As part of a push to end childhood statelessness in Europe, ENS organised a region-wide campaign #StatelessKids to raise awareness and promote measures to ensure that children can realise their right to a nationality. In addition to the pan-European aspect of the campaign (which was covered on this blog) a wide range of activities were organies by ENS memebrs on the national level. This blog looks at one priority country - Slovenia - where ENS Youth Ambassadors together with the ENS member organisation took an innovative approach to engage new audiences in the campaign.
Raising awareness on statelessness in Slovenia – innovation to the forefront
Back in July, the Peace Institute together with three young ambassadors from Slovneia joined 32 other participants at the first ever youth congress on statelessness. During the congress the Youth ambassadors, in discussion with members, developed country specific national advocacy plans which set out objectives and actions for their work following the congress. ENS Secretariat was keen to make the most of the energy and commitment which was truly impressive, and agreed to resource national level work in seven countries.
The main focus of planned activities in Slovenia was to help raise awareness about what is still a very hidden issue which doesn’t get sufficient attention. While it is fair to say that not a lot of organisations know about the effects of statelessness, we were happy to see that many were prepared to help us share the information on statelessness once contacted. It took some convincing that statelessness is an important issue that needs immediate attention, but equiped with the right arguments based on solid research work done by the Peace Institute and ENS (see report “Ending Childhood Statelessness: A Study on Slovenia”), this proved not too difficlut.
But while organisations might have been easier to persuade, the general public and especially young audiences proved a more difficult group. However the youth ambassadors were keen to explore innovative ways of speaking about the issue, and to reach new audiences through creative solutions. Accordingly we concentrated on developing four main activities.
Firstly we decide to develop an educational cards game containing information on childhood statelessness. The game was designed as “Old Maid” / “Black Peter” style card game, consisting of 8 pairs of cards. The two cards in each pair share the same illustration, first card contains a question (e.g. “Is it possible to lose natiopnality?”). The second card provides an answer and a short explanation why it is so. The players have to match the cards into pairs.
We have produces 200 decks, which have been distributed to Slovenian youth centres and youth organizations for primary school children. Initial reaction from primary school teachers who’ve seen the draft designes of the game was very positive. They thought it a very welcome and appropriate method to reach primary school children. They said that in the curriculum there is a shortage of such contents and they would be very happy to use the cards in their classes.
Secondly we produced a short awareness-raising video. This showed just how little average members of the public know about the issue. With the help of a volunteer for the European Voluntary Service with experience in producing social awareness videos. We made a video containing footage of short interviews on the streets of Ljubljana. People were asked questions on how many stateless persons there are in the world, why is citizenship important, does every child born in Slovenia get Slovenian citizenship at birth, etc. The footage is accompanied with written information on facts about citizenship and statelessness.
The first public viewing of the video took place at our closing event on 29 November. The event provided an opportunity to reflect on the current situation in Slovenia and to hold a round table discussion on future plans with prof.dr. Vasilka Sancin, (Faculty of Law, Ljubljana), Sara Pistotnik (Researcher at the Faculty of Arts) and Katarina Vučko (Peace Institute). William Ejalu, Head of Protection at UNHCR Slovenia, gave an opening speech.
UNHCR Slovenia was a great partner during our campaign, they provided informatonal materials as well as roll-up banners which we used when had a informational booths at the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of social science. This was also a great opprtunity to collect signatures for the #StatelessKids petition and to talk to students about statelessness.
Lastly in addition to the ENS infographic and accompanying materials with information on the issue, we designed an online quiz with the aim to collect data on the level of awareness on statelessness among the general public and at the same time provide information on statelessness. It was disseminated through the ENS Youth Chapter and The Peace Institute Facebook pages and also via the Peace Institute web page. UNHCR office in Slovenia provided their promotional materials as prizes to some of the participants selected through a raffle.
In the past few months we have gained invaluable experience, knowledge and new allies in our efforts to end childhood statelessness. While these developments are welcome, we are fully aware a lot still remains to be done. We will continue to raise awareness, using the materials we have developed with the support of the ENS. But our main focus will be the advocacy towards ratification of the 1961 UN Convention and adressing the gaps in the existing legislation. We will approach the highest levels of the executive and legislative athorities in Slovenia and present our arguments why comprehensive safeguards and measures against childhood statelessness is a must for every state, committed to protection and promotion of human rights.
You can follow the ENS Youth Chapter in Slovenia on Facebook.