Strengthened young peoples’ civic engagement and respect for others

Meet two 14-year-olds from Norway, Anna and Cecilie. They participated in EWCs educational programme Learning Democracy at Utøya in 2020. The program places young people at the center; encouraging them to learn about the terror attacks 22 July 2011, exploring what democracy means in their daily life, and raising issues related to democracy with their peers in schools and local communities.

Photo: EWC. (From different event at Utøya)

“Through Learning Democracy at Utøya, I experienced the joy of discussing with others, something I did not find joy in before. When I engaged in these types of exchanges, I became more aware of respecting and listening to other people, and now I understand how important that really is. During the activities [in my school] after the training, I discovered how respectful my class was, more than I thought they would be. I also noticed how people felt safer when they were respected and how much of a difference this makes. The atmosphere in a room is completely different when there is respect, compared to when there is none. I think for me, it is respect that remains. Respect for others and the opinions they have, but also the feeling of being respected. Especially respecting the opinions of others, no matter how much you disagree”, says Anna.

Cecilie, who also took part in the training, describes how she has started to take a stand after she returned home. “I have experienced that people have called each other things such as fucking faggot. I tried to tell the person that he/she should not use such words in a negative way and that others can be affected by it. When the person did not care, I talked to the person who was called it instead”, she explains.

Both Anna and Cecile describe how they bring what they learned at Utøya into their everyday lives, and how they pass it on to others. These two are among 600 young girls and boys from Norwegian Secondary Schools who have been trained since 2016, to take action for democracy, engaging 17 000 of their peers across the country.

*Names changed to keep anonymity.