed a motion on each of the three main topics security, education and employment. The four best teams then got to debate in a final before the public debate on November 20th, the International Day for the Rights of the Child, in front of an audience of academics, politicians and policy makers in the Children’s Right House in Leiden. They discussed the motion that all migrants should get access to Europe, even economic migrants.
The public debate that followed showcased the best indivual speakers of the competition and their ideas of how to address issues facing African youth in Europe. The suggestions ranged from more research on police practices to quota for companies to hire more people from African descent and the providing sufficient internships for youth and particularly for African youth that tend to have less well-developed networks for finding positions. The winners of the final debate were Zaina Karekezi and Richard Ocheng, while Nikish Vita was crowned best speaker of the Inclusion of African Youth in Europe project. She received her trophy from Akinyinka Akinyoade from the African Studies Centre.
The third and final phase of the project is still evolving. It started with a series of seminars on advocacy and lobbying in the public sphere. The participants are now developing their action plans and will showcase their progress in May. One participant for example chose to focus on the situation of rejected asylum seekers in the Netherlands while another focuses on conflict minerals from the Congo. Now that the trainings have concluded, IDEA continues to support and coach the participants leading up to an event in Nieuwspoort, The Hague in May 2014 where they will present their lobby to a wide range of authorities in their respective area.
In the end, more than 100 youth will have benefitted directly from the trainings while awareness of these issues and of debating has been raised with many more has been raised. Most importantly however, the gap between youth of African descent and authorities has decreased through this project, making our society a bit more inclusive. This is why we are already looking into ways of expanding the project into 2015.
The Inclusion of African Youth in Europe project was organised by IDEA NL and the African Studies Centre with support from NCDO and Youth in Action, a European Commission youth fund. For more information and questions, contact Roeland Hemsteede.