Dana Pourkomeylian grew up in one of the most segregated areas of Gothenburg, segregated in the sense that there were not many other immigrant families living there. Racism and bullying were part of her everyday life. When Dana was nine, her little sister was born, and the injustices became even more evident. She promised herself that her little sister would never have to experience them.
Dana became involved in the student council, became chairperson of the debating society, involved herself in party politics and was also behind Sweden’s largest voluntary sector student fair in 2012. It was in her party political work, however, that Dana met the type of exclusion, sexual inequality, that has moulded her into the person she is today.
– It was so clearly visible in both the party’s youth wing and in the party itself, and I devoted the last two years of my involvement there to working for sexual equality and for other girls’ rights within the party. In the end it became impossible, as my party positions were taken away from me as a result of what was seen as insubordination, says Dana.
Dana chose to give up her party political work, but only after she had given a speech about the shortcomings of the youth wing. Once she had left the party, she was left with her passion for issues of both exclusion and equality, but with no forum in which she could express this passion. It was then that a friend from upper secondary school got in touch and told her about an idea he’d had to start a politically unaligned think tank for children and youths.
– A lot of our friends wanted to get more involved in politics, but didn’t necessarily want to get tied to a political party or ideological programme. The system itself seemed to be defective, because how are you supposed to be able to take an objective, well-considered decision about your own political identity if there is no impartial information available to start with?
In the spring of 2013, they started the organisation U.T.O.P.I. (which stands for Unga för Tolerant Opartisk Politisk Interaktion – young people for tolerant impartial political interaction). Today they have physically involved over 2,000 young people in political activities, reached 300 members and have come second in the Sveriges Ungdomsentreprenör (Sweden’s youth entrepreneurs) competition.
You have created a forum of your own where you can express your passion for political participation. Do you have any tips for other young people who want to get involved but who don’t know how to get started?
– Don’t be scared, because there’s nothing to be afraid of. The worst that can happen is that somebody says no, and a no never makes you weaker. It makes you stronger. Have you got an idea? Fantastic! Have you got a friend who wants to get involved? Even better! Sit yourselves down and produce some magic! Good things come to those who have the courage to believe in their potential and in their dreams. It won’t be easy, it never is as a rule, but you will learn and you will get better. One day you will have become so good that you will see the difference you have made for other people and for yourself. That moment is beyond price, and it is worth battling for.
Would you like to know more about U.T.O.P.I.? Check out their website by clicking the link below!
Text: Lucella Bergström