Being the voice of children and youth in Kosovo, a mission that goes beyond passion and privilege

The voice of youth in Kosovo echoing at the European Parliament

Trina Hoti
Trina Hoti at the EU Parliament
24 December 2019

Hundreds of emails have been counted in my email inbox since 2013, when I first started to join municipality assembly in Prishtina as a child representative. But none of them thrilled me like the one I received only few weeks back. It was UNICEF Office in Kosovo that informed me that I was chosen to represent youth from Kosovo at a summit that was organized by Friends of Europe this December in Brussels. “What a privilege”, I thought myself, but also an extraordinary obligation for me to represent all my peers equally. 

In UNICEF Kosovo, I lead the youth reference group, which is advisory group consisting of more than 10 young people from all over Kosovo. With this group we meet frequently and share our opinions on how the new UNICEF programme cycle of 2021-2025 should look like. Our perspectives and our voice are there, to shape UNICEF’s Kosovo 5-year programme based on our needs. 

At this summit, various figures from the European Union and not only were present such as President of Kosovo, Mr. Hashim Thaçi, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Ms. Majlinda Bregu, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Western Balkans Assemblies and many others.  

Nevertheless, the special occasion this year was the UNICEF’s youth delegation that echoed the discussions that took place during the summit. The participation of this youth delegation was achieved by the UNICEF Europe and Central Asia office where 6 delegates, all of whom were girls, represented UNICEF offices in the Western Balkans such as Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.



Leonora Aliu

Trina and other young people

However, as interesting as the panelists' speeches and reflections at this summit were, it was also the title of this summit: “It takes two to tango: the Western Balkans between hope and reality” that invited the EU and the Western Balkan countries to enhance their partnership and cooperation to move forward and advance the common agenda to be part of EU.

During the discussions, I expressed the view of young people of Kosovo and recommended that investing in formal and informal education is the best way of living this process amongst youth. But why did I choose education? Because, I believe that education is one of the forms that brings together different people for a common purpose, education reproduces peace and through education reconciliation happens naturally, without being overwhelmed by other factors.  Therefore, I highlighted that “we as young people found a much simpler way of transitioning from past narratives to a shared future through UNICEF programs conducted with young people at the center, such as the Upshift workshop, born in Kosovo and replicated in 21 different countries around the globe, which can serve as a very good practice to implement reconciliation”. Young people in Upshift or any other workshop have different ethnic identities, but they come together for shared purposes, they esteem each other's values ​​rather than differences and are equipped by UNICEF with 21st century skills, becoming social innovators and young entrepreneurs.

My participation in Brussels remains one of the best experiences I ever had. This was one of the rare opportunities to share views of my friends and peers. It was a great opportunity to meet and talk to people from different European countries. But what actually gave weight to this meeting, was knowing peers from other Western Balkan countries, discussing our common challenges as a region and most of all I felt like I was being listened to by others in the room. Feeling that you are being listened to by others is very important to a young person, girl or boy.

Young people should not just be seen as the future of one place. They are also the present, so investing in young people should be done together with young people in enhancing the quality of education, in empowering them and provide the opportunity to them to take part in decision-making processes because it should be highlighted that the best youth experts in youth problems are youth itself that are seeking to be heard beyond the markings of international youth days.

UNICEF has created in me the space where I can dream and work for the children and peers of my country, it has made me realize that my voice matters/carries weight and how motivating is the work and energy that UNICEF brings in search of the best for Kosovo's children and youth. As I am finishing writing, I received a new email, but this time it is the one announcing my next meeting with Youth Reference Group.

So, I'm wrapping up with the message that because every child and young person deserves a chance to be heard, listen to us and let us spread our actions for a better world as change-makers of the human society!