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Gender Utopia – Who cares?

Background of the project
Who cooks in international youth work? Who is represented on toilet signs? Who is made fun of? Who shows emotions? Who volunteers? Who doesn’t? There are many ways that young people’s gender or sexual orientation influence their experience of international youth projects and it is very rarely made visible or reflected upon, unless the projects explicitly revolve around gender.

“Gender Utopia – Who cares?” is a 7-day seminar (2 travel, 5 full working days) that took place in Kötschach-Mauthen, Austria from 10th to 16th of December 2018. It’s organised by the Austrian branch of the peace organisation Service Civil International (SCI). 27 participants from 11 mostly Central European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and Croatia, Switzerland) took part in the project. The organisations involved are both international volunteering organisations (from within the network Service Civil International) and queer/feminist organisations working with youth.

In this seminar, a utopic perspective on international youth work was studied. We (re)imagine projects that are completely void of discrimination, harassment and exclusion based on gender and sexuality. We believe that such a perspective can enable us to come up with radically new ideas and foster an understanding of what it actually is that we want or don’t want, leading to better and more equal projects. We learnt and exchanged best and worst practices on how to create safe spaces for young people and on how to make everyone feel welcome, included and free to express themselves.

The outcome of the seminar is guidelines, methods and other input for the toolkit “Free to be you and me”, which will be released after the seminar in cooperation with other organisations working with gender in international seminars for youth workers. The seminar used non-formal education as a facilitation approach.

Through the seminar, we want to help create a stronger discourse on gender issues and power structures within the SCI network and the work we are doing, as well as in peace and volunteering organisations in general. Those organisations focusing on gender issues in their work can benefit from the broad experience of peace activism and non-formal education work in the SCI network – and of course from the exchange with other likeminded organisations and people.

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