Brussels Youth Take Action: "BXL Votes for EU: GenZ in Action" Empowers Young Voters

By Miguel Suárez 


In a powerful initiative to equip young people for civic engagement, EQUAMA, with the support of the European Parliament, partner associations and individual Brussels citizens, successfully concluded the "BXL Votes for EU: GenZ in Action" project. This groundbreaking program targeted first-time voters in the Brussels region, empowering them to actively participate in the recent 2024 European Elections.

With Belgium lowering its minimum voting age to 16 for the European Elections, the "BXL Votes for EU: GenZ in Action" project addressed a crucial need. Recognizing the potential and enthusiasm of young citizens, the program aimed to bridge the knowledge gap and foster informed participation of this specific demographic group in the democratic process. As acknowledged by EQUAMA’s team and the European Institutions, youth and teenagers are usually the age cohort with the lowest percentage of participation of the whole European population. A strong democracy thrives on inclusivity, and youth participation is essential for achieving this. Young people bring fresh perspectives and innovative approaches to the table, acting as catalysts for tackling complex issues. As the generation most impacted by decisions made today, their voices are crucial in shaping policies that consider the future they will inherit. Their involvement ensures that the needs and concerns of a diverse population are heard, fostering a more representative government. Ultimately, youth participation strengthens the democratic process by making it more responsive, innovative, and truly inclusive, so it was a goal of the team to ensure that everything was done in order to improve these low figures in participation trends.

To do so, the project directly involved 250 students from five schools around different neighborhoods in Brussels and with different socioeconomic backgrounds: four french-speaking (Institute Dames de Marie, Athénée Royal Crommelynck, Athénée Royal d’Ixelles and Athénée Jean Absil) and one dutch-speaking (Sint Guido Instituut), in this case,  immersing them in the world of the European Union through engaging activities. The idea behind the program was to teach these pupils to become “ambassadors” who could share their knowledge with other teenagers and young adults, maximizing the project's impact. Students participated in meticulously crafted simulations of European Parliament committees and plenary sessions. These simulations took place both within their own schools and culminated in a final assembly at the actual European Parliament building, bringing them all together to share and discuss the results of each of their own simulations. Inside a real meeting room, students had the opportunity to act as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for a day. This hands-on experience provided them with a firsthand understanding of the legislative process, fostering a deeper connection with European affairs and empowering them to see their potential role in shaping EU policies.

Apart from these formations as main activities, a big amount of work on social media promotion has also been carried out. The account @BXL4EU, present in different platforms, provided over 100 publications between posts, histories, videos, EP explainers and other formats, all of them with the intention of informing first-time voters, but also other European citizens, and ensuring their participation in the European Elections with an informed and well-thought out vote.

Following these in-school activities and the social media campaigns, the project witnessed a remarkable transformation. Students transitioned from enthusiastic participants to empowered "project ambassadors." Equipped with newfound knowledge and a surge of civic responsibility, they were encouraged to collaborate and develop their own voter awareness initiatives. These initiatives showcased the students' creativity and dedication to a more informed electorate. Social media campaigns highlighting the importance of voting buzzed with activity, while thought-provoking debates on relevant topics engaged their peers and sparked meaningful conversations within schools and communities.

The project culminated in a vibrant "Festival of Democracy:" a dynamic event that took place at the wonderful “Station Europe” space that brought together participating students, NGOs, policy-makers, and local residents. This celebratory gathering served as a testament to the power of youth activism and civic engagement, and it also gave the opportunity for the participants to talk to some representatives from the groups, share impressions and translate their demands. It provided a platform for young people to showcase their creativity, the skills they had honed throughout the project, and the impactful results of their voter awareness initiatives. The Festival of Democracy fostered a sense of community and highlighted the positive impact young people can have on shaping a stronger Europe.

The "BXL Votes for EU: GenZ in Action" project leaves behind a legacy of empowered young citizens. The project's success can be measured not only by the immediate impact on voter awareness but also by the lasting skills participants developed. Some of the figures that show the success of the project and confirm the intended impact include a total amount of 7603 accounts reached by the main account just on Instagram, with more than 11.000 interactions counting views, comments and likes in this account. Considering the accounts created by participants in the project, like for example @eu.parliament.memes @eu.meps.quizzz and the collaboration with the influencer Noah Bundula (@asckipe) these figures round up to over 150.000 total interactions in the publications and more than 10.000 followers to all the accounts related to the program and the European Elections 2024. 

From a more qualitative perspective, participants gained valuable knowledge about the European institutions, fostering a generation of informed and engaged citizens who are prepared to actively participate in the democratic process and contribute to a stronger EU. They developed critical thinking, public speaking, and written communication skills through debates, report writing, and policy proposal creation. These valuable skills will equip them to navigate complex issues, express their ideas effectively, and become active participants in society.

The project equipped students with the tools and confidence to launch their own impactful campaigns. This experience nurtured their sense of agency and empowered them to become positive agents of change within their communities. Students from diverse backgrounds participated in the program, providing valuable opportunities to connect, learn, and collaborate with peers from different cultures and languages. This fostered a sense of understanding and respect for different perspectives, preparing them to engage in a globalized world.

The "BXL Votes for EU: GenZ in Action" project serves as a model for empowering young people to become active participants in European democracy. The project's success underscores the importance of equipping young citizens with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to engage in meaningful dialogue and contribute to shaping a more inclusive and participatory European Union. As Europe looks towards the future, the project's legacy lies in its empowered young citizens, a generation prepared to take charge and actively shape the future of the European Union.