Cihan is a member of the pool of trainers for the youth department of the council of Europe, he works with young people to empower them as young activists, mainly about human rights education. As a trainer and an activist trained in multidisciplinary programs, he had field experience in humanitarian projects in Western Africa, in the USA, in Europe, and in the Middle East.
What had the biggest impact on you while working on these projects ?
“ Working in different places you happen to see the essential, which is listening to the people on the ground, because most of the time the people on the ground have better ideas, more relevant to their work and environment. You also have to be aware that you are there to help and support, not to dictate. To remember that you're just a person who’s there to empower the local people and communities there “
Cihan also says that if you want a project to be sustainable the idea should come from the local people because he thinks that's the best way to assure that the project is linked to the needs of the people.
During this year’s workshop we discussed that many people have stereotypes and no one can blame us for our past experiences, but we have to actively challenge them and try to keep an open mind when meeting someone new, maybe fact check the information you've been given that made you think in a certain way.
We are growing up in a more modern world but there are still so many preconceived ideas about cultures we’ve never encountered and people we’ve never met.
How can our youth help to counter prejudices?
Cihan says “we can do it many different ways but the important part is also taking care of ourselves, so it's not about putting yourself in danger. For example, if you feel comfortable you can start challenging the ideas within your family if possible, but if it's not maybe friends or try to volunteer with a program that works in that field”.
As we all know, if we want to make a change in the world, we have to start by changing ourselves, so we have to start challenging our own stereotypes and maybe then go on by sharing this process with other people.
When I traveled to the US in 2015, lots of people had many different stereotypes about Arabs or Palestinians living in Israel, most of them were wrong. They asked if we rode to school with camels and if I live in a tent. I’m not gonna lie, some comments were funny to hear but others were a bit harsh.
But again, I myself had my own stereotypes about the United States. I thought it was just like the movies and was kind of disappointed when reality hit me! What i'm trying to say is that we all grew up with some kind of prejudice, but we need to challenge it and not act according quickly.
Try to be open to new experiences and maybe say ‘“yes”’ to things that are outside your comfort zone, but remember to take care of yourself :)
Written by: Sahar Ailabouni