Results Workshops Young Voices for Equality

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Over thirty teenagers and young adults participated in the workshops and discussions under the aegis of the “Youth Voices for Equality” event, which took place within the framework of the centenary marking the introduction of the universal right to vote in Luxembourg, shortly before the European elections scheduled in May. Voix de Jeunes Femmes and CID | Fraen an Gender organised the half-day event on 27 April at the Forum Geesseknäppchen, with the aim of giving young people a voice so that their opinions concerning gender equality and Europe may be heard. Within this context, we were able to count on the valuable support of four further organisations, including the Lycée Aline Mayrisch and Radio ARA (the graffiti[1] youth broadcast).

The following workshops were scheduled:

  1. Women’s strike / 2020 Reasons to strike (moderated by Line Wies and Milena             Steinmetzer, representatives from the International Women’s Day Platform / JIF                              2019)
  2. Europe and Gender (moderated by Tammy Schmit and Marc Schoentgen from the             Center for citizenship education)
  3. Feminism Today (moderated by Marie Sophie Funck and Tilly Schaaf from Voix de             Jeunes Femmes)
  4. Women in the Sciences (moderated by Jessie Thill and Sophie Rasqui from             Golden Z)
  5. Europe and Participation (moderated by Laura Zuccoli from ASTI).

The young participants were able to exchange opinions and discuss these matters during the workshops. Not only was their great interest in the various issues clearly visible, but their participation also revealed their wish to take action against sexism and other forms of discrimination. Many of the attendees expressed their dismay at the fact that problems such as sexist advertising or the high level of underrepresentation of women and minorities in decision-making positions should still be a reality today.

The list of issues and ideas that were the object of these young adults’ discussions was as follows:

  • Gender marketing was viewed as a barrier to attaining gender equality. Gendered clothing, foods and care products strengthen gender-related clichés.
  • Sexist advertising is omnipresent and promotes the perpetuation of sexist behaviour.
  • Everyday sexist behaviour remains the expression of structural sexism and a barrier to all individuals’ development. (E.g.: A woman who does not want to have children should not have to justify herself. / “Catcalling” should no longer be tolerated. / Put an end to gender-related double standards.)
  • Housework, rearing children and care duties are largely performed by women, and these tasks are not given the credit they deserve.
  • There is a serious lack of diversity in children’s films.
  • The living conditions of LGBTIQ* individuals and human rights violations against them are not sufficiently taken into consideration.
  • Self-determination is a must in order to reach gender equality: the choice of clothes, moving around public places, the right to abortion, free contraceptives.
  • The significance of consensus in relationships must be the object of greater attention, especially in the context of consensual sexual relations, including regarding contraception.
  • Awareness among the public about sexual violence (such as rape) should be raised and highlighted more.
  • Many women feel insecure in public places.
  • The achievements of women in science since the beginning of the 20th century remain unacquainted to many, which is a result of the one-sided writing of history.
  • The national school system should play a central role in the fight against gender-based discrimination.
  • Decision-makers in politics, the economy, civil society and science play a crucial role in reaching gender equality. Decision-makers should actively fight stereotyping and introduce gender quotas.
  • Women are underrepresented in leadership positions.
  • Women and their achievements are underrepresented in the public conscience, thus leading to the perpetuation of gender stereotypes and sexist prejudice. In history lessons as well as in the media, efforts towards balanced gender representation should be made.

While the above issues and statements reveal obvious options for action, the participants made the following concrete political demands:

  • There should be gender-neutral toilets in all schools and public buildings.
  • The police should have members of staff that have received special training on how to deal with victims of sexual or domestic violence.
  • Tampons and sanitary towels should be provided for free in all public toilets.
  • Contraceptives should be provided for free.
  • Sex education in schools must urgently be reviewed.
  • Women should be given more visibility in history books. More subject matters involving women should be included in the literature and philosophy curricula.
  • Gender-related issues should become an integral part of the school curriculum.

All the participants expressed the opinion that gender equality has not yet been achieved. They focused on the many facets and levels of sexism and gender inequality, and practically intuitively, they listed nearly all the important issues raised in the current international debates around gender equality. Teenagers and young adults are not only well-informed, they also demonstrate great interest in public life. Politics are seen as central to pushing for positive change. The role of education is also viewed as being fundamentally important. Finally, the media and the economy are considered to bear their share of responsibility in the push towards gender equality.

During the discussions, it became clear that young people have an acute and critical understanding of social and political relations – and most especially, that they are the experts concerning their own circumstances.

CID  and Voix de Jeunes Femmes, the organisers, wish to urge you, as political decision-makers influencing public opinion, to actively promote the political participation of young people and get them involved in political decision-making processes. Moreover, we wish to remind you that issues relating to gender equality remain as important as ever to achieve successful coexistence in society – even beyond Europe’s borders. This has in part been proven by the wide range of subjects raised by the participants at this event.

Gender equality and equal opportunities must be seen as a cross-cutting political priority and must be taken seriously.

[1] You can listen to the show (lasting just under thirty minutes) on the “Youth Voices for Equality” event via this link: http://podcast.ara.lu/blog/2019/05/03/young_voices_for_equality/

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