In 2017, FORUM 16 as part of its ongoing efforts to break down and reduce harmful stereotypes, prejudices, and hate speech, was mentored by Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) – Mission to Skopje to implement pilot activities to identify rumours that promote negative stereotypes referring to women, youth, the elderly, Roma and other groups. Because FORUM 16 is a youth organization, we decided to focus on prejudices that refer to young people as “lazy” and “disinterested” in their community.
FORUM 16’s anti-rumour campaign “Glasno sokache- Budno chikmache”* is intended to encourage intergenerational dialogue and mutual respect through volunteer actions to create or restore interesting but overlooked public spaces where neighbours and passers-bymight socialize together. The idea is that young and older people working together to improve neglected locations in our community (narrow or dead-end streets, benches, fountains, etc.) can help to promote an atmosphere of inclusion, tolerance, and understanding. The project will model these desirable qualities in both its methods and its results.
The first action under this project was organised in September and October 2018. A project team was recruited on the basis of a public call and selected to assure a balanced team of younger and older participants willing to work together to improve their community. This team was trained on the role of anti-rumour agents in an ongoing effort to promote a more inclusive and tolerant social environment. FORUM 16 provided mentoring for the team in selecting and implementing their community improvement project.
Following their initial training, the team will work with FORUM 16 and institutional partners to plan a volunteer project to restore a neglected site in the city of Bitola. Sites will be chosen, and specific project plans will be developed, in cooperation with the relevant institutions and local citizens.
Glasno sokache – Budno chikmache is part of FORUM 16’s (ST)ART program to promote human rights through the creative arts. It grew out of the Association’s past anti-hate speech and public art activities and was developed as part of a country-wide effort by OSCE – Mission to Skopje to promote local anti-rumour campaigns. FORUM 16 expects to continue the project on an ongoing basis in cooperation with the relevant institutions and organizations.
*The project name reflects the influence of the Turkish language on the way ideas are expressed in multicultural Bitola. The terms Glasno (Loud) Sokache (diminutive of the Turkish “sokak” -a narrow street or alley) and Budno (Awake) Chikmache (diminutive of the Turkish “chikmak” -a dead-end street) convey the idea of bringing life and activity, “waking up” the smaller places, the nooks and crannies of the city that are easy to overlook but which also reflect its historic charm and friendliness.