Provincial youth debate in Antwerp

The  Antwerp province youth work organisation organised a youth dialogue on the 23rd of February in cooperation with KRAS jeugdwerk and IDEA on three themes: security, youth and employment.

KRAS Jeugdwerk is an Antwerp organisation that works with socially disadvantaged children and youth in neighbourhood projects. IDEA and KRAS offered youth debate trainings in a Debate in the Neighbourhood project during 2012 that resulted in a local debate in Antwerp Kiel and Antwerp Noord/Borgerhout.

The provincial youth organisation, seeking new methods of participation and involvement, decided to host a provincial debate on the basis of those. "Participation does not have to be top-down, this is a perfect example of a local action by youth that has grown to a higher level dialogue," said Tim Uten from the Antwerp Province.

The youth formulated the debate topics. Yvonne Heselmans of IDEA moderated the debate, in which each theme started with the youth's own experiences. Heselmans than broadened the discussion to integrate youth opinions with those of the representatives of the authorities, such as the provincial representative for youth Jessica Minten, the provincial director of education Gerd Van Den Broeck and the chief coordinator of the police academy Ludwien Morreel.

The debate topics were:

Security: Youth hanging about in the streets are threatening and they should be stopped

Education: Some youth are sent to schools below their actual level

Employment: Youth from vulnerable backgrounds should be positively discriminated on the labour market.

The motions led to some concrete agreements. The youth in Kiel and Borgerhout were invited to visit the police academy for a day and debate about diversity there. The province promised to try to get more youth from disadvantaged neighbourhoods to participate in their talent development programs. The provincial director of education emphasised the need to research discrimination in school. She did point out, however, that sometimes disadvantages or student behaviour caused lower grades, and not discrimination. The youth called on their age cohort to be positive and to be role models for their brothers and sisters so they can feel at home in Antwerp.

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