Oh boy, what a year 2020 was. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the whole planet, 2020 will be difficult to forget, and contrary to the general belief, young people were also among the ones very impacted (i.e. think about education, employment, freedom of movement, socializing, mental health issues etc). Add the disability factor to the mix, and the hit becomes even stronger, as societies were not ready to what came, and -as always- disabled people were the last ones to be considered – very often when it was very late (see what happened in institutions around the world for example).

However, we were also the ones that adapted very quickly (at least when accessibility was taken into account). After all, we are living in the internet era, and by seeing the glass half full, we can interpret the pandemic as an opportunity where young disabled people were able to participate more and raise their voices online, highlighting the various barriers and the oppression we face, so we can have the inclusive societies we want as soon as possible.

In this spirit, the ENIL Youth Network tried to be as active as we could, and making ourselves heard. Here are some of the highlights of the year for us:

-We organised two webinars, which were related to the pandemic: one on “Peer Support in times of crisis” and the other one on “Health Protection of Youth with Disabilities”.

-We wrote three public statements: the first one was on the European Independent Living Day – 5th May, with focus on the pandemic. The second was on the International Youth Day – 12th August, where we asked our members what things are important to them and the thoughts they would like to share with everyone. And the third one was on the International Day of Disabled People – 3rd December, this time with a short message from each of the Youth Board members.

-Continuing the tradition of last years, we applied to the Council of Europe in order to host a study session in the summer of 2021. The topic is “Combating ableism through law” and it was approved, so we already started working on this. We applied also for ULOBA’s Bente Skansgård’s Independent Living Fund in order to do a study visit to Norway, participate in the disability pride parade and meet with local organisations and disabled youth, but because of COVID-19 it could not be approved. However, we were encouraged to reapply in 2021.

-We participated physically in the Zero Conference in Vienna in February, and in various online activities, like for example the recent webinar on Sexuality and Disability, and the side event during the 13th Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the CRPD, on disabled children in adversity, focusing on the need to accelerate deinstitutionalisation and provide each child with an opportunity to grow up in a family.

-We are in the Advisory Council on Youth of Council of Europe, and in the Youth Committee of the European Disability Forum.

-We joined some partnerships, either with organisations’ projects, or with individuals who approached us in order to work together.

Who would expect such a turbulent year? We certainly didn’t, but we tried to make the best of it. We already have some ideas for the 2021, and we hope that together with all of you we will be able to make some great and meaningful activities!

We wish you a happy holidays season and an inclusive New Year!

The ENIL Youth Network Board

Fatma Bulic
Naomi Doevendans
Nora Eklov
Miroslava Ivanovic
Marijeta Mojasevic
Charlie Willis