For some years now, a number of Europeans seemed to believe, that phenomena such as xenophobia and hate speech are on their way to becoming marginal or even extinct in our continent. The recent rise of right-wing extremist movements in many European countries clearly contradicts that assumption. Hydra’s heads are not only growing back: xenophobia and hate speech are also invading the public space. Beliefs and opinions that appeared to be discredited after the Second World War, are being voiced again in a public debate. “Hate Free Spaces” project aims to counter this dangerous tendency.
The main aim of this project is to create an international youth team that will develop a transnational network of individuals, youth clubs, cafes, social bars, and educational institutions. “Hate Free Spaces” will close their doors to proponents of hate speech and xenophobic propaganda and will simultaneously support spreading the No Hate Speech Movement
To reach this aim, we’ve set the following objectives:
- to raise awareness about the hate speech phenomenon; analyze the situation in the involved countries and the main vulnerable groups and the consequences of its acceptance in public space and public discourse;
- to actively engage young people in the No Hate Speech Movement by letting them shape and formulate standards of “Hate Free Spaces” and “Hate Free Ambassadors” in their local communities and on an international level;
- tutor participants in developing their own No Hate Speech projects, that will take place in an established network of “Hate Free Spaces” places and therefore proliferate the No Hate Speech Movement wider on a local, national, and international level;
The project is supported by the Council of Europe European Youth Foundation under the International activity.
FIRST DAY – report from Luke and Natali
This first day was a true “networking” moment, as we, youngsters from different countries and backgrounds, gathered around common goals. Getting to know each other was the real gem of the day and it was achieved in a creative and fruitful way, which helped participants build deep bonds and grasp the idea of the project. Today’s main topics were Human Rights education and the role of the Council of Europe. Organizers tackled important aspects of Human Rights and how to fight discrimination through non-formal education. It was very motivational to see participants demonstrate their readiness to contribute to the project with their skills and abilities.It should also be mentioned that some time was dedicated today to discussing and expressing solidarity with Ukraine regarding the current military situation. Even if we had just arrived, sometimes after long hours of travel, the activities and the energizers were so refreshing that time just flew to dinner time and we got to enjoy a delicious Georgian meal!
SECOND DAY – report from Sevinj, Malyun & Luka
Rustavi is becoming more and more memorable for us as we are being provided with the proper tools to fight against any kind of discrimination. The second day of the project was very productive. We had a very informative session about the different types of fake information one can encounter and how to identify them. The tools provided by the speaker enabled the participants to look at news in a more critical way, especially regarding the dissemination of fake news. In order to understand this idea, participants were given some time to research articles about the current war in Ukraine. We were invited to measure their credibility and find out whether it is fake news or serious information. As this project is about Human Rights, we have to mention here the part when participants were split into groups and discussed hate speech examples towards minorities. This compelling activity helped participants to team up, get to know each other better and more importantly share crucial aspects of hate speech. We represented the effects and the reasons for Human Rights violations on flip charts, which increased our level of awareness on the topic. At the end of the day, the evaluation and the reflection sessions helped all of us to realize what we learned today and to appropriate ourselves the meaning of what being part of a healthy society is.
THIRD DAY – report from Anita and Clemence
Antita: We work hard learning new things! Today, during our morning session, we had a guest – Olka Smile, a girl from Ukraine who moved to Georgia a year ago. She is currently working with the organization “CARE” who supports Ukrainians. She told us about her feelings, her worries and her thoughts regarding the war in Ukraine. Then, we discussed how to make a podcast on Telegram. Olka offered us to interview a few of her acquaintances from Ukraine in order to discuss with them the topic of Human Rights and war, as this is the ultimate example of Human Rights’ violation. After a small coffee break, we started our next session with a super cool energizer called “Horses”. We played with our hands and body horses and other characters. It gave us a lot of energy to start our presentations about fake news. We discussed the different kinds of fake news we found at national levels regarding the war in Ukraine. It was really surprising to observe the spread of propagandistic speeches and how information can be distorted.
Clemence: After we had lunch we started with a short energizer that was very funny. Afterwards we were starting to figure out the technical aspects of our newly formed network. What name? Slogan? Social media? After nearly 1 hour of a hearty discussion we finally settled on a brand new name: H.E.A.R.T. Speech. With that out of the way, we came to my favorite part of the day: an energizer named ha he ho. Then we planned the project for the coming days. Everyone had to write an idea regarding what workshop they want to conduct on a post-it. From this idea we created a schedule for workshops we will do throughout the next day. Then we had our daily feedback round and ended the day with a delicious dinner!
Today was our creative day! In the morning, we split up into different teams and started to create artistic content. Our focus was on human rights and combating hate speech through the creation of a network of hate-free ambassadors. We created:
- An Instagram account
- Our communication plan
- An animated logo
- A stop motion video about hate speech
- Posters and stickers
- A hand book
- A board game
We worked hard on our creations the whole day and the coffee breaks were very much appreciated. During the course of the day, we got to informally discuss different topics such as what is creativity, how to promote our ideas or deal with hate speech when it is targeted against us personally. We also played different energizers. At the end of the day, we gathered and showed our creations and outcomes. To say we were tired is not an understatement, but we were glad to see the results of our efforts! We then enjoyed a well-deserved dinner. After that, some went to Tbilisi while others gathered for fun, a party and endless crazy discussions in the conference room!
SIXTH DAY – report from Lilya & Kamran
Dadadam! We continue our fascinating training at International Scout Center in Rustavi, Georgia, about Human Rights and a lot more. Day by day, Rustavi becomes a much more special place for us participants. We apply all of our efforts and are enthusiastically engaged in all activities to raise awareness about Human Rights and fight against hate speech. It is already April 6, but the atmosphere has not changed among participants. After a delicious breakfast, we proceeded with our agenda. Firstly, we completed our handbooks, posters, stickers, promo videos and board games. And the training came to its most exciting part when we explored the fascinating world of Graffiti & Street Art. Today’s speaker Tornike Melikidze explained the main aspects of street art, and after that, we engaged in various types of art-related activities. Not only did we acquire theoretical knowledge about the stencils, but we were also given an extraordinary opportunity to utilize them in real life. We designed, printed, and carved up the stencils to prepare them for the upcoming graffiti session. Much more is coming later.
SEVENTH DAY – report from Radoslaw
The day started as usual. I woke up, brushed my teeth, and took a shower. I got to the cafeteria for breakfast. The Nesquik was tasty as always. I was still trying to open my eyes when I looked outside by the window. I realized that it was not raining, no, it was a biblical flood. Even the cat outside started climbing up a tree to avoid drowning. However, some of our local heroes went to smoke. After that tasty breakfast, 10 O’clock came and we went to the meeting room. Our schedule was different than it used to be. The main goal for this day was to create graffiti in Tbilisi. In such rain, the sense of it was the same as eating soup with a fork. Therefore our task was only to finish our graffiti templates. After a brief safety training, the group started the work. (Almost) nobody was hurt. Everybody rushed to their work because there were some rumours about tasty chicken for lunch. We went for lunch at 1:30. After eating we decided to go to Tbilisi. The interesting fact that I want to underline is that hiring 3 taxis took 50 minutes. The trip to Tbilisi takes approximately 30 minutes. We finally arrived in Tbilisi. Our group had split. Some people went shopping to the mall, some got food and Anita, Sevinj and I went to “Warszawa” bar. It was great. For just 10 laris we made our day just a little bit better. Our Azerbaijanian friend decided to leave after 1 hour. Time passed and Jakub came to us running full speed in the rain. We took off to the sulfur baths as Luka promised us. After 10 min of walking, we received a message that the event was cancelled. Anita was sad, I was cold inside and Jakub didn’t have a hat or hood so he was wet already. I guess it counted as a bath for him (maybe not sulfur, maybe not hot but still). We decided to visit the Trinity Church. Walking there we stopped for some food in a Georgian bakery. We ate cheburek, something with cheese and something with ham. Decent. We kept going. Finally, we have arrived. The Church was great. It was raining. The Tbilisi hills were covered in fog and clouds. Jakub was getting wetter and wetter. We took thousands of pictures (great patience Jakub) and went to Fabrika. We had one drink and we went to the city centre. Eventually, we bumped into a lost Staska. We decided to eat something. Going back and forth, everything was closed (22:30). Giving up the food idea we went to meet our team. Luckily, we had good drinks, laughs and food. Everybody paid for their fun and we took off to Rustavi.
REPORT FROM THE LAST DAY
Our project in Rustavi is coming to an end… The last two days have been full of emotions. Friday was our closing day, we had a look at all the contents we created for our #heartspeech campaign this week (an animated logo, a stop motion video, stickers, a board game, a handbook, posters and t-shirts). Everyone worked really hard and the results are amazing! You can follow us here: https://www.facebook.com/HEART-Speech-109613368377134
We also discussed the launch of our network and the activities each one of us plans to hold back at home, so stay tuned! We, of course, had a little moment to write each other a few words, discuss our impressions of the week and thank each other. We will definitely all miss being together in Rustavi, even if it was far from Tbilisi and we had to get up in the morning! Saturday was our graffiti session (reported on that day due to the weather). We arrived at the wall the city put at our disposal in Ponichala around 11:30 and started preparing it. The sun was high and it was warm, perfect conditions to start our street art. We painted a blue and yellow background in support of Ukraine and sprayed our stencils. It was not easy but we managed to come up with a very awesome result! Our graffiti artists, Wise and Jokonda, also painted beautiful murals for Ukraine. Cars and people passing by were very supportive and we got a lot of positive comments and encouragement. Different channels came to report our activities and some of us gave interviews, we are all very impatient to see that! Unfortunately, the time to pack arrived… Those who wished to spend their last moments in Tbilisi said goodbye to the city and had their last khinkali. In the evening, everyone gathered in Rustavi for the last goodbyes and moments together. We all hope to be reunited soon! As a final word from the organizers, we would like to give a special thanks to all of the participants for their kindness, their happiness and the joy they brought every day to this project, which would, of course, have been impossible without them! Lots of love and see you in Poland, Baku, Erevan, Porto, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Tbilisi, Rustavi or wherever in the world!