More than 200 participants from 10 well-organized local youth councils learned how to raise their voicesto provoke institutional changes—the outcome of a two-year grant called “Youth Capacity and Action for Change” (YCAC), funded by the EU and the Austrian Development cooperation. The project was implemented by World Vision, in partnership with two local community based organizations in Kosovo including: Students Helping Life in Kosovo, Centre for Peace and Tolerance as well as the associated partner Central youth Action Council of Kosovo.
Advancing youth in rural areas, promoting healthy lifestyles through an open air gym, raising youth participation in voluntary work, increasing employment opportunities were just some of the concrete activities undertaken by the youth in their local communities.
The project finalized with a farewell conference in which many youth representatives were invited as special guests. At the conference, the youth enjoyed sharing their success as well as learning from one another.
Vlora Krasniqi, one of the youth involved in the project in the Vushtrri/Vucitrn said: “I have learned and built experience on writing and implementing youth initiatives. I feel my communication skills have grown a lot. I also feel more capable and motivated to advocate for youth issues in Vushtrri/Vucitern,” she added. .
Egzona, 17, another enthusiastic youth shared how participating in the Youth Capacity and Action for Change project helped her. “I joined the youth group without being sure what good would come from it. But, with the passing of time, I started to learn new things; like how to raise awareness, how to conduct trainings and how to take initiatives to bring changes to my country, Kosovo,” she says.
“One of the activities that I enjoyed a lot was the one we did to raise the awareness of more than 25 people, both children and adults, with disabilities from Prizren, on how to distinguish the traffic rules while walking on the streets, how to identify the street lights to not walk while the cars are moving, etc,” remembers Egzona. Today, Egzona is the vice-chairman of the youth council in Malishevë/Malisevo. She is confident and ready to do more.
“We will pass the knowledge and good practices we have learned so far, down to others who need awareness and help,” she concludes.
The results of the project are tangible and have beenlife-transforming for many, especially the nearly 25 girls from Mamushë/Mamusa community who before the project were not allowed to leave their homes or participate in any outside activity. Today, these girls are active members of the Mamushë/Mamusa local youth council. “Before, we weren’t allowed to participate in activities where boys were present,” says Muala, 16, a young girl from the community. “We were seen as inferior. This project was fantastic at changing this theory. It helped us participate, to say what we want to say and be heard,” she added.
Muala and 24 other girls were brought to the group as a result of lots of efforts, door-to-door meetings and awareness initiatives by the Mamushë/Mamusa local youth council. “It wasn’t at all easy for us because of the mentality here,” says Vjollca Selimi Gurgule, the Project Coordinator for the Youth Capacity and Action for Change project. “We met with [the girls’] parents in their houses and explained to them how positive is to let their daughters participate in initiatives that help them gain knowledge and life skills. This helped changed their mindsets,” she adds.
The project was implemented in 10 municipalities across Kosovo: Malishevë/Mališevo, Pejë/Peć, Rahovec/Orahovac, Ferizaj/Uroševac, Vushtrri/Vučitrn, Gracanicë/Gračanica, Mamushë/Mamuša/Mamuşa, Novobërdë/Novo Brdo, Lipjan/Lipljane, and Klinë/Klina. Youth form these areas were trained in advocacy skills, the use of social media for advocacy, project management and organizational development.
"The Local Youth Action Councils have become an important stakeholder in policy development,” said Christof Stock, Head of the Cooperation at the EU office in Kosovo/EUSR. “Equally important, however, they have established partnerships with their local municipal youth departments which allow them to jointly develop Local Youth Action Plans and partnerships, which will also enable them to hold regular consultative meetings with policy makers in the future," he added.
World Vision’s Operational Director in Kosovo, Philip Harris, also emphasized some of the changes made possible through the project. “Before the intervention, most of the targeted youth councils were weak or inactive,” he says. “Since the project started, an increased rate for volunteerism and advocacy activities has been recorded. Today, these councils have more young members who are ready to participate in organized events, be it voluntarily or through support. World Vision will continue to support the youth in Kosovo through civil society development and the Peace Building project as well as through the implementation of a new project focused on child protection and advocacy,” he said.
Althoughthe project is ended, the youth are prepared and have many plans andideas they are ready to execute in an effort to help the communities they are part of with the goal of making them a better place for everyone
[In the photo Mr. Christof Stock, Head of the Cooperation at the EU office in Kosovo/EUSR, World Vision’s Operational Director in Kosovo, Mr. Philip Harris, Mr. Xhevat Bajrami, Representative of Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, Mr. Nenad Maksimovic, Center for Peace and Tolerance , Mr. Shkumbin Arifi, Students Helping Life – Kosovo and Ms. Albana Gerxhi, Project Manager /Kosovo Zonal Office]