Yo!Fest at the European Parliament

On Thursday 31 May I had the chance to go on an adventure to Strasbourg with a group of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around Europe. As a member of the External Relations working group for WAGGGS Europe Region, there are so many great opportunities to meet new people and attend exciting events. Over the past few months, we had been making preparations to attend a European Youth Event called Yo!Fest. Yo!Fest is a dynamic youth-led festival which brings decision-makers and 8,000 young Europeans together to share stories and create solutions. The event was held in Strasbourg at the European Parliament.

I left Dublin Airport full of anticipation for the days ahead. My first flight was to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam I would be flying to Strasbourg. However, thanks to bad weather in Strasbourg, my flight was cancelled and I had to stay overnight in Amsterdam until I could take a train first thing the next morning.

After a six-hour train journey, I arrived in Strasbourg slightly later than expected and headed straight for the European Parliament and to meet up with the other girls from the External Relations group. There were 13 of us in total, from lots of different countries around Europe including Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, UK and France.

There were huge tents, an outdoor stage and food trucks set up right outside the parliament. There were even eco-friendly toilets, which used sawdust instead of flushing. In each of the tents, there was a different theme and the activities taking place were based around these five themes. The themes were ‘Keeping up with the Digital Revolution’, ‘Protecting Our Planet’, ‘Working for a Stronger Europe’, ‘Staying Alive in Turbulent Times’ and ‘Calling for a Fair Share’.

On Saturday the whole team attended different events and activities on different topics. In the afternoon, myself and Olivia from Sweden ran a workshop called ‘Empowering Young Women: Use of Technology in Advocacy’ for around 40 participants. We talked about U-Report, which is a social messaging platform built by UNICEF which young people can use to participate in polls on key issues that are important to them. The statistics from these polls can then be used in different ways to try and create change. A few weeks before Yo!Fest, we ran a poll to find out if U-Reporters thought it was difficult for young women to get their first jobs and to find out what barriers young women may face when entering the workforce. Over 15,000 people answered our poll and we shared these results in our workshop at Yo!Fest.

I had the chance to go inside the European Parliament to attend the closing ceremony. It took place in the Hemicycle, which is the big round room where Members of the European Parliament sit during important debates and discussions. The Vice President of the Parliament, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, gave the closing speech. He spoke about the importance of young people being engaged in Europe and having their say in what they want for the future of the European Union.

On Sunday morning before we left Strasbourg, we took the opportunity to have a group meeting to plan for the upcoming events for our team and to review our goals for the coming year. One of the aims of the External Relations working group is to ensure that WAGGGS is visible throughout Europe. We certainly achieved that this weekend in our bright yellow t-shirts!