Berlin | January 2007

In the framework of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for all, 10 youngsters were invited to take part in the first European Equality Summit, corresponding to the launching event of the year held under the German EU presidency in Berlin.

Being living faces and direct representatives of the grounds of discrimination officially recognised by the Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty (Age, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Ethnicity, Religion, Disability), we were given the space to share our personal testimonials and our expectations regarding this 2007 year. One of us had also been chosen to speak from the perspective of “belonging to the norm”.

All the challenge has been, with the support of an external facilitator, to set up quickly a strong working dynamic between ourselves who did not know each other before, coming from very different backgrounds and not being formatted according the usual patterns of youth European representatives. After discovering the richness and the emotive potential of our stories, the main objective has been to present, in this very formal meeting, with the highest European heads of the anti-discrimination circles, a different “speech” and approach which would challenge the common understanding of the discriminatory mechanisms… giving back “flesh” on the abstraction of the laws.

 

What happened?

Instead of talking from the main stage where we were expected to be, we talked from the audience… standing from different corners of the auditorium.

Instead of reading our own personal testimonial, we exchanged our stories.

Instead of promoting the single promotion of the rights of our own community or the work of our own organisation, we called for solidarity.

Gathering then down in front the stage (for the anecdote no ramp has been made available for wheelchair to access to the stage which forced the German ministry to make a very bad face) we addressed the public with our wishes:

  • With you, we are ready to close the gap between the official objectives of the year and reality.

  • With you, we are ready to encourage everyone suffering or witnessing discrimination to stand up against it.

  • With you, we are ready to remind others that there are already existing laws against discrimination to be used.

  • With you, we are ready to support the implementation of European anti-discrimination laws at national level in all member states.

  • With you, we are ready to promote existing awareness raising initiatives linked with the objectives the year.

  • With you, we are ready to remind the medias of their responsibility in shaping people’s opinions.

  • With you, we are ready to encourage the national implementation bodies and all actors of the year to promote equality and mutual respect within schools and other educational institutions.

  • With you, we are ready to protect the freedom of assembly of all groups promoting the objectives of the year.

  • With you, we are ready to make sure that discriminated groups are represented in decision making processes of this year and future years.

  • With you, we are ready to fight for recognition of all forms of discrimination beyond the ones officially recognized in Article 13.

Unanimously applauded, the strength of our intervention has been recognised by all.

What happened in Berlin gave the tone for all the rest of this great adventure: offering direct true and authentic testimonies in a creative and solidarity mood.

Watch the video...

 

 

After Berlin

Straight after this first experience, some people asked for using our stories. The group therefore created a blog with the stories on line which were also put, with a video, on the official web site of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for all.

Back home, each of us could go on his/her life relying now with the support of a new emerging community… we did not need to be in contact every month but we knew that somewhere else, others people with different stories shared our concerns.

The year went fast and in October some of us were invited to take part in an event at the European Parliament (the same little group would go back there for the institutional clothing of the EYEO in December)… few weeks later, 7 of us were gathered back in Lisbon.