Sky over Europe

Kriscina Just
Posted August 12, 2014 from Poland

My Story is about Young people, about Solidarity, about Friendship and about Human Rights especially, but not only in Europe.

I first would like to introduce myself, then my story and my activities and then answer the questions.

Introduction of my person

My Name is Christine Just/ Kriscina. I am now 30 years old, I have a german passport, yet feel german- polish. I learned as a social worker and studied Philosophy and Sociology, Since 14 years I work in exchange work between Eastern- and Western -Europe, since three years I am Human Rights activist/ Human Rights Defender. I work for peace building activities, principles of non violence, and Education about Human Rights.

My story

My family originally is from the Balticumregion, which is now Eastern Germany/ Poland, but I grew up in Southern Germany.

At early times during my school I went for an exchange year to Poland again, and there went to school and learned the polish language. Since that time it has become my second language, i feel at home in Poland. Then I began to work in courses as a social worker for diversity management, working on history and conflict resolution. As studies I chose sociology with a specialization for Intercultural communication, Gender affairs, and sociology of education. Next to this I also studied Philosophy, with a focus on theories of democracy and history of science.

After my studies I recieved a scholarship to Poznan, Poland again to a former House of the polish Solidarnosc Movement. There I very fast was involved in the Human Rights work for Belorussian Human Rights Defenders, that had just escaped from Belarus after the elections.

The Owners of the house did not support us, - their main aim unfortunately was to make money. So we worked alone in these circumstances in Poland with the refugees and helped ourselves. We began very fast to organize ourselves, to hold meetings in a very international team and also documented what happened in Belarus, in Poland and also in Ukraine. We as a team held youth conferences, and exchanged ourselves about our stories, about history, about the different languages, and about our shared hopes for the future.

Since 2011 now, I am actively involved in (Youth) Human Rights Work, through courses, trainings, meetings and also online activism, - and this is how I got the hint for your page.

My work is tightly connected to the work of the belarussian Human Rights Defenders, they helped me with their patience, their knowledge and their friendship, same as my friends from Poland. When I traveled back to Germany, I unfortunately hardly did find understanding what I we were doing, so nevertheless I kept contact to my friends from that time.

Also through internet I found other training courses for democracy, for example in Armenia, „European Youth after dictatorship“ where I met other youth activists for a democratic development in Europe. I held the contact mainly online, and constantly expanded my network, through daily writing, constantly learning, asking, networking, and spreading my own thoughts. Later on also the Euromaidan Movement in Ukraine started which I also closely followed, as it is also a movement that is connected to the Neighbor- Countries Poland and Belarus. As the work is a lot about the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and especially Youth Rights, the young people hold contact a lot through social media. This is especially good as the news are transported fast, communication is made easy and can cross a countries borders, what especially counts for closed up societies. The contacts for this work are especially found among Human Rights Organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, International Youth Human Rights Movement and similar movements, that are also connected to the demonstrants, journalists, scientists, activists, and artists that work in this field. Now I am daily online, like a mediator between the cultures, a bit of Russian/ Belorussian culture in my posts, a lot of polish culture, writing mainly in English and also adding other voices to my work.

I would like to see myself as (female) youth activist between east and west, working for a Europe without dictatorships and for a better and also peaceful understanding. The work is not always easy due to security problems, often a lack of understanding and also a lack of support for the work. I especially would like to point out also the problems women face: they are less represented in political leadership, the press is also often in mens hands, and few of them really help others up. It is still until today a big problem that women in peace building activities are facing much more difficulties to get up, to get acknowledged, to find support or not to get the wrong people around them.

The role of young people for building our societies is of essential importance, and the womens voices must be heard, to bring social change forward.

My work can be found and followed on:

Concerning the questions:

How did the Internet help me:

In Poland I learned from the activists that they used the internet to publish their films, documentations and news trough social media. For example they just filmed what was going on and then did publish this in the net, and it was seen by others and so they could receive also help and funds. The film VIVA BELARUS, which later on was also shown in CANNES and was awarded several film prices is based on a real story which was just filmed by a small came to show what is really going on in that country. From the seminars we also did publish our work in social media and thus attracted attention very fast, people who were asking what was happening. We got connected and planned mainly online. Thus I found out about the power that is also connected to the social media nowadays. But for dealing with it in a responsible way, it is also very important to learn how to use the information in a very careful way, because the internet has become a true alternative to the common media, like TV, Newspapers and Radio. Especially when the official ways in society are blocked through either propaganda or repression, the internet is a real alternative to inform and to spread and thus help to support the freedom of speech especially for those who are normally not given a voice/ not being heard. For example the Initiative „Voices of women worldwide“ of which I am member helps to give the Voices to the Voiceless and to help to promote our messages. In these times information is vital. Especially in times of emergency , whether it is natural or manmade to reach out to the right channels, to inform the right people and to find people that can be trusted in to make help possible effectively is very important. The internet connects us more than ever in these times and has become an important way to spread art, music, thoughts and messages. Especially during times of social change/ (r)- evolution, the Internet plays a very very important role.

About the connection online/ offline:

The connection online/ offline: Online information is very important to have the possibility to fast react to events and top spread the news. For example videos from artists from Russia or also Ukraine are made, and then put in the net to inform fast about the events, as the bureaucracy procedures often need too long to react and to inform about the events. For Human Rights defenders for example online campaigns play an important role- to arise attention and sensibility, to explain the background, to transport the messages. The internet thus means also protection for Human Rights Defenders, as people are being informed about the actions, and about the Human Rights Violations. Especially Camera, Laptop and Internet Connection is very important. This is to inform the people and to document the activities. Therefore attention can be brought forward, and other organisations can be involved/ reached, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the EU or the UN. Then decisions at the Institutional Level can be influenced, to enable peace-building activities, to help to empower Human Rights Defenders and to build up civic society. Based on evidence and on reliable information political decisions can then be made. This means that the sources carefully have to be checked and seen. The people involved, NGOs the activists, the scientists and the politicians can help to empower each other, to help and support each other, this on the long run has a strong influence on the societies we live in. The internet can be used as a tool to influence the people in a good- or in a bad way. I see for example social media as a very good alternative to spread information fast, and without the dependency/ obstacles normally given to access media. Therefore the internet can be used as a tool for a more open communication. The process to inform and to get online is basically the same for everyone,- it does not matter which background, if the person is rich or poor, or known or unknown, everyone can use the internet as a tool. Important still are several points. The first one is internet security, and attention on the use of passwords. The second point that if seen on the large scale still the access rate differs widely between men and women, especially in developing countries. Using the internet requires also literacy, means as basic education is needed to take advantage of the given possibilities. An equal access to education and therefore to literacy is still not given everywhere, especially not for women. In some countries it is also regarded as not appropriate behavior for women to use the net, or to act/ write for themselves. Therefore it is of such a big importance to strengthen the female voice in the internet to show that it is possible, to give an example and to educate how to use the internet for empowerment.

Why is it important to empower women online – how will it help women to transform the world ?

Why is is important ? In the text above I already referred to some problems women nowadays still face. Despite many strides already made in the international women Human Rights movement, women and girls around the world are still often confronted with violations of their Human Rights. These include Human trafficking, deaths reacted to childbirth are needlessly high, women are not allowed to make personal choices for example about their own bodies, about whom to marry or with whom to talk or how to participate in society. Often they are refused access to education, to a secure working place or to higher positions in society for example in political decision making or in the press or the media.

As given in the Millennium Goals by the UN, empowerment of women and girls is one of the main goals. And as this world is more and more connected online it is crucial to make the participation of women online also a way to realize this goal. The access to the internet is, as I already wrote, easier than to other institutions, - therefore it can be used by this more disadvantaged group. If the possibility to write is given (means: access and literacy) then the internet can be used as a way to get also more education and this based on own decisions. And it can also be used as a tool to network and to spread the own cause. This can be done for example on blogs, social media, you tube, radio channels or other possibilities. It gives us the possibility to take part in a society which is often more open,- and more global than often the community we live in. Chances therefore are in the networks that especially address women, and help them with information how to get hep, how to empower themselves and not to depend on the decisions of others.

How will it help to transform the world?

The internet through its possibilities provides a space for women to speak for themselves, especially in situations in which the authorities or the governments fail to protect the women rights appropriately. Women still often lack protection and a save environment, so it is important that women have the possibility to raise their own voices to communicate what should be changed for their own good, but also for the good of their communities and societies. Just by writing and expressing their own situations and feelings, it is a way to peacefully change the world we live in. Especially writing, art, films, music and culture in general is a way to educate people for a better understanding among each other, to express our opinions and to tell our stories and our memories. Thus the internet from my point of view is a very important way to empower especially women. For my own work, the internet plays a very important role, as by using social media like Facebook or twitter I received access to help organisations, I could come in contact or stay in contact with friends far away, and also reach out to people that really gave me hope, when I thought there was none anymore. The participation in this is thus important to me, as it helped me to see more possibilities than I had seen before or than were offered to me by the traditional ways. I feel that I get supported and get help, where otherwise the help was denied. As I was taught also by other activists, I am now using the internet as a tool to spread information about Human Rights, to tell stories about my live and the one of others, to bring forward social change. Right now the uprising in Ukraine and also the protest movement in Russia, where many people face harsh repressions it is very important to strengthen especially the young people. Not only in these countries but in other regions as well, all across Europe especially the young people suffer from a lack of a real perspective, from traditional role patterns or from a lack of real participation. On the other hand it is them, who grew up with the new technologies and are using them as a possibility to spread their messages, their wishes for peace and for democratization. The Internet can thus be a tool for spreading awareness, to organize change, to get advise. It can help to work independently and to decide and speak for ourselves. At the end I would like to quote Kofi Annan about the Role of the young people: "Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace." -Kofi Annan. This counts especially for women as they play a key role for their communities.

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Comments 3

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Aug 19, 2014
Aug 19, 2014

Thank you, Kriscina, for your article. I'm very impressed by your background and your dedication to human and women's rights. It looks like you have achieved a lot and are committed to bringing about change in Europe by raising awareness about human rights violations in certain countries and the need to mobilize and encourage people to speak out against abuses and injustices. I completely agree with you that the internet is a powerful resources that has enabled women to seek out help, inform, educate themselves and connect with other women, particulatly in cultures where their voices are suppressed and they are not granted same rights as men. There are so many opportunities for them to learn about their rights and about ways of seeking guidance and support from networks and movements. I wish you all the best in your work! Lea

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Aug 22, 2014
Aug 22, 2014

Good work Kriscina, You have surely done well and we so proud of you. Please continue to use ict tools to advocate for what you believe in. Stay blessed my dear and continue with the good work.

Aug 28, 2014
Aug 28, 2014

Thank you for this detailed tapestry of your experiences and passions, Kriscina! You're clearly very well connected and have lived a lot of life in your life! : )

I'm appreciative of your candor about propaganda and repression and how the internet can serve as a way of allowing independent voices like yours to ring out and be heard.

Thank you for your leadership for young people and especially young women in the world!

Best wishes from an American sister, Kristie