Education is key to fight discrimination and lead to a lasting change in our daily lives. The digital learning tool and the policy recommendations developed as part of the EU project Smart for Democracy and Diversity aims to contribute to this change.
They were both presented at the project final event that we organised in Brussels on 15 June 2023.
Supported by seven partner organisations from six European countries, the EU-funded project Smart for Democracy and Diversity (SDD) aims to promote an inclusive society by developing learning materials for adult education. It addresses learners, adult educators and policy makers, with a view to initiate change at individual level and impact change at societal level.
The final event of the project last June presented the outcomes of the 3-year project: an interactive game and EU and national policy recommendations, including good practices. This was also the opportunity to discuss how discrimination may impact different marginalised groups who may be at the intersection of different forms of discriminations such as older lesbians.
Everydayness, invisibility, and non-intentionality as the key characteristics of hate speech
Despite the European Union being founded on the ‘values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities’, hate speech has increased in Europe, as highlighted Bob Kuřík and Jan Charvát, both Assistant Professors from Charles University in Prague. Being targeted in online speech not only affects offline settings but also deepens inequality that cumulates across the life-course. In addition, research has mainly focused on the perpetrators’ perspectives in different sectors including in academic, the media and the police. This contributes to invisibilise the victims and their lived experiences. This is why Bob Kuřík and Jan Charvát conducted 41 interviews that allowed us to draft the SDD compendium to collect testimonies of persons who have faced discrimination.
The long-lasting effects of hate speech are many: loss in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, normalisation of hatred, and isolation.
The SDD game as a way to tackle discrimination at different levels
The SDD interactive game presents the perspectives and experiences of people at risk of discrimination, including ageism, racism, and sexism and invites players to reflect on their own unconscious bias. During project final event, Jesper Schulze from ISIS presented the learning approach of the game. Offering a free digital game on the issue of discrimination is interesting for persons who may not be interested in physical, participatory workshops. It can also target a broad range of stakeholders, including geographically (the game is available in English, German, Dutch, Czech, Portuguese, Italian, and French). Additionally, partners within the SDD project also created training material and drafted policy recommendations that are available to all on the SDD website.
When addressing the issue of discrimination and hate speech, it is necessary that people who face sexism, racism, queerphobia, antisemitism, anti-Muslim racism, anti-Roma racism, and/or ageism are heard and their lived experiences not invisibilised. The game is based on testimonials from persons who have experienced discrimination and has been developed jointly with them. Although the characters in the game are virtual, their stories are taken from real persons, which invites the players to develop their empathy. The empathetic approach of the game helps us to reflect on our own biases and internalised stereotypes and invites us to understand that one’s word and/or action may hurt the others. As such, it aims to reduce the gap within oneself and others.
All of us are biased, with some internalised ideas and stereotypes. The SDD game invites us to start a process of self-reflection that may be emotional and challenging but necessary if we want to bring societal change.
Jesper Schulze, Institut für Soziale Infrastruktur GmbH (ISIS)
Older lesbians at the intersection of ageism and lesbophobia
In her closing speech, Ilaria Todde, Advocacy and Research Director of the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community (EL*C) referred to EL*C recent report on “Making the Invisible Visible: an Analysis of Older Lesbians Lived Experiences”. The report is very much linked with the SDD project as it aims to give visibility to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that older lesbians face during their life-course.
Overall, older lesbians face discrimination in various fields: employment (which directly affects their pensions), healthcare systems, and housing. Echoing Bob Kuřík and Jan Charvát, Ilaria emphasized the importance of collecting data on older lesbians and their lived experiences. Furthermore, it is important to train professionals who may be in contact with older lesbians. Finally, fostering intergenerational solidarity between younger and older persons.
Tackling discrimination in Europe: the way forward
Tackling discrimination is a responsibility of all of us. If it starts at the level of the individual via self-reflection and questioning of our own biases, policymakers have a huge role to play in addressing it. This is why Sergio Andreis from Lunaria was the last speaker and presented the policy recommendations developed by the consortium. The recommendations were made at European and national levels and include good practices.
Building an equal society, where everyone could enjoy their human rights free of discrimination, is a long journey, which the SDD game can only initiate. However, we are confident that the game will promote critical thinking and invite players – learners in adult education, adult educators, third-sector organisations, and policymakers – to self-reflect and bring change.
And what about you? The journey starts with ourselves…
Interested in playing the SDD game? You can click here.
For more information on the SDD project and our work on discrimination, you can contact our Humnan Rights Officer, Apolline Parel, firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Treaty on European Union, Article 2, 2012, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:2bf140bf-a3f8-4ab2-b5…