The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), in cooperation with the Council of Europe, organised its seventh joint study session. It was entitled “Active citizenship and political participation of young disabled people as a pathway towards Independent Living”and took place between 24 June and 1 July, at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, France. It gathered 17 participants from 13 countries, with lots of diversity in terms of cultural and knowledge background, as well as disability.
Through this study session, ENIL hoped to empower future young leaders of the Independent Living Movement, who will support other young disabled people to understand their rights around community participation, access to political representation and the connections between Independent Living philosophy and broader political issues.
The intensive six-day program allowed participants to explore key aspects of leadership and empowerment, which prepared them to return to their communities and support other young disabled people’s awareness and access to political participation and human rights. Since the study session used non-formal methods of education, the atmosphere was friendly and allowed everybody to contribute to the learning process with their skills, knowledge and experience. The event was being planned and delivered by members of the ENIL Youth Network from Serbia, Moldova, Bulgaria and the UK.
The topic of political participation was chosen following a survey among the ENIL Youth Network members. It is an issue ignored by many and needs to be put higher on the agenda of young people and their organisations. Political participation was discussed in the broader sense of actions taken to promote an idea or value you advocate for, making your personal opinions known.For example, participation in voting, advocating for the freedom to speak out, assemble and associate; with the ability to take part in the conduct of public affairs; and the opportunity to register as a candidate, to campaign, to be elected and to hold office at all levels of government.
Creating a petition asking for an accessible environment in your town/village is one example political participation. Also, speaking at a conference or a public event to demand that the state pays for personal assistance is another form of political participation and active citizenship.
Angharad Beckett,Associate Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Leeds, was invited as a key speaker at the study session. Her presentation was called “Person Is Political” and explored the history of the political participation of disabled people, the human rights movement and the current discourse in the field. It was received by the participants with a high level of interest and lots of questions were asked – throughout the two days in which Prof. Beckett joined the event. You can watch a video of her, recorded during the study session, here.
At the end of the study session, participants created their own action plans for continuing the work, started at the study session, in their communities. Lots of passion, creativity and fabulous ideas were discussed and we hope they will be put into practice in each country of participants’ residence. The ENIL Youth Network now has a bunch of new active members and you can stay tuned for their next activities!
A full report from the study session will be available later in the year. For more information about the ENIL Youth Network and to join, go to: http://enil.eu/enil-youth/about-the-enil-youth-network/[Photo shows all participants of the study session.]