By: Nina Meiling

In the weekend of April 20 I went to the Council of Members meeting of the European Youth Forum in Brussels, as a representative of the European YWCAs. The ‘big thing’ during this meeting with the more than 100 Youth Organizations of Europe was the election of 20 youth representatives for the Advisory Council of the Council of Europe.

Next to the fact that it was wonderful to see everybody again that I met in November 2012, it was also a good opportunity to create new relationships, hear about all the opportunities for the YWCA within the Youth Forum, and to strengthen the knowledge of existence of the YWCA. (What? The YMCA? No, that’s another organization. I am from the young WOMENs Christian Organization).

Well… I have some fixing to do here, they have no clue who we are, since we have been absent for quite some time 😉

However, so far I have established a good relationship with the other faith based organizations (like the YMCA, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts who are similar to the YWCA, the scouts, and a few other faith based organizations like the Jewish students and Ecumenical youth). We work together in preparation of the meetings of the Youth Forum and share our experiences and expertise. It is nice to have such a pool of experience at my disposal and a group of people to go to for advice. And apart from that they are wonderful people too!

Apart from choosing 13 representatives from the International Non-Governmental Organizations and 7 representatives from the National Youth Councils from all over Europe, I joined a discussion about youth employment and found out that the difficulties that exist in for instance the Netherlands (my home country) are really happening everywhere in Europe. A lot of young people are unemployed, have a hard time obtaining experience, and many companies are abusing the use of internships to avoid paying for the work of young people. The European Youth Forum has improved its policy paper on youth employment from 2008 in quite an impressive way, and is available in case you are interested in it (there is much more at your disposal: think of papers on youth entrepreneurship, youth rights, vote at 16, non-formal education, structured dialogue, gender, etc)

I am very happy with the people that got selected for the Advisory Council! Among them are for instance WAGGGs who will ensure that gender equality will be on the agenda, the YMCA who are in a lot of values similar to the YWCA and other organizations that will make sure that the youth (both men and women) will be included in decision making.

Next time I want to take one of the girls from the European member organizations of the YWCA to the Council of Members and/or the General Assembly to share with the expertise and the huge opportunities, and to increase the positive influences of the Youth Forum on our organization and all of us.

(from left to right: Heidi from YMCA, Sarah from WAGGGs and myself)

The vision of the European YWCAs is of a fully inclusive world where justice, peace, health, human dignity, freedom and care for the environment are promoted and sustained through women’s leadership, with a special focus on young women. As part of the global YWCA movement, YWCAs in Europe are working to ensure young women are able to claim their rights as empowered leaders, decision makers and change agents responding to the issues affecting their lives and communities.