In Armenia, youth information portal ERIT.am was created in 2009 with the financial support of the government. It aimed at giving information on youth initiatives and young people’s lives and the challenges they face. Even though it was not a perfect platform, it was providing civil society youth organizations free opportunity to get professional media coverage in both news and photos/videos and was supportive in covering youth issues and new initiatives. Since 2020, the website has not been covering the youth field with its own content. The platform is now just distributing news coming from other news agencies and websites without any special focus on youth matters.
Access to information for youth is out of scope
I started my experience in youth work accidentally; I was also very young and had the so-called life transition when I left my village to study in the city. I was searching for youth spaces and organisations to volunteer and went to several places to collect information. Little by little I started to be involved in different initiatives, began to organise events and activities for young people myself. After some time, I realised that I see myself in the civil society sector and more specifically in youth work. Now I build my work on the needs that I had when I entered this field, as I know people coming after me will have the same issues and problems with the access to information and youth opportunities.
Being the coordinator of Vanadzor InfoTun project (belongs to NGO Center), which works to increase awareness on public participation, I address a big issue of the young people's access to information. In school and university, young people do not get soft skills to use in real life or learn how to search properly and analyse information. The government also does not ensure youth-friendly information and access to it. I see no actions towards establishing the mechanisms of easy and accessible platforms for youth information. When I was 16, I also had issues of reading announcements and not understanding if they were about me. Yet they were about me, and I missed many opportunities then. Young people need to get skills on how to get and understand information from the government agencies, and the formal language of the information should be presented in a more friendly way. Nowadays, the formal language whereby the government is communicating to young people is still all Greek to them.
Young people do not know where to find information. On the other hand, young people are used to ignoring information when they do not understand what it is saying. For instance, we implement projects on youth participation in local self-government bodies. And young people ignore our emails stating they are not interested in that. However, when we reach them personally and inform them that for example, the poorly working city transport is the result of bad decisions and that they can change it, they become interested.
For enhancing youth participation, the state should coordinate youth-related information. Apropos to this, the ERIT.am, the state-funded youth portal was a very important platform to inform about youth opportunities and initiatives. In the past few years even with many challenges, it was operating well, however recently we see that the website is neglected. It should be the first platform for the proper awareness-raising on youth matters from all relevant sectors. There is no institutional approach to this website now. The problem is that the website's functioning is done through a state procurement process. This creates a situation of not spreading information properly. I think this digital platform should be coordinated by knowledgeable and caring professionals from the youth field and not by those who have won this or that tender. From recent experience, we see that the tender-received organization is not really taking responsibility for quality.
We cooperated with ERIT.am actively in 2018 and in 2019. Especially in 2019, when Vanadzor was the youth capital of Armenia, the website started a special series of articles entitled “The Pulse of Vanadzor” presenting stories about active young people from the city bringing publicity to the regional youth. Unfortunately, now the platform is not cooperative, we do not know who’s responsible for the website, how much they are related to the youth field. Now the website does not differ from other news websites: there is no connection to the youth field, most of the publications are taken from other resources, and it does not have its own content. People who are aware of youth work should work there so that they can quickly respond to youth events. This situation shrinks the opportunities of youth CSOs to have government-financed and youth information providing platforms, which would be cooperative and proactive in covering civil society organizations’ news. Unfortunately, NGOs lost the opportunity to present their stories in the united youth platform. The state should revise the operation of the platform in this regard.
Vahe Khachikyan - Youth worker, Project manager at "NGO Center" CSD NGO