The ZOEY Foundation for Arts and Culture just finished their first Youth Democracy Project granted under the Action 1.3 of the Youth in Action Programme. The project aimed at making youngsters growing up in the outskirts of Lisbon and Utrecht more aware of democratic processes. Katerina and Kostana led this project, called ‘Under Construction’. What was their project about? What were the main differences between the Netherlands and Portugal? And did they succeed in reaching the project goals?
‘Under construction’ consisted of multiple phases. Firstly the youth was introduced to each other over the internet using different multimedia techniques, one of which were audiovisual pieces of art that have been made from scratch. ‘We used media to let them tell their story: Who am I, where do I live, what does my world look like.’
Thereafter the participants went to each others’ country to find out what democratic citizenship means, and what it does for them. Kostana explains: ‘The aim of this project was to give underprivileged youngsters a possibility to make their voice heard. Girls and boys with different cultural backgrounds have engaged in a discussion within the group, as well as with a similar group in the other country. They became more conscious of the other and of another culture by introducing them to a parallel world somewhere else in Europe. All of this to become aware of what democratic citizenship means locally as well as internationally’.
Portugal and the Netherlands
Why did they choose Portugal and the Netherlands for their project? Kostana: ‘The choice for these two countries is interesting. At the first impression they are very different: the looks, the climate, the culture. But when you look closer you realize that their colonial past has caused quite a few similarities. Both countries now deal with a lot of immigrants. For Portugal these are mainly people from Angola; in the Netherlands you come across many people from Morocco and Turkey. Many of which are underprivileged and live in the poorer outskirts of the city.’
‘The Portuguese youth is usually very willing to be active, but due to the strong influence of social hierarchy, youth initiative is hardly ever acknowledged. Therefore, a meeting with the mayor of their community showed some good potential for the future. Never before had he received young people, let alone listen to what they had to say. This was a great first introduction to the world of democracy. In a later stage this was stretched to a European level, to let them realize that Europe is not just something big you have nothing to do with. It’s also in the neighborhood you live in, in the cultural centre and even in yourself.’
Prior to the project, Katerina and Kostana had been warned by local youth workers that the selected young people were rather difficult. When the project started, the youth was taught how to handle a camera to get artistic shots and what the effect and impact of music can be. Their motivation showed by the amount of questions they posed and the fact that they started exploring themselves.
Katerina: ‘In the beginning when they were making short video clips, you could see them becoming more certain of themselves as they got more aware of and open to what happened around them. The youth workers were very pleasantly surprised and proudly said that the most insecure young people were now blooming, and that the other group members became friendlier.’
Curious? You can find more information on: www.underconstruction-online.eu