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“I feel that I want to make changes” – says with contagious enthusiasm one of the forty Moldovan participants at the intercultural dialogue in Trogen, Switzerland. “It was a unique and unforgetable experience” – says another teenager during the knowledge transfer, a follow-up activity delivered to her peers once she returned to Moldova. Under the facilitator role in this story, I simply acclaim that intercultural dialogue is an effective tool for promoting tolerance and acceptance of diversity within societies. And all this magic begins with our teens, the adults of tommorow.
It’s simply amazing how intercultural dialogue contributes to overcoming those boundaries that separate people in societies; how it gives people a chance to understand their differences and to appreciate the similarities they share. Even though it is believed that the intercultural dialogue is mostly promoted and applied by diplomats, this story comes to transform such a general view by showing how children and teenagers can be “agents of change”.
Children and teenagers can be “agents of change”.
Last November forty Moldovan teens were involved in an intercultural dialogue with their peers from Serbia in a village in Switzerland. The two weeks spent together were a full immersion in what personal and national identity is, how discrimination and stereotypes look like and what the greatest benefits of the intercultural exchange are. Through non-formal learning methods and techniques guided by highly prepared trainers and supported by facilitators, the teens reflected on who they are, on their personal characteristics and values that make them differ from others, on the advantages of diversity, on their life expectations in relation to themselves and to others, on how they define and express their national identity. Each of them had the chance to play the role of a person discriminated on different grounds, followed by deep reflection and meditation on how a discriminated or excluded person would feel in similar situation. There were analyzed common and different stereotypes existent into Moldovan and Serbian communities, with the aim of recognizing them as noxious for the peace and tolerance among people. The message to teens was clear: a deep reflection on and acceptance of personal set of values and characteristics is an easy way to understand and tolerate those who are different physically, in origin, in opinion and thoughts.
The two weeks where also full of amazing moments of intercultural exchange in terms of traditional music, dance, food, games and other national values. The teens also had a great chance to interact with the local population and experiment their level of tolerance and acceptance of people coming from outside the country.
One culminant moment of the amazing experience was the transfer of knowledge exercise once the teens returned home. The knowledge gained was transferred to their peers at higher schools by organizing interactive follow-up sessions on identity, non-discrimination and stereotypes. It was amazing to see how these kids full of enthuziasm were promoting equality, inclusion and non-discrimination within Moldovan society. Indeed, it is rewarding to know that the teens of today contribute to a more tolerant and inclusive society of tomorrow.
It is rewarding to know that the teens of today contribute to a more tolerant and inclusive society of tomorrow.
[Head photo: © Valentina Purcel]
Valentina Purcel is a human rights activist from the Republic of Moldova with an academic background in Human Rights and Conflict Management (M.A.). In this capacity, Valentina brought valuable contribution to development of child protection systems in Moldova, Ukraine and Sri Lanka by working with/for children from state residential institutions. She is also a resource person in child rights, youth work and youth policies, a trainer on non-discrimination and a mediator. She is currently involved in research and analysis related to human rights. Valentina strongly believes that a quality education for young generations is a strong tool for promoting tolerance, acceptance of diversity and inclusion among societies.