Antwerp youth debate about discrimination and employment opportunities

Youth from the Antwerp youth centres KRAS Borgerhout and Noord debated with representatives from the Antwerp police, the director of secondary school Instituut Maris-Stella-Sint-Agnes and a member of the Flemish Parliament on the 30th of January in library Perneke. The debate covered discrimination in the city, neighbourhoods and at school, how to adapt the education system to disadvantaged youth and how to end discrimination in the labour market.

The City of Antwerp representatives took the youth's discussion of discrimination very seriously but made clear that they could not do anything unless reports were filed. The youth, in turn, said they would report more if a trusted councilor or youth worker could be present with them thoughout the reporting process and subsequent talks, and not just as helpers when they file the initial complaint. A number of youth also requested to be consulted when the buurtregisseur, a city coordinator for a neighbourhood, sought solutions for problems with youth in their neighbourhoods. "If is about us, it is important that we help think about solutions, and it is our right to do so." Again, they prefered to bring a trusted youth worker or councilor along for such talks.

Good education for all is a necessary condition for equal chances in the labour market. The youth deemed the quality of the education on offer of a good standard, but some were critical of the possibilities for youth that had difficulties keeping up to speed. Others disagreed: there are plenty of opportunities for slower learners, but they need to grab their chances. The youth concluded opportunities should be advertised more to everyone.

The youth pointed to discrimination on the labour market as a problem, which the other participants recognised. The representative of the Flemish Parliament, Güler Turan, discussed her project to gather proofs and start judicial actions against offending companies. She recognised this would be a long, uphill battle and that youth better prepare to create their own opportunities and not be disheartened by continuing their studies, taking part-time jobs and building their CVs. One of the youth echoed her sentiments and called on the others to be a role model for their brothers and sisters. "It is difficult for us now, but we need to stay polite and work on our own futures. Don't let yourself be brought down by those who choose to do the wrong thing and hurt us. Keep believing that you have a right to a job and work to get it."

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