A WYA Erasmus Project: An Inspiration for Further Action

What is WYA Erasmus project all about and why should you join?

We arrived in Munich on a cold winter morning with high expectations.

Youth participants from seven EU countries were taking part in the Erasmus Plus funded project ‘Coordination of the Youth Workers of Tomorrow’.  I was excited by the prospect of learning new skills through workshops on public communication, media literacy and advocacy. Much of the content was centred around the issue of human rights but more so about the interpretation of the WYA charter on such issues and how one can defend human rights and dignity through the use of advocacy, communication and solidarity.

Whilst unpacking for the week ahead, both Daniel and I had an inclination that we were going to be met with the question ‘What do you think about Brexit?’. Funnily enough, team Croatia asked us that very question. Although Ivan did not find it his cup of tea, Stipe was up for a long night of discussion.

The first and second day consisted of engaging with literature and thinking about how this applies with regards to the activities of a WYA chapter and society in general. We were met with two texts; a passage from the Dalai Lama and another about Satyagraha – a form of non-violent resistance. The two readings illustrated the examples used in one’s pursuit to the universal truth. For Gandhi, this was Satyagraha, an abstinence from violence and for the Dalai Lama this was the deeper understanding of the world. Although coming to it from different viewpoints, both meet on the idea of understanding the importance of inner peace, the nature of human struggle, and the importance of pursuing the truth with kindness and conviction.

The subsequent days consisted of analysing public communication strategies. During this, I was educated on the power of advocacy and how this differs from lobbying. Thereafter, we were tasked on deconstructing a selection of white papers discussing issues of surrogacy, assisted suicide, HIV/AIDS and global development. I chose the issue of assisted suicide as there is a heated discussing surrounding age and capability of a person ending their life. This was also an opportunity to understand what WYA’s stance was on this topic and the suggested proposal made. Thereafter, we were tasked with creating a press statement reflecting on one of the white papers. Adopting the stance WYA has on assisted suicide, I wrote the following:

“Death on demand. The landscape of the medical industry and the nature of the Hippocratic oath is changing. The idea of sanctity of life hangs perilously as more medical professionals participate in procedures of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In practicing, he rids the dignity and mysterious power of human life itself; poisoning the purity and holiness of life and art to which he has sworn devotion. Death on demand. The gradual commodification of the medical industry. The cocktail of drugs now becomes a more viable option resulting in the expansion of new commerce; one which profits from the loss of life. Society which was once focused on the value of each unique individual now views one’s self-worth on the utility of the person. So, what happens to the value of life if we are pledging to assist in death and provide readily available services. Death on demand – Abortion, euthanasia – Who’s next?”

The remaining days focused on social media training, and the importance of using tools to galvanise individuals. Through the analysis of movements such as #METOO, #LOTSOFSOCKS, #BLACKLIVESMATTER and #FRIDAYS4FUTURE , I understood the methods used to effectively communicate to the public and create a community unified under one banner. Thereafter, we were introduced to video campaigns which was useful as it helps conceptualise what made a good or bad campaign. With acquired knowledge, it was now our task to create a campaign be it on social media or in the form of a video. Our group created a social media campaign which focused on tackling issues that young people faced. We decided to combat the issue of education and knife crime as youth of today were very likely to grapple with either one of those.

Overall, the week was very informative, and I had learnt plenty. This has given me ideas on what the WYA UK chapter should look like. Towards the end of the week, Daniel, Sarah and I had begun brainstorming for upcoming events to plan taking inspiration from what we have learnt and what other participants had taught us. Undoubtedly, taking part in ‘Coordination of the Youth Workers of Tomorrow’ has helped us tremendously and I cannot wait to see what we do with WYA UK.

Published: January 29, 2020

Written by Mohammed Shah, a WYA volunteer and Coordination of the Youth Workers of Tomorrow participant from UK