In Sweden, right wing extremist parties have gained public support in the last few years. Anti-refugee and anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise, and there is increased polarization among different socio-economic, ethnic and religious groups. While Sweden remains a wealthy country, impoverished pockets in the inner cities, inhabited predominantly by immigrants, still exist. In these communities which are typically segregated from surrounding areas, the average income is significantly lower than the national level, unemployment, crime and gun violence are high and organized criminal groups maintain a strong presence. Most young people in these areas struggle to find positive role models.
It is in this context that Speak Truth to Power’s Swedish partner, Fryshuset, has worked to bring STTP to students throughout the country. Established in 1984, Fryshuset aims to “allow young people to change the world through their passions and create communities where young people are seen, heard and counted.” With a specific focus on “young people….who live in exclusion,” Fryshuset is driven by a corp belief that “everybody can succeed and…[is] worth a chance.”
Building off of this mission and recognizing the power of human rights education (HRE) to inform and engage young people, STTP and Fryshuset are expanding their partnership to integrate HRE into Fryshuset’s existing Young Ambassadors program. Targeting ages 19-25, the current program engages young people who want to make a difference in their communities by building on their capacity as strong role models to younger kids who share common backgrounds and experiences. Over the course of their participation in the program, Young Ambassadors receive information on and experience in a variety of topics crucial to effective leadership, including conflict resolution, democratic principles, human rights, campaign and organizational skills, political participation, argumentation and rhetorical skills. By educating and empowering this group to become champions of justice, non-violence, equality and humanity, the Young Ambassadors program is making a long-lasting impact on communities in Sweden.
In this exciting new project, STTP Lead Educator, Aygül Kabaca, who has trained teachers throughout Sweden, will spearhead the integration of the STTP education model into the Young Ambassadors program. By learning from and engaging with the stories of human rights defenders featured in STTP, the Young Ambassadors will become well-versed in human rights as they apply to their communities and beyond, while also discovering the role that they can play in defending human rights standards. As they participate and lead public events on creating positive change in their communities through a human rights lens, the Young Ambassadors will enhance their ability to mobilize their counterparts to counteract social injustice and its manifestations.