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Know Your Rights Platform: A Call for Action to improve Awareness and Action on the Rights of Adolescents and Youth in Kosovo*

By James Mugaju

The office of Ombudsperson and UNICEF Kosovo’s* Innovations Lab have established the “Know Your Rights Platform” to respond to an endemic lack of awareness of rights amongst youth in some specific priority areas. UNICEF suggested that, helping adolescents and youth to know their rights is the first step of the process of ensuring that they are well-prepared to become social change agents.  The ultimate purpose of this engagement with the Office of Ombudsperson is to ensure that institutions, schools, communities and young people are committed to actions that advance the realization of the rights of children, adolescents and youth.   From a pragmatic perspective, the creation of the platform is expected to raise awareness on the rights; engage schools, communities and young people for rights-based action, generate evidence on the cases of violations of rights, and report on the violations of rights to the office of Ombudsperson to make institutions more responsive to issues affecting the violations of rights.

Know Your Rights Platform is the first online mechanism for the monitoring of the right violations of adolescents and youth while it is also an opportunity to increase youth-led advocacy for progressive realization of rights and to expand rights awareness in the most marginalized communities in Kosovo.

As of today, the platform has been instrumental in expanding social dialogue between local authorities, youth organizations and the youth of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.  It has also substantially opened up spaces for their participation in decision making at local authority levels. In addition, the above campaign highlighted the importance of advocacy, volunteer work and inclusion of youth in decision making processes at local levels.

 Furthermore, the existence of Know Your Rights Platform is now feeding into the annual progress reporting system of the Ombudsperson in Kosovo. Local institutions, communities, adolescents and youth have an online space to report on violations of their rights, as well as an opportunity for skills development and action.

For just over one month, the tool has already been accessed by more than 17,243 users, and it had more than 50,000 page viewers. Around 500 young people have been already reached through this engagement.   In the same vein, the Lab aspires to help foster a generation of youth who are knowledgeable about their rights with the ability to report on injustices in the form of rights breaches on a frequent basis. The well-functioning and user-friendly platform will continue to ensure that relevant institutions are responsive to issues affecting the promotion and protection of human rights.

The future plan includes the implementation of two-year action plan to expand the scale and the effectiveness of Know Your Rights Platform in Kosovo.  For example, the engagement with media/National TV will largely contribute to disseminate the value of the platform and this action will ensure that all schools, communities, adolescents and youth are aware of the existence of the platform; and institutions are more committed to take action to address issues of violations of rights. 

*All references to Kosovo are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)

TechStitution: A Platform of Social Innovators in Kosovo*

By James Mugaju and Lisar Morina

People under the age of 25 constitute nearly one half of Kosovo*’s population.  Yet young people are largely unprepared and unable to fully realize their rights.  To address this issue, UNICEF Innovations Lab has been working at the nexus of technology and youth empowerment ever since 2010. It strives to develop digital solutions to complex institutional challenges and to empower youth to become social innovators in their communities; and to strengthen capacity development for public institutions with central and local authorities on the integration of rights-based approach to adolescent and youth empowerment and participation.

UNICEF Innovations Lab puts adolescents and youth at the center of its programme action. Through regular human-centered consultations, it contributes to increasing the capacities and opportunities amongst Kosovo’s youth, through seeking and securing meaningful participation both in the workforce and in policy-formation and decision-making processes, and to fostering media and digital literacy and critical approaches to information.

Furthermore, Kosovo is progressively improving its means of data collection and responsive governance processes. In this context, UNICEF has entered into a partnership with Girls Coding Kosova and Open Data Kosovo to support TechStitution, an initiative aiming to explore opportunities to equip adolescents and youth with ICT skills for the development of tech tools and products for public institutions.  Young participants from across Kosovo learn vital ICT skills of the 21st century, learn how to hand-craft their own websites and become part of a great local tech community in Kosovo. Participants work side-by-side with their mentors, identify problems and propose and design civic-tech solutions to them.

Progress so far

From UNICEF Kosovo’s perspective, TechStitution is a platform for social innovators with the ability to see opportunities and resources where others only see problems; and to mainstream digital solutions into governance systems.  It is a knowledge-sharing means and a direct contribution to problem solving while creating simple digital solutions to complex institutional challenges.  Ultimately, the purpose of TechStitution is to empower adolescents and youth with 21st century skills on digital literacy and solutions to social unmet needs; and to help simplify bureaucratic processes to improve the timely delivery of essential public services to Children and families.

As of today, the implementation of Techstitution has resulted in the creation of a custom-built platform for the Regulatory Authority of Electronic and Postal Communications in Kosovo (RAEPC).  In addition, 450 young people were trained in ICT skills; 155 young people (80% girls and women) gained professional experience through participation in TechStitution workshops; and lastly, 4 digital solutions for public institutions were designed, developed and deployed using the programming languages Python and MongoDB (NoSql database program). This platform designed for RAPEC which digitalizes the application and reporting procedures for operating telecom companies in Kosovo was developed in its entirety by young Techstitution beneficiaries. The platform simplified and modernized the many transactions of RAEPC and will facilitate the operating mechanisms for both RAEPC clients and staff. Furthermore, the platform is built on open source technology, which means that the institution will have full access to the source code and can advance and expand it in the future.

Way forward

During 2017 and beyond, the Lab will continue to increase the capacities of public institutions by providing them with digital solutions to their challenges as part of UNICEF policy engagement to make institutions more responsive to issues affecting adolescents and youth of Kosovo.  Our plan is to identify unmet social needs and to create more digital solutions for institutions and to train additional 300 young people through Techstitution.

*All references to Kosovo are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)

As the Flying High For Kids Balloon sailed the skies of Prishtina, UNICEF Kosovo launched the strategy on investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life

PRISTINA, 8 May 2017—The UNICEF-branded ‘Flying High for Kids’ Balloon was seen sailing the skies of Prishtina this Saturday afternoon. More than 300 children—including those from non-majority communities and those with disabilities—parents, caregivers, nurses, doctors, educators gathered to witness the much-anticipated takeoff of the hot-air balloon, which served as a symbol for children to dare to fly high and follow their dreams.

The event also marked the launching of UNICEF Kosovo’s strategy on investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life. This strategy focuses on ways of improving parental practices in the areas of exclusive breastfeeding, right nutrition, immunization and child care and stimulation, and emphasizing increased fathers’ involvement in child care and development.

The strategy is expected to influence knowledge, understanding, attitudes and practices especially of fathers, mothers, and nurses, midwifes, educators, doctors, media, and institutions for the best interest of the child.

It is also one of the change strategies that will turn national plans into action and results for children in collaboration with Ministry of Health policies, Ministry of education, Science and technology, National Assembly of Kosovo and Strategic Planning Office under Prime Minister’s Office.

“The early years in the life of children are very important. The strategy that we are launching focuses on early childhood care, promoting exclusive breastfeeding and right nutrition,” said Brandao Co, Head of UNICEF Kosovo Office. “We want the community to understand how important it is investing in early childhood. Investing in children is investing in the future and prosperity of Kosovo.”

Imet Rrahmani, the Minister for Health highlighted the importance of investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s life saying that young children in the earliest years need the right care and nutrition. “The Ministry of Health has mother and child health as one of its main priorities,” Rrahmani said. “The results we have achieved would not be possible without the health workers whose priority is mother and child health.”

“Furthermore,” Rrahmani added, “the success in terms of vaccination of children and home visiting practices would not be possible without the support of UNICEF.”

Likewise, Shpend Ahmeti, the Mayor of Prishtina said that the Municipality is focusing much of their efforts in early childhood education. “Studies show that the best interventions for children are when they are 0-3 and 3-6 years old. The success of a country depends on these interventions during early childhood that we do as institutions,” Ahmeti said. “As a Municipality, we are aware of this, and are doing our best to provide parents with affordable, quality kindergartens.”

The Flying High For Kids World Balloon Project is a not-for-profit project in support of UNICEF, which started in December 2013. It is an overland hot air ballooning journey through more than 100 countries with an aim of raising awareness and funds for UNICEF’s work. 

“I travel around the world with a balloon and I inspire children to follow their dreams,” said Andrew Parker from New Zealand, director and chief volunteer of the UNICEF project Flying High for Kids. “I wanted to be a pilot since I was 6 years old, and now I want to pass this message on to kids that they can follow whatever dreams they may have and do as I have done.”

The Flying High Balloon event gained significant media attention with its messages of promoting inclusiveness of the most vulnerable children, raising awareness about children’s right to education and most importantly, encouraging kids to follow their dreams.

Later during the event, parents and caregivers with their children had the chance to sit down with nurses and talk about the importance of regular immunization and breast-feeding, as well as attend a discussion by the ‘Be a Man’ club on the role of fathers in childhood development.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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