For this edition of Yo!Fest, we want to bring you behind the scenes of the festival. Who are the people shaping the programme? What are the issues we care about? We interviewed Yasmine Ouirhrane, advocacy member at the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, working for the inclusion of the youth in peacebuilding processes. She represents one of the 40+ partners who are shaping Yo!Fest, bringing young people at the forefront of political change. For Yo!Fest @ the EYE2018 she will be accompanied by a group of young people from France’s disadvantaged communities to shed light on gender and social inequalities across Europe.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I define myself as an intersectional feminist. Elements such as race, gender, class and age are complexly interwoven with my identity. Those elements are sometimes the cause of my discrimination, sometimes the condition of my success. If I weren’t a young multicultural and dynamic woman - half European and half African- I would have more difficulties in building bridges that facilitate intercultural dialogue.
I recently had the chance of being selected for the Class 2018 of the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Started in 2010, it counts 700 youth advocates from more than 120 countries who are advancing gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women. I will focus on the identity and empowerment of second generation migrants living in Europe – notably young women. I believe that each woman should have the opportunity to flourish and define herself as she wishes in a Europe characterised by freedom, solidarity and equality.
With several other youth organisations, you came up with dozens of activities for Yo!Fest exploring the theme “Staying Alive in Turbulent Times.” How are peace, integration and dialogue being challenged in today’s Europe?
Staying alive in turbulent times, means staying united and keeping high the European motto: “Unity in Diversity” in a time where populisms and extremisms threaten the Union. If I had to describe this hub in a few words, I would say: Alive, Different and United.
Extremism, in all its forms, is challenging Europe. The rise of xenophobia and terrorism are reminders of how we need rhetoric that unite instead of dividing societies. Staying alive in turbulent times does not only mean breathing and eating, but also speaking out and acting in a time where silence generates fear.
Is there a personal or collective story you would like to share that convinced you of the importance of young people’s participation in politics?
Last year, I participated to the March for Europe, organized in Rome for the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome that gave birth to the European Union. While I was demonstrating for a stronger and united Europe, an anti-European demonstration was taking place in the city. What those people were seeing as a main threat were the flows of migrants coming from the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, the refugee crisis was and still is a major challenge for Europe, coming along with an economic critical context. But the real problem has to do with the integration process of migrants: are even second-generation migrants like myself integrated in Europe? Do they feel European and are they perceived as such? This question is at the core of the Yo!Fest themes: we cannot create a better society without including all and each citizen as fully part of the European project.
The success of populist and xenophobic parties on last week's elections in my country, Italy, is yet another signal showing how urgent it is to advocate for an inclusive and stronger Europe.
What do you think young people care about?
Young people care about recognition. At the era of selfies and social medias, it is important to share #positivevibes and call for a major commitment of the youth in society. We start by sharing a link, collecting likes and we can end up sharing thoughts and translating them into action. When young people acknowledge the great power that they have to influence society, they can be local and global actors of change.
My message to decision-makers is to invest in youth programs that promote the discovery of other cultures, because the best antidote to fear is meeting the other.