Do you want to know about the Cypriot youth society nowadays?
This is indeed an interesting question, but please allow me first to provide you a quick flash back! Back in late 90s and 2000s, things were very different. The majority of youth was mainly focusing on 3 areas: their transformation from students to workers, when and where to build their house and how to create a family. As a matter of fact, youth were very successful in achieving all these 3 things very fast. Apart from this, there was a high rate of political involvement! The possibility of not voting did not even exist! At the same time, only a few non-governmental organizations existed, and they mainly dealt with environment and human rights issues. The majority of youth was either not interested in social involvement or disapproved it!
A couple of years later, things started to change. Thousands of immigrants started arriving in Cyprus seeking for jobs and challenging the stereotypes of society. Moreover, the opening of the check-points and the integration between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots gave society another shock. But, while adults were concerned about the “future” of the nation, the youth started to attend several European Union projects. Projects like “Erasmus” and “Youth” funded by the European Commission, gave the opportunity for young people to travel abroad, see things differently and open their minds.
Student or youth exchanges, voluntary services and job shadowing abroad provided youth a wider scope of thinking. For them, it was the first time to be abroad, or even, the first time to live out of their family context. This contributed a lot in making them more mature, develop their critical thinking and make them more sensitive regarding multicultural backgrounds, diversity and equality. The outcome of this exchange caused a chain reaction. It created many more NGOs and developed tolerance amongst Cypriots. Being different, volunteering, travelling, respecting, peace, dialogue and environmental concerns became the voice of the youth in Cyprus. Their active youth participation has been growing, but at the same time, their political enrolment decreased a lot.
Nowadays, Cypriot youth are facing another problem, which is the growing percentage of unemployment. Due to worldwide economic circumstances, several people run a high risk of losing their jobs, and as far as youth are concerned, things are even worse. This has an impact on the personal development of youth, since there is a delay in their entering the labour market and becoming part of the working force and subsequently it delays their living on their own and creating a family. Nevertheless, youth keep themselves busy while being unemployed with several youth events organised by the NGOs or European Programs such as “Youth in Action”.
Therefore, observing the Cypriot Civil Society over the last years, you cannot avoid noticing the huge change that has taken place. Walking in the streets of Cyprus, you can see youth’s creativity everywhere. No matter if they studied or not, if they are married or not, the majority of them is unique, diverse and tolerant. Even if they are unemployed, there is always a free song concert, free theatre workshops or a street festival they can attend and develop themselves!
– Contributed by Ms. Eleni Michael a past EVS Volunteer.