|© Milica Milovic/2011|
|Kosovo's youth participating in Recycle smART, a project funded by UNICEF's Innovation Lab. Recycle smART aims to use art as a tool for raising awareness on environmental issues and education for sustainability.|
By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, USA, 28 June 2011 – With an estimated 53 per cent of its population under the age of 25, Kosovo is considered to be the youngest part of Europe.
Twelve years after the devastating conflict ended in 1999, Kosovo’s young people have witnessed significant progress. Towns and villages have been rebuilt, most of the people who fled violence have now returned home, and local institutions are functioning.
Yet the youth of Kosovo is coming of age in a society that is still ethnically divided, with the worst socio-economic, health and education indicators in Europe. More than 70 per cent of young people are unemployed, the majority of them unskilled.
UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello discussed the future of Kosovo with three young people who are working in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, to bring about social change in their communities.
Ron Salaj, Milica Milović and Sophie Morin work together at the UNICEF-sponsored Innovations Lab, where they are mentored by a range of local and international professionals. At the Innovations Lab they can take advantage of the latest technology and are given financial support to turn their ideas into tangible projects.
Building peace, uniting people
In April 2011, Milica, who is originally from Serbia, met Ron Salaj, the coordinator of UNICEF’s Kosovo Innovations Lab. Milica had heard of the Innovations Lab before. Their Facebook page had an inviting message: “Young? Got an idea that will benefit Kosovo youth? Come join us!”
Ideas are what Milica had. She had been developing Recycle smART, a project that aimed to use art as a tool for raising awareness on environmental issues and education for sustainability. The project also had a peace-building component.
Milica’s goal was to bring together the youth of different ethnic groups to work on issues that concerned everyone. “We don’t need to talk about peace to build peace,” says Milica. “You bring people together to work on some issues and in that way you show that it’s possible for people to work and live together.”
Milica’s project is one of many implemented by the Innovations Lab. Ron and Sophie Morin, who has moved from France to Kosovo to support the Lab, have worked on myriad projects including encouraging youth to vote, mapping public facilities, working on projects for blind students, and many more.
Helping most marginalised
“The main challenge for the Innovations Lab is to reach out to the most marginalized, most excluded communities, which mean youth and women from rural places, but also Roma and Serbian communities here in Kosovo,” says Ron, who travels to different parts of Kosovo to meet with minorities and invite them to work with the Lab.
For Sophie, young people are by nature attuned to change. “Young people are ready to move forward and interact with each other and try to talk to each other,” says Sophie. “I took part in some workshops and the diversity of the participants and the way they interact is really positive and it really gives hope for the future in Kosovo”.
15 June 2011 - UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello talks to three young people who are working in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, to bring social change in their communities.
Kosovo’s Innovation Lab Facebook page
(external link, opens in new window)
'Back on Track' website
'Beyond School Books'
The following stories are part of the 'Beyond School Books' series focusing on education during emergencies.
Segment #74: Young people provide strategic advice on education issues
Segment #73: Girls advocate for girls' education and gender equality