#SeparatedbutUnited - hope of a better future
As the world starts to look towards the social and economic recovery following the global coronavirus pandemic, the lives, rights and wellbeing of a whole generation of young people depends on what comes next. This series of short blog posts on how we build a better future are all written by the Board Members of the European Youth Forum.
Youth activists: looking after our mental health in times of COVID-19
Written by Benjamin Günther
It happened just within a blink of an eye and suddenly the world had changed: at the beginning of March, the lockdown began and with it the entire concept of activism and volunteering as we knew it. Youth rights advocates and civil society actors had to adjust to a new reality that did not only change their daily work and rhythm, but also erased a fundamental trait of advocacy work: personal interaction.
The pandemic affected the daily lives of everyone, and hence we as youth rights activists had to adjust to the new reality like everyone else. For many young volunteers the impact of the pandemic was manifold, since we had to struggle with both our personal future prospects in a massively damaged economy, while we had to worry at the same time for the survival of our youth organisations. The sudden need to worry about one’s own safety while equally safeguarding one’s own organisation has put a lot of stress and mental pressure on us volunteers in the last few months.
As my colleague Tina has pointed out, the future of a more diverse multilateralism is not entirely safe, and we need to continually fight in order to keep our seats at the table and foster a sustainable and liveable future for us and future generations. To accomplish this, we need to look after ourselves as volunteers who are multifacetedly hit by the pandemic.
As activists in youth organisations, we need to ensure the well-being and safety of our volunteers. Only if we do so, we can keep up with our work. For this we need to ensure that the youth sector is not affected by cuts in funding, a reduction of social rights or participation. We need to keep the seat at the table “warm” so that it is still ours once this crisis is over. It might be one of the largest challenges both mentally and structurally for our generation, but it is an opportunity to showcase that we really live what we believe. Let’s look after each other during these difficult times so that the virus of the body will not become a virus of the mind.
Benjamin first got involved with youth organisations in 2010 by joining the young socialists. Starting at local level, he quickly focused on European politics and thereby got involved with international youth work while also doing some local work for JEF. At the European Youth Forum, Benjamin is the Board Member responsible for the inter-regional cooperation of the platform. He is thereby closely cooperating with the Network of Universities and the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe. As part of the platform’s inter-regional cooperation strategy, he is also closely working with the North-South Centre on the planning and conduct of the annual University on Youth and Development. Besides that, he is responsible for the platform’s work on the Eastern Partnership, the Euro-Arab cooperation and the AU-EU Youth Cooperation.