A Scout Scarf, A Civic Engagement Journey, One story: My Europe My Say
On a Wednesday afternoon, a room is filled with young people having a discussion with members of the European Parliament about youth participation in our society. How did all these people end up in the same room?
The answer to this question is a four-letter acronym, MEMS.
MEMS stands for My Europe My Say, a year long initiative led by the European Region of WOSM and AEGEE. The aim? Boost young people's turn out in the European 2019 elections and reinforce a sense of civic engagement among Scouts and non-Scouts.
Around 150 young Scouts met in France from 16 to 21 February 2019 for the first youth event of MEMS. One group stayed in Strasbourg and the other in Morbecque. During that time the groups discussed action plans that would be used both to get young people to go out and vote, and to grow aware of their historical role in deciding on the future of Europe.
The Morbecque group went on the road and visited the European Parliament in Brussels where they met up with WOSM General Secretary, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Tibor Navracsics, and other Members of Parliament.
The other group visited the EP in Strasbourg where they met with members of the European Parliament and met the group in Brussels via Skype.
The Strasbourg-based group also had a workshop about the Sustainable Development Goals “SDGs” provided by the United Nations Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC).
They were introduced to online materials made by UNRIC that come to good use when educating others about the SDGs in an interactive way.
As time went on, more and more people got exposed to the campaign, Scouts showed up to climate strikes wearing their MEMS scarf, and some attended a networking event in Brussels in March.
"Democratic participation in Scouting is not about voting every 5 years, it is about giving to our communities every day, it's about standing up for human causes and the SDGs. We need the acknowledgement that youth organizations matter!” says Freja Dohrn Ellefsen, a Norwegian Scout who was active in the project.
Youth from all over Europe gathered in the European Parliament for the European youth week in the beginning of May. With the Parliament elections getting closer, the theme of the week was ‘Democracy and Me’, 20 Scouts participated in the event where they joined debates and further encouraged young adults to become more active in the society around them.
The Scouts also put their action plan into good use in their own communities, many used social media to get people's attention but others went into schools and universities and offered small seminars where they gave students practical information and short sessions on what the European Parliament does and how it affects member countries.
The election day came and went, voters’ turnout had increased from 2014 by 8,05% but that was not the best part, more young citizens were voting than before! Percentage for voters under 25 years has doubled since 20 years ago. Turnout went up 14% from previous elections and voters aged 25-39 went up by 12%.
The final event of MEMS was held in the European Parliament on the 4th of December. The room was full with Scouts and non Scouts. The panel was composed of MEPs, Scouts, vice president of the European Youth Forum and a member of the EU commission.
“Young people under 30 should be represented by young people under 30.” said Niklas Nieaβ, a young MEP when talking about getting more young people involved in politics.
Now new people have been elected, and will hold office for the next 5 years. But what is next for Europeans? Will we disconnect from young people until the next time a vote is needed or will we continue to make space for them to take action and change our society for the better?
“Once you have created the space and you have mobilized the needed resources,you should continue engaging young citizens beyond the elections.This can be done through a continuous EU Youth Dialogue “ says Ville Majamaa, Vice President of the European Youth Forum.
We see that Scouts are more eager than ever to engage in their societies and advocate for stronger youth rights in Europe and worldwide. Let us continue fulfilling together our common mission of making the world a better place!
This article has been written by the Communications intern of the European Scout Region Sunna Lif Thorarinsdottir.