On Wednesday 17th November, IGLYO took part in the LGBTQ Inclusive Education seminar in Brussels, coordinated by the Flemish Government. The seminar aimed to address policy makers to share best practice for challenging homophobia within education, share practical solutions already in use and start a conversation about the need to protect LGBTQ young people as a priority. Key speakers included Michael Cashman from the European Parliament who stated that the protection of LGBTQ youth in education should be a mandatory requirement for EU member states and this issue should not just be seen as a national one, it is also a parliamentary one.
I was very happy to have been invited to speak at the event as IGLYO’s focus lead on education and as the coordinator for our up coming education conference next year. As you all know, experiences of LGBTQ young people in schools, colleges and universities have been shown to be damaging and negative when homophobia and discrimination is not challenged. We know from IGLYO’s ‘Social Exclusion’ research in 2006 that over 60% of LGBTQ young people say homophobia is a problem in school and they are left feeling isolated, unsupported and excluded when governments, institutions and teachers show no leadership to challenge this and make positive changes.
It is for this reason that IGLYO works hard to empower LGBTQ youth to challenge this discrimination in their own countries, making changes through positive action. Many of you will know about our education conference in 2007 in Norway, in partnership with LLH and OBBESU where 29 activists were trained to deliver sessions in school. Following from this we have produced an IGLYO policy paper on education as well as ‘Education Guidelines’ which can be downloaded from our website.
It was with great expectations then that I took part in the seminar in Brussels, aimed at policy makers and run parallel to the Equality Summit. Opening speakers included Belinda Pyke, the Director of DG Employment, Social Policy and Equal Opportunities at the European Commission.
It was very encouraging to hear Belinda Pyke discuss the need to make changes for LGBTQ young people in order to protect them from discrimination and exclusion. She spoke about the importance of exchanging best practice and the valuable contribution this can make to progress – a strategy widely used by IGLYO and it’s members. She went on to highlight examples of LGBT NGO’s and governments working in partnership as a key strategy to ensure education is an inclusive space for all young people – this is a strategy that IGLYO supports and we were happy to have leadership from Belinda on this issue.
After the key speakers IGLYO took part in a panel discussion workshop to highlight some best practice about youth empowerment outside of formal education environments. We highlighted the Enlightenment conference that took place in Norway in 2007 and discussed IGLYO’s belief about youth leadership and the high impact young people can have as change makers. I was very glad to be there to champion this approach to inclusive education as a high percentage of the other discussions and debates focused on research or adult led projects that although aimed at youth, had little input from youth. We distributed our Edinburgh Guidelines to all participants at the workshop and hope that policy makers present will see the importance of including youth in this issue.
We will of course be following this seminar up with our second education conference to be held in Romania with ACCEPT. The dates of the conference are yet to be confirmed, but we will let you know ASAP!
Over and out!