On November 20, Universal Children’s Day, Zgjim, 16, a youth from Kosovo, member of World Vision’s Kids for Peace Project, was selected to lead a workshop on child participation to the European Parliament. Together with a peer from Moldova he talked about global child rights issues in front of many European Parliament representatives, advising them to pay more attention to child participation and to involve children more in decision-making. Zgjim discussed the experience he gained at the Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) conference, held last year in Switzerland, highlighting it as a good example of a child-led conference encouraging child participation.
At the end of the two day conference, Zgjim, together with 20 children and youth, between the ages of 14 and 17 from various countries such as; Bulgaria, Kosovo, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Moldova, Italy and the Unnited Kingdom, came up with recommendations such as creating a child parliament and involving children more in presentation and meetings in the European Parliament.
During his speech Zgjim focused on the rights of children and Youth of Kosovo and how little their voices are being heard. He emphasised that the presence of children in decision-making in Kosovo is a rare occurrence. He also discussed the quality of education in Kosovo and child labour issues. Before presenting at the parliament, Zgjim consulted with other Kids for Peace members.
Everything that follows was taken from Zgjim's personal blog, where he writes of his struggles to get a visa, memories, and impressions of the European Parliament:
I thought that Brussels was the capital of politicians; I thought that only prime ministers of the European Parliament could touch the place. I had come up with that idea through what I hear every day in our news. But it wasn’t like this.
It all started the summer I was in Switzerland, where I was selected by World Vision in Kosovo to take part in a conference called " Children as Actors for Transforming Society ". This was more than just a conference to me – it was unforgettable for all who participated. There were participants of all ages from around the world who arrived at the magical place where the conference was held, and we engaged in special activities. This conference and some others were to be presented to the European Parliament in Brussels in honor of the International Day of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (20 November). The reporters who would be presenting were children and young people who took part in the conference.
When I heard about this possibility I had a great desire to report. I got so excited and I saw it as a good opportunity to communicate to the Members of the European Parliament not just the message of this conference, but also the voice of all children and young persons living in Kosovo. So I applied even though I had little hope of being chosen, because in the beginning I was told that only participants from European Union countries would be considered. But a miracle happened, and I was selected to make this presentation in Brussels. After much preparation over a long period, it was time to go to Brussels. Loretta Buzhala, my project coordinator from World Vision's Kids for Peace Project, arranged the trip from Kosovo.
My visa was delayed until the last possible day, so I didn't know for sure if I would go, but I stayed optimistic and positive [and it came through]. Once we reached Brussels, the first view of the Belgian capital impressed me for being a developed, typically European city.
I found my accommodations at the hotel and together with the group we conducted the final preparations for the great event. In the evening we had the opportunity to see the Atom, the capital city’s symbol, an object of perfection in every way. The day of November 18 was the big day. It began early, we did a last test and then walked to the European Parliament, seeing more new sights along the way: the streets and the unique buildings that make this city so special.
We arrived at the building of the European Parliament, a magnificent object in both appearance and importance, a place where some of the continent's most serious decisions are made. I was so excited that I had the fortune to experience this place up close, especially to speak in front of European decision-makers.
Following the increased security controls because of the recent events in Paris, we went inside. I still couldn't believe my eyes. First we saw the visitor’s center, which displayed photo exhibitions from around Europe over the years. There I saw a single picture of Kosovo, too. It was of the NEWBORN monument, in Prishtina. We could also watch historical videos from many parts of our ancient continent.
Finally the moment came when we all had to gather in the library of the European Parliament, where the workshop was to be held. There were children and young people from several European countries, officials from children's organisations such as EuroChild, Universal Education Foundaton, World Vision, the Alliance of Childhood European Network Group and the deputies of the European Parliament, whose work is focused on children and youth.
The opening speech was given by Julie Ward, a champion of children's rights and a politician working on Kosovo's relations with the European Union. After that, myself and a peer from Moldova reported on the conference "Children as Agents of Change in Society", in addition to some other projects.
This was followed by a discussion about the rights of children and their participation in decision-making, and I shared with the participants my experience in this matter, and all of the challenges that children of Kosovo face in this regard.
I had a conversation with the deputy Julies Op De Beke, a specialist in the field of socio-economic development. While we were talking about challenges, irregularities and other difficulties Kosovo is struggling with as a new state, he said: "Remember that there is a positive thing about being a young person of Kosovo at this time. You can be the one who will build your country."
I liked what he said a lot, and it made me think seriously about what can be done in Kosovo. The event was special for me, as a teenager from a small country like Kosovo, and it will remain in my memory for a long time.
I was really inspired by seeing how the European Parliament works, and learning about all aspects of the development of the European state and other issues discussed in the library of the European Parliament. I learned that even if you were born in a small state that is unknown or only known for its problems, you can succeed. If you work and fight to achieve your goals, you can succeed!