Lillehammer, Norway

4 June 2025

Welcome to the WEXFO Youth Network Conference, where we bring together organizations, stakeholders and voices from around the world to promote young people’s participation in society.

This full-day event in Lillehammer serves as a vital extension of the main World Expression Forum (WEXFO). Our focus is on youth freedom of expression, and we invite you to join us in discussing this crucial topic and connecting with others in the field.

Here’s what you can expect at the conference:

  • Platform for cooperation: The WEXFO Youth Network Conference provides a unique platform for cooperation, coordination and knowledge dissemination specifically related to youth freedom of expression. We aim to facilitate exchanges and shared experiences, addressing the challenges faced by young individuals to express themselves freely.
  • Sharing of insights: Our common goal is to empower young voices. Throughout the day, a diverse range of stakeholders will openly share their experiences and insights from relevant projects. This includes both successful approaches and valuable lessons learned.
  • Assessing the current state: Experts and young people themselves will actively contribute to assessing the current state of youth freedom of expression. Their perspectives will help shape our understanding and drive positive change.

WEXFO Youth Network Conference takes place at Scandic Lillehammer Hotel and is open for everyone interested in youth freedom of expression. Participation is free of charge – sign up by submitting the form below or sending an email to hilde@wexfo.no.

2024 Program

08.45-09.00 Registration
9.00-9.20 Welcome, Introduction and Cultural Feature

Introduction by WEXFO with speech by State Secretary Even Aleksander Hagen. Carlos Egaña will read his poem Völkerwanderung.

Hagen has political experience within the AUF/Arbeiderpartiet in Oppland and Innlandet. Eight years as a county mayor, and sixteen years as an elected representative in the county council. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, completed coursework in Nordic language and literature, and has a teaching qualification (PPU). Additionally, he possesses management competence from BI.

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/even-aleksander-hagen/

Carlos Egaña (1995) is a New York–based Venezuelan writer. He recently earned his MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish at New York University. He has also taught courses on Gender Studies and Modern North American Fiction at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He has three books in Spanish in print: a novel titled “Reggaetón” (Ediciones Puntocero, 2022) and two poetry collections, “hacer daño” (Oscar Todtmann Editores, 2020) and “Los Palos Grandes (dcir ediciones, 2017).” He published a chapbook (mostly) in English with Bottlecap Press titled “contra América” in 2023 as well. Egaña has written about fine arts, Latin-American politics and pop culture for various Venezuelan and American publications.

Photo: Satoshi Tsuchiyama

9.20-12.00 Youth Freedom of Expression – The Kids Are Not All Right!

The session builds on Tuesday’s breakout session, which had the same theme and title. In this session, we delve deeper into the subject and hear presentations from young experts from different countries, industries, and fields of interest. You do not need to have participated in Tuesday’s breakout session to participate here.

We have got graphic designer Siv Beate Farstad to illustrate the sessions. Her drawings will be made available and will play an essential role in a comprehensive note and summary of youth’s freedom of expression today.

Siv Beate Farstad holds a degree in Visual Communication from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO), and has extensive experience in designing and developing visual identities for businesses and packaging. She has previously worked for renowned agencies and now operates her own firm, Morild Design, based in Lillehammer, where she functions as a designer, illustrator, and copywriter. Through her work, Siv has received numerous national and international awards, and she finds equal joy in small creative tasks as she does in larger projects. The inspiration lies in finding joy in the process while also contributing to positive change, creating new opportunities, and building a better society.

9.20-9.30 The Kids Are Not All Right: Summary of Tuesday's Break Out Session on Youth Freedom of Expression

Arizza Nocum, who moderated Tuesday’s panel discussion on youth freedom of expression, will summarize it so that this conference’s discussion can build on it.

Arizza is the Co-Founder and President of KRIS, a non-profit organization that promotes peace through education and youth leadership in the Philippines. KRIS has trained and educated over 1,000 Filipino youth leaders on peacebuilding, supported hundreds of youth organizations in their initiatives for education and development through seed grants and assistance, and reached millions through online and offline information campaigns on preventing and countering violent extremism. In 2021, KRIS was recognized as one of Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) in the Philippines and received the YouthLED Democracy Award from The Asia Foundation. Arizza is also one of ten young leaders selected by the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to eradicate violent extremism through the global Extremely Together initiative. For her work, Arizza was awarded as one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines and one of five global recipients of Zonta International’s Young Women for Public Affairs Award. She has also been inducted to Tatler Asia’s Gen. T List as one of Asia’s most promising young leaders. She is also the Managing Director of DIGInspire, a communications agency providing strategic marketing services to top organizations across diverse industries in the Philippines. DIGInspire has led campaigns promoting new methods of farming, responsible tourism, health and nutrition, children’s rights, and more.

9.30-11.20 What Is the Status of Youth Freedom of Expression in the Light of Young Experts' Experiences and Work in the Field? (including 20 min break)

Many young people experience limitations to their freedom of expression, and studies show that freedom of expression is facing new and increasing challenges. Several young individuals feel they are not heard or taken seriously because of their age. They may encounter harassment and hateful speech, and many reside in countries where freedom of expression is under pressure. Surveys indicate, among other things, an increased risk for journalists in certain states, and the right to protest has been restricted for many. To learn more about the current state of young people’s freedom of expression, we have invited young experts from various countries to discuss youth freedom of expression in light of their work:

Ewura Adams Karim (Ghana): The intersection of youth expression, community leadership, and the transformative power of theatre.

Ewura Adams Karim`s presentation will explore the intersection of youth expression, community leadership, and the transformative power of theatre. He will discuss the challenges faced by young people in expressing themselves within their communities, and how theatre serves as a catalyst for social change. Drawing from examples and case studies, he will highlight the impact of youth-led theatre initiatives on raising awareness and fostering community engagement in Ghana.

Ewura Adams Karim has a decade of experience in the media, performing arts and social entrepreneurship space in Ghana and beyond.

Currently, Ewura is the co-founder and Executive Director of Maltiti Foundation, a non-profit that has made huge impact in the lives of women and girls living in deprived communities in Ghana by providing them with dignifying economic opportunities in the areas of agriculture, vocational skill development, education, health and nutrition. He’s also the Co-founder of Accra Food Bank, a development consultant, a board member of the Ghana Youth Awards, a 2023 Obama Africa Leader and a 2024 Mandela Washington Fellow.

Ewura holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Ghana, a Certificate in Creative Activism from the Centre for Artistic Activism, USA, a Master of Arts in International Relations and Diplomacy from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Law from the University of Ghana Law School.

Ewura is a multi-talented media personality, performing artist and serial social entrepreneur who has been actively involved in youth and community leadership and development and is passionate about and committed to the development of youth and women in Ghana.

Judith Hoffmann (Germany): From the Future Parliament to the Freedom of Expression Week – How the German Publishers Association Group is fostering a culture of open debate. 

Freedom of expression is our greatest asset, and the publishing industry is at the heart of preserving it. In countries where book bans are effective, we can see how they impact the lives of young people – silencing important voices, suppressing representation of the LGBTQ+ community and more.

Thus, defending freedom of expression is one of our core missions. Our campaigns and initiatives raise public awareness that freedom of expression is central to the success of a free, democratic society. We also work to help persecuted authors, publishers and booksellers around the world.

Judith Hoffmann is Manager of Further Education and Int’l Projects at Mediacampus Frankfurt, a subsidiary of the German Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association. Here her two favorite topics–the book industry and education–come together. She supports companies in the industry in qualifying their employees and in internal personnel development.

Atta Khaled (Egypt): Highlighting Personal Experience, Statistics, and Challenges Associated with Freedom of Expression

“Hello, I am Atta Khaled, a 23-year-old Palestinian-Egyptian youth activist. I was born and raised in Gaza, the largest open-air prison in the world, where I have been deprived of my right to freedom of expression due to a lack of democracy and the ongoing political division in Palestine. In November 2022, I was interrogated because of my activism for youth’s civic and political empowerment. In December 2023, It was the first time in my 23 years to vote in elections, thanks to holding Egyptian nationality, and in January 2024, it was the first time in my life to participate in a protest, it was in Houston, Texas.

In my speech, I will reflect upon my work as a youth leader at the Youth Advisory Panel, a community lead at the MENA coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security, and as a social networking coordinator at the Social Developmental Forum (SDF) highlighting personal experience, statistics, and challenges associated with freedom of expression.”

Carlos Egaña from (Venezuela): Migrating expressions / Expressing migration

Photo: Satoshi Tsuchiyama

Why do so many people – especially young adults – flee Venezuela every day? What role has censorship had behind this? How have Venezuelan migrants expressed what they could not back home in their new environments? In this presentation, Carlos Egaña will go over these questions as he reflects about his experiences in Caracas and in New York, as well as those of his peers and varying contemporary literary and artistic expressions from his compatriots.

Carlos Egaña (1995) is a New York–based Venezuelan writer. He recently earned his MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish at New York University. He has also taught courses on Gender Studies and Modern North American Fiction at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He has three books in Spanish in print: a novel titled Reggaeton (Ediciones Puntocero, 2022) and two poetry collections, hacer daño (Oscar Todtmann Editores, 2020) and Los Palos Grandes (dcir ediciones, 2017). And he has written about fine arts, Latin-American politics and pop culture for various Venezuelan and American publications. In his last year of college, Egaña was one of Venezuela’s main student leaders amidst the 2019 presidential crisis.

Kalpana Ambedkar (India): Caste in India Cinema from a Dalit Woman Perspective

Photo: Kabilan Soundararajan

Kalpana Ambedkar is a post-graduate in MBA and a filmmaker, music enthusiast, and social worker from the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Over the last many years, she has been working on issues concerning social justice and the economic welfare of marginalised communities such as the Dalits (untouchables) and Adivasis in rural Tamil Nadu. Additionally, she is the first woman to enter the Tamil film industry from a Dalit Arunthathiyar community, which is at the bottom of the caste hierarchy in India. Through filmmaking, she would like to amplify the stories of the Dalits and their culture. She intends to be a testimony for resistance and perseverance in a hierarchical caste society like India, where opportunities and the presence of Dalits are met with barriers.

Lachmi Baniya from (Myanmar): Complexities of Youth’s Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

Lachmin Baniya, the co-founder and CMO of Icarus Group of Companies, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 21 with minimal resources. Over the past decade, she has amassed valuable experience in conceptualizing and executing a range of media and marketing ventures in Myanmar. Central to her vision is the empowerment of individuals through impactful content. Under Lach’s guidance, Icarus Media Group manages Icarus Marketing – a marketing agency dedicated to crafting bespoke strategies for companies to achieve success in media and marketing endeavors – and Icarus Media Labs – a social enterprise focused on media innovation. Since its inception in 2023, IML has launched five digital media products, all rooted in a commitment to social impact.

Rijve Arefin (Bangladesh): The Kids Are Not Alright: A Look at Silenced Youth in Authoritarian Regimes


Rijve Arefin is a highly skilled and experienced professional in the field of community development and
youth activism. He is the Co-Founder of the global non-profit Awareness 360, through which he is
empowering young people in 40+ countries in the Global South to advance the UN global goals. Rijve’s
dedication to youth advocacy has soared to unprecedented heights since assuming the esteemed
position of Vice Chairperson of the Commonwealth Students Association, the world’s largest student
organization, representing over 640 million young minds. He has a stellar track record of success, having
established multiple award-winning social enterprises and receiving numerous accolades for his work.
This includes being named a Forbes 30 Under 30 and a Featured Honoree for Social Impact, as well as
being the recipient of the prestigious Diana Award. With a background as an Advisor to the United
Nations Global Compact’s Target Gender Equality Programme, Rijve is an exemplary advocate of gender
equality. He is also a US State Department Alumnus, a TEDx Curator, a Royal Commonwealth Society
Fellow, a UNDP Youth Co:Lab Fellow, a member of the Climate Action Champions Network, Plenary Lead
and International Taskforce Member of the last Commonwealth Youth Forum, a Global Youth
Ambassador of Theirworld UK.

Grace Franco (Australia): Protest and Proclaim: What is Free Speech in Student Movements?

For decades, students have been at the heart of progressive change. From queer rights to anti-war, anti-apartheid and free speech movements, students have taken to the streets to protest the wrongs they see. Now, we are witnessing waves of student-led actions around the globe. Grace Franco will examine how students have mobilised and barriers they face, particularly in relation to the student-led Pro-Palestine in the USA and Australia.

Grace Franco (she/her) is currently a Steering Committee Member at the Global Student Forum and the National Education Officer for the National Union of Students Australia. She resides on Kaurna Country (Adelaide, South Australia), where she studies Law and International Relations at the University of Adelaide. Grace is a Narungga woman; her lived experience provides a deeply sad but unique outlook, giving her the ability to empathise with people who are struggling with the effects of systemic inequality and who are fighting for equal representation. Grace’s Indigenous heritage empowers her to advocate for the rights of Indigenous students. She also advocates for women’s rights, climate action, and the right to education. Grace is honoured to utilise her platforms through amplifying the voices of people and students from minority backgrounds.

Unumunkh Jargalsaikhan (Mongolia): Do Not Be Afraid to Exercise Your Freedom of Expression

As citizens, if we neglect the significance of freedom of expression, it becomes susceptible to suppression. The threat against this freedom perpetually lurks, whether overt or covert. With this presentation, we will explore into the challenges facing freedom of expression in Mongolia, a nation often praised as a champion of democracy in Central Asia, and how the youth put up a fight against the injustice in a peaceful and artistic way.

Unumunkh Jargalsaikhan from Mongolia works as a Monitoring and Evaluation manager and fact-checker at Nest Center NGO an organization that aims to create sustainable media for Mongolia that serve the information rights of the public. The NGO operates Mongolian Fact-checking Center /first and only IFCN signatory in Mongolia/ which is an independent fact-checking operation that aims to take proactive and reactive actions to combat misinformation in Mongolia and Kazakhstan. He campaigned for the abolishment of Article 13.14 in the Mongolian criminal code, which is used against journalists and social activists who express dissent or criticism of the government. Additionally, at GlobalFact 10 in Seoul this past June, he participated in a panel discussion concerning how governments across the world curbing freedom of expression and media freedom by using disinformation as an excuse and explained how the Mongolian government tried to exert control over social media. Aspiring trainer specialized in fact-checking, worked on Mongolian translations of “Verification Handbook III” by Craig Silverman, “INFORMAL POLITICS IN POST-COMMUNIST EUROPE” by Michal Klima, “Journalism, ‘Fake news’, Disinformation” by UNESCO, 2024.

11.20-12.00 Moving forward: What Are the Main Challenges Related to Young People's Freedom of Expression? Group discussions.
12.00-12.45 Lunch
12.45-14.40 Sharing Experiences – Organisations Working to Promote Youth Freedom of Expression (including 20 min break)

Anna Majholm – European Youth Press: Media Literacy’s Role in Expression and Engagement for Consumers and Creators.

Media literacy encompasses the skills to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media content across various platforms. It involves understanding the construction of media messages, uncovering biases, and engaging critically to make informed decisions. For consumers, this means navigating media landscapes, detecting misinformation, and interpreting messages contextually. For creators, it entails not only effective content production but also ethical considerations.

Stian Olsen – United Nations Association: How Do You Strengthen International Solidarity Among Youths and Communicate About Climate Change and Other Global Challenges without Losing Hope?

These questions are at the heart of what the United Nations Association of Norway tries to accomplish with our activities when we engage with our most important target group. Our outreach programme aims to take the conversation from the global to the local level and show young people that their choices and actions matter. They increase their engagement with local communities and work towards a more sustainable future. 

Penelope Lea: Climate, Climate Action, Democracy, and Peace Work

Penelope Lea (19) is a climate activist, UNICEF ambassador and author from Norway. She started her work in 2013 when she joined Miljøagentene and led Miljøagentene Oslo. From 2016-2020 she was a member of the Children’s climate panel and chaired the panel from 2018-2020. In 2018, she took part in the documentary about the UN’s sustainability goals called “Mission Impact”. In 2018, she received the Norwegian volunteering award and gave the prize money to “Climate Lawsuit Arctic”. In 2019, she was appointed UNICEF ambassador and has later worked extensively with children’s rights issues, peace and democracy in the climate fight. In 2021, she worked in the “international committee” at NU and published her first book: “In each other’s world – 11 conversations about climate, nature, activism, politics and human rights”. Now she writes reguraly for two newspapers in Norway, «Klassekampen» and «Panorama nyheter». Since she started working, she has given a number of major speeches and contributed to many conferences both internationally and nationally, including five UN climate summits.

Alicja Wiśniewska – The Polish Council of Youth Organizations: How We Support Youth Policy in Poland

The Polish Council of Youth Organizations (PROM) is a forum for cooperation among non-governmental organisations whose members are young Poles. 

They serve as the National Youth Council at the European Youth Forum. PROM’s goals include promoting young people’s participation in public life, informing the public about youth policy in Poland, and representing member organisations. However, their most important task is to take action to create a coherent and modern youth policy in Poland. Therefore, today, they want to be the voice of young Poles in the debate about their rights, privileges, and future. PROM comprises over a quarter of a million individuals in member organisations operating nationally and locally. PROM is the official representative of Polish youth at European Youth Conferences. 

Alicja Wiśniewska is a member of the Board of PROM, a Student of Law at the University of Opole, a Councilor of the City of Opole, an employee of the Foundation Laboratory for Changes in the field of coordination of international projects under the Erasmus accreditation from 01/01/2023. She gained experience working in non-governmental organisations, such as the Semper Avanti Foundation, Europa Iuvenis Association, and PROM – Polish Council of Youth Organizations.

The Nansen Academy – Signe Therese Strøm: The Folk High School as an Area for Democratic Formation and Promotion of Freedom of Expression

The main aim of the school is to inspire independent thinking and reflection as a basis for active participation in society. The academy is a boarding school, as most of the Nordic Folk high schools are. Living together 24/7 can be both a blessing and a challenge, and the students have to learn how to balance the need for privacy and the need of the community of the school. The five different study programmes are based on social and humanistic sciences, and historical, holistic and ethical perspectives are encouraged. The Nordic Folk High School tradition, characterized by the informal relations between students and teachers, values dialogue and democracy highly. Through workshop and different activities, the students are given the chance to develop dialogue, rhetoric and debate skills. We continuously work together with our students in creating awareness of the freedom of expression. Do they feel free to express all their opinions? Are they conditioned by the fear of social sanctions? What do they experience as limits to their engagement in discussions and debates? In our work we have found the concept of “community of disagreement” (Iversen 2019) useful, as we encourage students to not fear situations where disagreement is expressed.    

Signe Therese Strøm is the director of Nansen Academy in Lillehammer. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Siena, Italy. 

Kine Marsteintredet Pedersen – Lillehammer Municipality: How to Ensure Equal Opportunities for Expression in Education?

“Equal Opportunities to Express Oneself” is an educational program developed in collaboration between Lillehammer municipality and the Norwegian Ski Federation. It serves as a tool in middle school value work concerning prejudices, discrimination, inclusion, and community. In 2023, Lillehammer municipality further expanded Equal Opportunities by incorporating sessions on freedom of speech in collaboration with the World Expression Forum.  

The educational teaching plan “Equal Opportunities to Express Oneself” recognises that in today’s dynamic and interconnected world, the importance of providing equal opportunities for students to express themselves cannot be overstated. It underscores the importance of fostering an inclusive learning environment where every voice is heard and valued. This pedagogical approach not only enhances students’ academic growth but also prepares them Porgto thrive in diverse societies. 

Kine Marsteintredet Pedersen is assistant professor with additional education. She works at Smestad secondary school in Lillehammer municipality and has worked on developing “Equal Opportunities” since 2021.

Sara Jalali – Save the Children Norway: Project Helt ærlig!

Save the Children Norway’s project Helt ærlig! (in English: Honestly!) aims to empower youth by giving them a platform to voice their opinions and concerns on issues affecting their lives. The project provides a structured platform for youth to engage in dialogue with local policymakers, fostering meaningful discussions and potential policy changes. Helt ærlig! aims to advocate for the rights of children and young people, ensuring their voices are heard and respected in societal decision-making.

Gaute Schrøder – UKM, The Norwegian Youth Festival of Art: Democratic Participation Through Art and Artistic Expression

Photo: Monika Søberg

Gaute Schrøder is the project manager for the youth festival UKM Innlandet, one of the largest initiatives for youth in the Innlandet county. He has a background as a performing musician and has worked as an educator and facilitator for various types of youth activities. At WEXFO, he is invited to speak about UKM and democratic participation through art and artistic expression.

Bojan Marjanović – International Debate Education Association (IDEA): Exploring Innovative Debate Methodologies That Enhance Critical Thinking and Participatory Skills Among Young Individuals

Bojan Marjanović works to support debate-based education, critical thinking, and promote pedagogy of empowerment. He has over 20 years of experience in the education sector, starting with competitive debate and moving on to expand debate methodology to support young people in finding their voice, becoming critical thinkers and active citizens. Bojan has received several national awards for educational excellence from the Croatian Ministry of Education for his work with children and young people and is an internationally recognized expert in non-formal education, debate, and youth participation.


14.40-15.25 How Should We Work to Promote Youth Freedom of Expression in the Future? Group discussions and summary
15.25-15.30 Closing speech

By Managing director of WEXFO, Kristenn Einarsson.

WEXFO Youth Network Conference Collaborators


“World Expression Forum is the most interesting place to be for everyone who is interested in freedom of expression”

Anette Trettebergstuen 
Former Minister of Culture and Equality

WEXFO Youth Network Conference is open for everybody interested in promoting youth’s participation in society.

At the conference you will meet activists, organizers, participants in projects, researchers, sponsors and others actively engaged in youth and freedom of expression to share best practices, ideas and activities.

Lillehammer – our conference city

WEXFO Youth Network Conference takes place annually in Lillehammer, Norway, in May/June. Norway is one of the countries in the world with the highest degree of freedom of expression, according to Freedom of expression index (Our World in Data). Lillehammer is a UNESCO City of Literature, an ICORN city of refuge for artists at risk, and is the host of the biggest literature festival in Scandinavia. Both the city, the region (Innlandet) and Norway as a country are committed to supporting freedom of expression around the world.

We all carry a responsibility to make sure that the right to Freedom of Expression is upheld. Freedom of Expression comes with both rights and responsibilities. This is a constant investment in the democratic fabric of our societies.

Laila Bokhari, academic, diplomat and politician