My Human revolution by Ilaria Esposito

Context of Author

I am the coordinator of the pool of trainers of the Italian youth forum. I am a trainer and policy adviser in the youth field. My major fields of expertise are Human resources management, Human Rights Education, and Education for sustainable development. I was the External Representative at WAGGGS (World association of girl guides and girls scout) and also a Member of the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe. In 2012 – 2013 I acted as Council of Europe, ‘Gender Equality Rapporteur’ ensuring that gender was mainstreamed in the Council of Europe agenda. I am part of the European Platform on Learning Mobility in the Youth Field which aims to increase participation, individual competency development and employability of young people.


Italy and UK


My story is a story of empowerment. I come from a disadvantaged context where youth work and non-formal education have been the powerful tools allowing me to be the person I am today: An activist to promote and protect Human Rights, a social entrepreneur, an educator, a trainer, and a leader. It is a story of transforming adversity through a pioneering spirit.

Story in Full

When I really look back on my life and think about how I welcomed the opportunity to participate in Non-Formal Education activities, I laugh because I didn't have a clue about any of it. When I was 12 I joined a Scout group, my parents saw this as something that would take me out of the disadvantaged neighbourhood we were living in. The youth workers of the CNGEI Scout group were really keen to work with young people living in such areas. The story became more interesting when at 19 years of age I became a youth leader myself in the Scout group, bringing other children in from my neighbourhood. Working in my town I started to nurture my competences, doing things as well as studying about them, always with a seeking spirit of looking at the wider world. At this time I was working on environmental projects with my local group and this gave me the opportunity to think creatively and the motivation to continue studying environmental chemistry and energy management. From 2003 – 2010 I was a researcher in Environmental Chemistry (European Studies on mainstream and side stream tobacco smoke, tobacco plants, and new material related to a smoker’s health).

Eventually I became involved in the international team of my Scout organization. At a certain point I realized that I wanted to communicate with as many people as possible when I was abroad. Participating in international projects was one of the stimulating things that pushed me to keeping studying English.

Of course the more I felt empowered by the things I was doing pro-actively, the more I felt this pioneering spirit which lead me into taking up other commitments. This is why non-formal education brought me to the fascinating fields of youth policies, and the world of National Youth Councils and European Youth Forum. This background gave me the motivation to want to be a part of the work of the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe.

Another interesting aspect for me is that being a part of a volunteer-led and volunteer-involving organization gave me the strength to overcome any adversity. This was the experience I had with WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts). Through the programmes on advocacy and community action, and because of these challenges and adventures, I can now confirm that I am able to function and contribute to the society in which I live.

On a personal and fundamental level I understood through non-formal education that I would always be entitled to make up my own mind and choose what was for me the good and right thing to do, without fearing to share my ideas with others. I can rationally say that this has positively influenced my personal relationships which are based on respect and dialogue and reflect my values as a human being.

When I was 18 years old I was totally aware of what was going on around and inside of me. Decide, start and move forward. Every day. AND every day with greater determination, courage and awareness. It is the path of the one who in the morning gets up and says: "I will do" or "Go!" or "I finally understand, now everything is clearer and I can continue". In this path as a young woman I felt alone, strong and fearless. I decided not to wait.

I decided not to wait until more favourable conditions came along or to wait that others would make the first step for me. Of course, the pioneer is fearless, perhaps sometimes impulsive, but with a great heart she does not recognize borders.

Many names were in my mind when thinking of pioneers. Certainly each of us can fish in our memories different characters linked to the geographic, scientific or technological inventions and discoveries. Or we can think of the teachers who abandoned the well-known and ventured in search of new forms, colours, sounds, and expressions... We could also think of great leaders who fought, often at the cost of their own lives, for human and civil rights. How many people get up in the morning and say: “I will do it, I will begin with ‘me’ and now”. Great history. I am sure that many names and faces will come to mind. However, to my name, my face, I never thought it would be! When in the morning I get up and maybe I am gloomy and thoughtful on tasks which are waiting for me that day, I remember who I really am, where I can truly reach, the strength that resides in me and is waiting to be manifested.

This seeking spirit became a part of me since I engaged in my first non-formal education activity and never stopped. In my 20’s I started to be a non–formal education trainer. I have gained so much in the last ten years of working and volunteering. I tackle issues relating to girls and young women and environmental issues.

I decided to follow my instinct and to bring my voluntary and professional backgrounds together, to find a role where I could use my scientific expertise and my non-formal education experience. I made the choice to leave the company where I was working, I wanted to fulfil my mission in more depth, regardless of the difficulties that I would face during the first months without a salary. I had been a member of the Advisory Council of Youth of the Council of Europe for three years and the Gender Equality rapporteur for two. I started working as Coordinator of the Pool of Trainers of the Italian Youth Council with 15 human resources cooperatively acting together working towards: ‘youth work development and the recognition of youth work and non-formal education’. Now I have my own social business based in the UK, it is called Grassroot. This is taking shape with my activity as youth trainer and policy adviser. It has the scope to work with local communities, basically bringing to the local context what I have done and still do at the European level in terms of projects.

I am convinced that lifelong learning & education are powerful tools, and in this sense, I felt that my choice to spread non-formal education as methodology has been rewarded. Through non-formal education and youth work I have realized that the development of my life was up to me. My choices were to move forward or slide back, to become a leader or simply a follower, to participate positively or not at all. I am now at a point in my life where I can express a sense of responsibility, develop the concept of unity, and create interest in the development of more sustainable ways of living.

One page is not enough to talk about how non-formal education and youth work changed my life, but I can surely say that this has definitely given me a new perception of the world we live in.