Bringing Youth to the Table: Interview with Evre Kaynak

Evre Kaynak, from Turkey, holds a B.A. in Economics from Istanbul University, and a double M.A. in Development Economics and Human Rights Law from Marmara University and Bilgi University. Since 2005, she has been the National Program Coordinator at Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways. She is currently coordinating their National Program and the Human Rights Training Program for Women, developed by WWHR-New Ways in 1995 and implemented in community centers in 36 different provinces throughout Turkey.

Evre, who has extensive experience working as a trainer and human rights advocate at various national and international human rights organizations, has prepared and edited several publications and human rights education materials including Democracy and Our Rights (2004) and Purple Newsletter, A Networking Bulletin for Women’s Human Rights (2006-2007). She also works as a freelance trainer on human rights education and gender equality, and freelance social compliance auditor.

IWHC: What do you think are some of the most important issues for programmers and policymakers to address in order to promote and protect the health and rights of young people – especially young girls?

EK: Programmers and policymakers should first stop ignoring young people’s, particularly young girls’, existence—their power, their expectations, their bodily and spiritual integrity and autonomy. Formal and non-formal trainings on skills development and human rights should be developed and implemented with the involvement of young people, respecting their needs and expectations. Young people should be involved in decision making processes on the issues affecting them. The eradication of poverty also has great importance.

IWHC: How can activists, policymakers, different groups work together to bring young people to the table?

EK: Programs and projects should be developed to improve young people’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes on active citizenship, human rights, and political participation, so that they can be politically involved. In other words, the main issue at this point is not bringing young people to the table as a topic or issue, but bringing them to the table as active individuals, who can contribute to the improvement of societies with their energy and creativity.

IWHC: Do you have positive examples from your professional or personal experience in which both dialogue and programming have achieved meaningful youth participation or leadership?  What was effective about these particular examples?

EK: I have direct experience training over 200 young people on human rights, through a project called “Our Rights and Democracy” run by the Community Volunteers Foundation between 2004 – 2007. Young people involved in the project were university students between the ages of 18 – 24. The trainings were held in 14 different cities throughout Turkey, including East and South East Turkey. Young people participating in the trainings were from urban and rural areas of Turkey, and all had great willingness and interest in the training. About half of the participants have become more active in their local communities, while some developed their skills on leadership. The most effective part was getting young people to understand that human rights is not an issue to work “about,” but it is an integral part of their lives: their activities, their work, their relations, and attitudes.

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