Post2015: The Voice of Young Kosovars
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Of the estimated 1.8 million inhabitants of Kosovo, around half are under 25 years old, with over half of the ministers in the government under the age of 40—the “Young Europeans,” as Kosovans are often called, is no misnomer. And this immense youth population matters: consider that this demographic will make up tomorrow’s voters, labor force, business and civil society leaders, minsters, and soon, and will reap the benefits—or consequences—of the work initiated today to prepare Kosovo to listen when its young population assumes the responsibility of making its voice heard.
In the region’s arid summer, our Post 2015 team literally scaled mountains meeting and talking with enthusiastic young people in order to take the pulse of youth in Kosovo. From scenic Dragash to the north-most Mitrovica, from historic Gracanica to cultural Prizren, the team travelled the breadth of the region on a mission to gather feedback from youth. We gathered feedback on issues ranging from everyday social problems to their dreams and aspirations. Thoughts and opinions differed, but all of the communities we traveled to had one important thing in common: a multitude of young, passionate personalities keen to be involved in the project, determined to voice the concerns and the hopes of their communities.
We were highly fortunate in gathering a unit of highly motivated and ambitious volunteers. They trekked for hours over days across Kosovo and pushed to reach as many municipalities as possible, with their sunny attitudes never revealing their fatigue. Their admirable determination was only magnified by their resolve to learn and develop as practitioners which was further highlighted through their unending rigor and team spirit. Despite the oppressive summer heat, they joined in songs and embraced the magnificent scenery of the countryside they were so eager to hear and represent.
This enthusiasm was mirrored in the reception received in each town, sharply contrasting the relationships they had had previously with local community officials reluctant to listen or support what was important to them. Yllza Haliti, a campaign volunteer, said "It was refreshing to see young people across Kosovo raising their voice and participating in this meaningful global debate."
The concerns most eagerly voiced were those we identified in the findings of the consultation phase held in December 2012. Poor quality in education and healthcare standards were the most pressing issues as well as the restriction in freedom of movement through Mitrovica and Gracanica. On the other end of the spectrum the aims and desires of youths in Prishtina spoke of a yearning to travel abroad and experience cultures outside their own. In Dragash, we heard of the endemic lack of entertainment, culture, and sports projects. In Gjakove and Gjilan, youths also explained that there was not much to participate in, in terms of developing their own personal interests and activities in the way of entertainment establishments and sports facilities.
In our effort to further enable young people to express their ideas to the world, Innovations Lab Kosovo hosted a five-day OneMinutesJr filmmaking workshop addressing multiple themes emerging from the Post2015 debate in Kosovo. Birken, one of the thirteen aspiring filmmakers, produced a short film about peer violence. “I know about cases where young people turned the virtual violence into real violence… they have fallen asleep in school and when the teacher woke them up, they started acting as if they were straight out of Counterstrike." Another young participant, Albulena, made a movie about her hopes and fears about living in her divided city, Mitrovica. “I was five years old during the war in Kosovo,” she says. “I’m 20 now and I’ve never crossed the bridge to the northern part of my divided city.” Albulena was able to cross the bridge to film in the ‘forbidden’ side but felt very unsafe there. She concluded her short film with a dream to see Mitrovica city “united, diverse, and with all communities living in peace together.”
We are very indebted to the faces of the campaign, Majlinda Kelmendi and Adriatik Kelmendi. To be associated with a young, award-winning Kosovan athlete and a very popular and eloquent TV presenter was all we could ask for. Co-incidentally Majlinda’s award as World champion in judo came during our campaign, as a good omen of success and a great boost for the pride and confidence of her fellow Kosovan youths.
The online presence and engagement platform for our Post 2015 debate in Kosovo was a vital strategy, our Facebook page proved highly popular and an easy way to encourage youths to participate at their own discretion. By simply “liking” a picture or commenting on an update they were able to take part on a minimal but significant level, otherwise writing blog posts or providing report feedback, or even being involved in our Post2015 sessions, enabled them access to fully participate. In offering this flexibility, we were able to convey that their opinion was valued and important, and that they could participate as much or as little as they liked.
Held in the stately Red Hall, the capstone event summed up the reflection sessions held in the Innovations Lab in company of the Head of the UNICEF office, as well as other UNDP and UN Kosovo representatives. This attendance and endorsement reflected the situation that the voices from the start of our journey had been carried and were being heard, that the team’s passion and dedication had carried them and represented this demographic of the country at the Post2015 debate. Shpend Qamili, Communications Analyst at UNKT, said “I was startled to see the extent of awareness among Prishtina’s youth concerning Kosovo’s real problems. The young people have taken a sense of ownership for the issues; they do not just complain but rather commonly propose actions to address those issues. They do not just demand accountability, they also offer it. Way to go!”
Current plans are under way to collaborate with the Faculty of Arts at the University of Prishtina, for the students to create an artefact symbolising the rights of young people to have their say in the decision making process. It will be used to represent the youth in public institutions within Kosovo and abroad. We are greatly looking forward to see the ideas they present us with.
Saranda Hajdari, Campaign Lead, said “We hope that together we promoted a quality debate, fulfilling our civic responsibility of discussing issues that surround us every day, in turn shaping our future and the future of our communities.” She adds that “it didn’t suffice to simply provide our Kosovar youth with the chance of simply representing themselves, rather they should be in a position to promote and nurture public debate in our region, to be at the forefront of positive change.”