Can young people revitalise democracy? Foróige members Lauren and Aisling went to Strasbourg to find out!

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Foróige November 17, 2014

The World Forum for Democracy took place in Strasbourg from the 3rd to the 5th November and two Foróige members, Lauren Lehane and Aisling O’Callaghan were in attendance. They are both active in Foróige’s youth participation initiatives and input regularly into the running of the organisation. They have also graduated from our Leadership programme.

The Forum posed several questions to its attendees. How can the democratic participation of youth when employment opportunities decrease? Is education the way to prosperity and security?  Here’s what Lauren Lehane (Castle Foróige Club, Blarney, Co. Cork & member of the Foróige National Executive) had to say, “My time at the world forum for democracy was incredible. It really showed how youth can make a difference. The topic was, ‘Can youth revitalise democracy?’ My answer is, of course! The opinions and ideas young people have can truly make a change. Young people are also citizens and citizens need to be heard for a democracy to work. There were over 200 young people at the forum, only four were Irish and two of those were very proud Foróige members. The forum gave me a completely new outlook on democracy and politics. I never, ever thought I'd be sitting in the hemicycle of the Council of Europe or having lunch in the European Parliament. The forum inspired an interest in politics and the EU and also has encouraged me to become fluent in another language. Next year I hope to study Arts in UCC and the World Forum for Democracy has had an influence on the subjects I want to take on: Politics, French, European Studies and History.”

Here’s what Aisling O’Callaghan (Leap Foróige Club, Leap, Co.Cork) had to say about her trip, “Attending the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg was an incredible experience that I will never forget. From being on Foróige’s Reference Panel and doing a national project on how the EU benefits young people, I got the chance to apply for the forum. Being in the midst of over 220 ambitious, intelligent, diverse young people of over 100 nationalities was an amazing, unique but most of all, cultural experience. Nothing can compare to the atmosphere at the European Youth Centre where we prepared for the forum over the first 3 days of the trip. I learned about other democracies around the world and what youth are doing or not doing in them. Together we shared our experiences and questioned ‘Can youth revitalise democracy?’ Some highlights of our visit included attending a party organised by the local youth of Strasbourg, discovering the beautiful city of Strasbourg and having lunch in the European Parliament, all while learning about each other’s countries and making life long international friendships. On the third day until the fifth day, all 220 of us attended the forum in our black ‘Think Youth’ t-shirts and bright blue hats. Strangers only 3 days before, we were now united youth believing that we could revitalise democracy together. During the forum, we had our say, challenged the speakers and shared what we believed would make a change. We played a big part in the closing ceremony of the Forum. Our artistic group acted out a sketch on our ideal democracy with giant puppets we had handmade from materials from each of our countries. Back at the European Youth Centre we had just one more evening together so after evaluating the forum and preparing a follow up, we had a dinner party together. I thoroughly enjoyed this unforgettable week. The most memorable aspect for me was connecting with young people from across the globe and making life friends. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to attend this event, and this possibility came from being a member of a little Foróige club in West Cork. Thank you Foróige!”

If you feel as though you would like to have your opinions and ideas heard at a national level in Foróige, do put yourself forward for the Foróige Reference Panel at your Regional Conference in January 2015. Who knows where it could lead you!