Young Friends of the Earth Europe: A Success Story of Youth Unity

A grassroots network, Young Friends of the Earth Europe is working hard for environmental justice. Gresë Sermaxhaj discovered more.

Active in over 30 countries across Europe, Young Friends of the Earth Europe (YYFOEE) is a grassroots network of young people and youth organisations working for social and environmental justice on a local, national and European level.

Owned and led by its young members, it works in a horizontal and democratic way, where all members are equal and all voices are heard.

YFOEE plays an important role for a just system, taking action on climate justice, food and agriculture, and sustainability education.

Dimitra Kaneva, Young Friends of the Earth Bulgaria, and Sara Boraei, Young Friends of the Earth Cyprus, speak more about their work in this exclusive interview with Youth Time contributor, Gresë Sermaxhaj.

Both members of the Young Friends of the Earth Steering Group share their everyday activities and their organisation’s far-reaching impact in improving communities.

Read on to understand ways climate crisis is a challenge for young people, and how YFOEE tackles this and other obstacles faced by youth today.

 

Youth United by a Common Vision 

In the beginning of our conversation, Kaneva explains that the idea is connecting and working together with young people from across Europe who care about environmental and social justice, and are all united by a common vision–a vision of a just and peaceful system for all. 

“We collect information from our member national groups and work collaboratively to produce campaigns and events that are useful for our member countries. 

Dimitra Kaneva
Friend of the Earth: Dimitra Kaneva

“The work, development and direction of the network is led by the Steering Group which gets elected annually to support member groups and to organise the network’s Annual General Meeting and other events that bring members from all national groups together.”

 

Reset and Growing Together Projects

In this part of the interview, she elaborates two important initiatives: System: Reset, and Growing Together.

System: Reset is a Pan-European project, that is building platforms across Europe to bring young people from under-represented communities, to give the space to young people who would not naturally take the floor, into multi-levelled decision-making. 

It is building strong, collective visions for a socially just and ecologically sound future. 

Friends of the Earth groups lead the project in Ireland, Malta, Denmark, Estonia, North Macedonia, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia and Austria. 

It will empower youth in the discussion on building a Green New Deal at both national and European levels.

Growing Together is another Pan-European project that Young Friends of the Earth Europe is part of. 

The project addresses food sovereignty and the issues with our current food system. Growing Together provides a voice for young people, particularly those from rural areas, to engage with crucial debates on the future of food production, and the wider debates on the future of Europe. 

The project is led by Friends of the Earth groups in Ireland, Malta, Denmark, Estonia and Cyprus, with over 150 activities planned by 2020 which will empower at least 3,000 young people from rural communities into active political debate on the future of our food system and Europe.

 

Helping Youth to Face Climate Crisis

Speaking from experience, Kaneva further shares some of the biggest shortcomings faced by youth today and how their work tackles them.

“The biggest challenge faced by youth today is the climate and ecological crisis. For young people in the Global South and other areas most affected by climate fuelled disasters, it is not just a challenge but a question of survival.” 

As young people in Europe, she asserts, we are much more fortunate at the present moment and it is our moral obligation to raise awareness and help the most marginalised communities. 

“Still, we are the generation that sees the world collapsing around us, we do not know what the future holds and find ourselves unable to plan for a safe future for ourselves and the generations to come even on a personal level, let alone on a global level.” 

She believes YFOEE work tackles this by putting climate justice and intersectionality first in everything they do.

“Our campaigns and projects amplify the voices of young people that are often brushed off by the decision-makers. 

“Projects, such as System: Reset help to raise the voices of under-represented youth in vital discussions and decision-making that concern their future. 

“Also, I believe that by connecting with like-minded youth from across Europe to visualise and build a sustainable and just future for all, we tackle the issue head on.”

She concludes on a cheerful tone, saying that by campaigning and working together, young people have hope and are empowered not only to imagine but to help create a just system, a better world, and a future worth living in.

 

Empowering and Supporting Each Other

Boraei supports Kaneva by adding that YFOEE fights these injustices all together.

“Equally we raise our voices to help change the system. This change happens through campaigns, and events that might include workshops, protests, seminars, summer camps and much more. 

“The decisions of what needs to take action happens after consultations and discussions with all our member groups, aiming to empower all activists in their local struggles.”

She mentions that young people have historically been excluded and not taken seriously when we talk about the issues that the planet or people are facing.

“We live in a place and system that is disrupted and the future of it is uncertain. The actions that are taken in the EU or local level are not enough to ensure a liveable future. 

“There is an obvious need for intergenerational justice, especially in working around climate change. In order to tackle these obstacles, we work on many levels.”

She believes YFOEE educates itself and others.

“We point out and focus on the systemic injustices instead of single-issue campaigning, we empower other marginalised groups, and share tools and skills that we can use to tackle the issues at the local level. 

“Finally, as a network of groups, we bring our voices together, to empower and support each other.”

Conclusively, Boraei explains how youth can engage and donate for their cause.

To be part of Young YFOEE, first you need to look in your local area to see if there is a group that you can join in. 

“Then you can take part in different actions and events at the local level, campaign and learn about climate and social injustices.”

At European level, you can get informed through their website, and contact them to volunteer your time in one of YFOEE’s running projects or working groups.

For more inspiring stories, follow YFOEE now: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.

Currently, YFOEE has 16 Young YFOEE member groups in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, England/Wales/Northern Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Ukraine, plus friends and affiliates around Europe.

Pictures: Young Friends of the Earth Europe


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