Youth council takes action against hate speech

Involving young people in local decision making is fundamental in order to strengthen people’s trust in democratic institutions and processes. The activities of the youth council of Lindesnes, is a good example of how local municipalities can encourage youth participation.

After participating at the democracy workshop at Utøya last fall, the youth council in Lindesnes, a southern municipality in Norway, developed an ambitious plan involving different stakeholders in their local community to act against hate speech. So far, cooperation with the local children´s council has been established, and in December they presented their plans to the city council, asking for support from the local government where they finished to standing ovations and promises of including the topic in the region´s new childhood plan.

“After the training at Utøya, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the effect of politics on people, and I have dedicated more of my time to improving my local community. Through local politics I want to contribute to a municipality that actively involves its youth”, says Isak, who is the leader of the youth council.

Since the workshop, Lindesnes Youth Council have trained members of both the youth and the children´s council. “My hope is that we get many more young people actively involved, and that they start talking about what they think is important. That way, we can create a society that listens to youth, ensuring a better community for those that will grow up in the years to come”, explains council member Oliver. Frida and Lise-Marie tells of a new awareness and interest in the consequences of hate speech after they took part in the workshop. “I realize how hate speech and exclusion affects everyone differently, and that the consequences can be very serious. I want to work to ensure that everyone feels that they belong – something all people need”, says Frida. Lise-Marie agrees, “people need to understand how serious the consequences can be”.

The next part of their plan is a big conference on prevention of hate speech in June 2022, an idea they got and started to plan for, during the three-day workshop. They have applied for funds from the directorate for children, youth and family affairs, and as they received full support during the presentation at the city council, they are on schedule for the big event. “By putting hate speech on the agenda, we hope to put focus on and open the dialogue on this topic that is not discussed enough”, Isak concludes.

As part of the 22 July and democratic citizenship program, the democracy workshops for non-formal learning is targeting youth clubs, youth organizations and youth councils, aiming to build a democratic culture in the arenas where young people spend their time and to inspire them to enact social responsibility in their daily lives. After the training, the participants return home and act as multipliers and peer educators as they conduct their planned activities in their local communities. In 2021, 125 youth was trained through the democracy workshops for youth active in Norwegian civil society, and as multipliers they in turn reached an estimated 1100 of their peers, teachers, parents and community actors.