“I’m changing Europe!”
In 2021, Siuntion nuorisovaltuusto became the Finnish Youth Council of the Year. The municipality of Siuntio itself received a certificate for Youth Council Friendly Municipality that sale year.
Youth councils are youth groups that represent the views of young people at the local level. Essi Hyvärinen, Chair of the Siuntio Youth Council, considers youth councils as a soft start for politics and decision-making. Being on the council encourages young people to participate and teaches them about making decisions and municipal activities. Various events are organised to meet local young people and hear from the ones not in the council. The council has also carried out initiatives to promote youth issues in the municipality.
“Thinking wildly and freely is the key to success, as well as participating actively in committee meetings and raising young people’s issues”, says Essi. “It’s important that we respond to requests for our opinions with all young people and their needs in mind. By doing all this, we show the decision-makers that we are interested.”
The youth council is only one part of youth work services in Siuntio. Other services include the youth café. This is based on the Walkers concept, in which adult volunteers work alongside with youth work professionals. Siuntio Youth services also produces outreach youth work, youth work at schools, and workshop activities, among others. All the activities are provided bilingually in Finnish and Swedish.
“Young people are the decision-makers and adults of the future”, says Jonna. “Their future is being decided today, so it’s important that young people have a say in the decisions. Youth participation is also important for ensuring that no one is left alone and that everyone can feel a part of society.”
According to the board of the Siuntio Youth Council, involving and consulting citizens of all ages provides a more diverse range of information on issues. The board encourages all young people to participate the way they feel comfortable. “It’s never too late to get involved and make a difference!”
This text was written by Anni-Leena Alanen, intern for The Finnish National Agency for Education.