In Portugal, the chat application WhatsApp is one of the tools being used to mobilise youth, share resources and encourage debate.
Every year, Portugal’s Annual Youth Meeting aims to engage young people to be active in the promotion and protection of human rights. Last year, the participants embraced this goal, creating a WhatsApp group to stay in contact, discuss human rights issues and take action together.
The Annual Youth Meetings are an opportunity for young people to learn more about human rights issues. The four-day programme empowers youth and motivates them to learn more and take action to defend human rights. Luisa Marques, Human Rights Coordinator in Portugal, explains that their goal is to “promote reflection and critical debate about the issues”, while participants are also “encouraged to develop and take actions […] in order to reinforce learning”.
Last year’s meeting, which was attended by youth from across the country, focused on the Brave and I Welcome campaigns, shedding light upon the struggles and rights of Human Rights Defenders and refugees. The participants collaborated in different creative activities, from songs and dances to a film, to support human rights violations victims. Luisa explains this was important to “promote cooperation and teamwork” while “deepening the knowledge and understanding of the violations of human rights”.
The ultimate goal of these meetings is to empower youth to continue learning and defending human rights afterwards, while also sharing their knowledge with their families and friends. Last year, the participants went one step further, creating a WhatsApp group to keep in contact. However, the group went beyond its social purpose, becoming a platform where the young activists could continue discussing human rights, as well as share ideas, initiatives and calls to action. “It is a space for sharing ideas, getting opinions and feedback about activities they plan…” explains Luisa.
Rita Santos, one of the young activists, explains the importance the group has for her: “we use the WhatsApp group to inform about new initiatives, and also to give feedback about the actions that we are developing in our schools”. According to Guilherme Garcia, the chat group reinforces the strong connection the youth had during the meeting: “we worked so well as a team and many of us were planning to do activities in our own schools, so it was good to get some support and advice”.
The group is also an inspiration to continue acting, to see they aren’t alone. Camila Coelho says “it inspires me to continue to help change the world in the face of human rights that are not respected […], it reminds me of the urgency in solving these problems and of what I can still do”. Inês Leal adds “I felt my voice sound louder and believe that many voices can make a fair, dignified brave world”.