Broadcasting the voice of youth
Meet Lucija and Ana, the students who streamed their own radio at their High School through UPSHIFT program.
Have you ever thought about reaching others through your voice? Fighting against inequality, bullying, or any other form of child abuse at your municipality?
Well, there are two girls that showed us that this is possible!
Lucija (15) and Ana (17) are two high school students who had a feeling they could do something meaningful and improve the way they and their classmates are spending school time. Both of the girls live in Zubin Potok, the municipality in North Kosovo* consisting of 63 villages and inhabited by approximately 15,000 people.
Ana was only 9 years old when her family moved to Zubin Potok from a village nearby. At that time, she did not have many friends there. Her family was supported her continuously, but adults in her school were not taking her problems seriously. She was overweight at that time and this made her feel uneasy as it became the main reason why classmates started bullying her.
“I was overweight, so I was constantly bullied for that by other students at school. Every single child that is not like the others, for example, he or she is not skinny, wears glasses, or has some “flaw”, is a target of some sort of harassment by other kids. I suffered a lot. I was bullied only because I was somehow ‘different’”, Ana told us, recalling the very hard times she had. “I had a hard time back then. “- she adds. “Now I am older and more mature, and I know how to deal with it, but I cannot stop wondering – what If I were a different, more vulnerable kid? I could have done something to myself. That is why we should talk more about this. Kids are suffering great pressure from their peers”, she added.
Bearing in mind that their peers in Zubin Potok do not have many opportunities to speak about their problems, because of a lack of trust in people around them and fear that someone would share their problems, thus becoming a gossip topic at the school, Ana and Lucija began to share their own experiences with the rest of the students in order to open them up and explain how bullying makes one feel.
When Lucija and Ana found out about the UNICEF UPSHIFT workshop, they decided to participate and try to make a change, alongside with two of their fellow classmates. This was the first time for them to learn how to articulate an idea, write and implement a project. Luckily – the “High School Radio” was among winning projects.
UPSHIFT is a program designed in Kosovo and is now being implemented in 21 different countries worldwide where UNICEF operates. It is designed as a program that supports youth-led projects with small grants, in order to support young people to gain skills, to empower them and to prepare them to be future problem solvers.
The “High School Radio” project by Lucija and Ana and their peers is one of more than 240 youth-led projects supported in Kosovo though the UPSHIFT program and funded by UN Peacebuilding Fund.
Since the girls wanted students to be the ones taking active roles in this project, they planned High School Radio program to be edited and led by students with the support of teachers and school personnel. The High School Radio program would promote equality, children rights and youth initiatives, and deliver important information for youth and adolescents as well as entertainment. Furthermore, they thought this would create the opportunity for local youth to make their first steps into journalism and encourage them to develop critical thinking and media literacy.
Nevertheless, they would also appreciate having the opportunity to host an expert who would talk about drug addiction, bullying in school and other burning issues that children of their age are facing. In this way, High School Radio would help students build their capacities, but also provide a space for open talks about the problems faced by youth. The three-day UPSHIFT training was a bit tiring, but both girls said it was worth it. As they stated, they learned new valuable things, met new people, and would certainly do it again.
Based on their experience, Lucija and Ana want to share information on workshops, trainings and programs designed for youth with other high school students, in order to enable their peers to become “change makers”.
“We believe there are so many talented students in our school who have creative ideas and would be interested to participate in similar activities. If an opportunity arises in the future, we want to share that kind of information with them through our school radio”, Lucija pointed out.
No later than two weeks after High School Radio started its broadcasting, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic halted their big plans. The whole world went in lockdown, as well as Zubin Potok. The schools closed and the teaching went online, and there are still uncertainties on how the next school year will look like.
Both girls are determined not to give up on their project, and they hope the school administration will support and enable their work next year as well. Also, they would appreciate for more organizations to turn their eyes on Zubin Potok’s youth who have so much to offer and are eager for more knowledge and experiences.