The Final Conference ‘Preventing Gender-Based Violence Among Youth in the Post-COVID Era: Let’s REBOOT!’ took place on January 25th, 2024, at the European Parliament and online, to address the pressing issue of gender-based violence (GBV) among youth in the post-COVID era and share the results of the project REBOOT NOW. The event was hosted by MEP Alessandra Moretti, S&D Group.
Maria Elli Doufexi Kaplani, the project manager of KMOP, welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of enhancing mental health to prevent GBV among young people, especially since they are at an age when their interpersonal skills and relationships are formed.
MEP Sergei Stanishev, S&D Group, highlighted the important role of NGOs at European and national level in efforts to prevent and combat such phenomena, drawing from the example of ANIMUS Association Foundation located in Bulgaria. Cloé Saint-Nom, CESIE’s Rights & Justice Unit Coordinator, introduced the core aspects of the project, along with the rationale behind the initiative and the methodology followed.
Dr. Emma Mesikämmen, the Director of the Research & Development Division of Hope for Children, initiated the first panel, focusing on gender-based violence among youth. Dr Marija Babovic, Social Researcher - UN Women, presented the results of the ground-breaking research on ‘The dark side of digitalisation: Technology-facilitated violence against women in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’. She emphasised key recommendations for prevention and response, including the improvement of legal and policy instruments and conducting whole-of-society prevention strategy. Francesca Barbino, Project Manager at CESIE, delved into the bottom-up approach followed within the REBOOT NOW project and the importance of involving young people in such initiatives. Blaž Lenarčič, assistant professor and senior research associate in ZRS Koper, shared the main results of the baseline data collection on young people’s perceptions and experiences of GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blaž Lenarčič introduced the second panel focusing on youth’s mental health. Elizabeth Gosme, Director of COFACE Families Europe, introduced the importance of family as a crucial first setting for mental health and the school environment as a community that can contribute to the prevention and tackling of violent behaviors. She further presented the Link Education Programme, run by COFFACE Families Europe and KMOP Education Hub, which provides practical tools for educators to support bullying prevention and intervention. Nadia Kozhouharova, ANIMUS’ project manager, continued with the importance of training educators on students’ mental health and their important role in supporting children in overcoming negative feelings and experiences. Valeria Puletti, education researcher at FCSVM, presented the paradigm of Wellbeing Festivals as a good practice that can be implemented in schools to empower students and raise awareness on different themes, including gender equality and emotional well-being.
Ms. Andrea-Fotini Hadjiconstantinou, project manager at Hope for Children, chaired the third panel, in the context of which representatives of the project’s Youth Advisory Boards established at national level shared their own experiences. Young people elaborated on the different activities they implemented and the exciting experiences they shared, and pointed out that ‘we should work with youth, for youth’.
The final panel focused on the REBOOT NOW footprint and the various activities this initiative entailed. Marina Natsia, researcher from KMOP, presented the rationale for the platform and the online booking system. Nadia Kozhouharova provided the details of the counseling service established within the project, and Valeria Puletti focused on the project’s campaign and awareness-raising actions.
MEP Alessandra Moretti, S&D Group, closed the conference by highlighting the importance of continuing advocating and working towards gender equality. She acknowledged the work of NGOs and underscored that all actors need to cooperate, concluding that initiatives should start from top to bottom.