Young European Ambassadors take over UNICEF Montenegro
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Young European Ambassadors spoke with the UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Osama Khogali on the current state of the rights of the child in Montenegro
Podgorica, 12 December 2019 – Young people are the present and future of Montenegro and that is why it is essential that they have the opportunity to express their opinions, and not to have adults impose their own views on them. This is the message of Young European Ambassadors who took over UNICEF for a day to mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. They spoke with the UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Osama Khogali.
It's very important to hear the voices of young people, and events like this are the best opportunity to do so.
Khogali praised the engagement of the Young European Ambassadors and urged them to encourage other young people to be as active in the same manner.
“The best experts on childhood are children and young people themselves. If we want to improve that stage of life, we need to talk to you about it. It is for this reason that we have supported young people to take over the EU Delegation to Montenegro, the Office of the President of Montenegro, the Parliament of Montenegro and the Ministry of Culture and Youth this year. One of the promises we have heard from the Minister of Culture is that new policies and strategies in the field of culture are going be designed in consultation with young people, which is something we look forward to,” Khogali said.
The Young European Ambassadors Club, founded by the European Union in Montenegro, brings together secondary school students interested in learning about European values and the opportunities that European integration offers to people. During their conversation with the UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, they drew attention to the biggest problems that the children and young people of Montenegro face.
“I would single out peer violence as one of the issues which frequently takes place in our country. It is necessary for young people to have an adult person or several adults they can contact – ones they can trust and with whom they can rest assured that their problem will be solved,” said one of the Young European Ambassadors, Tamara Stojanovska, during the UNICEF takeover.
Khogali reminded that there were several key problems in Montenegro regarding respect for the rights of the child, stating that two critical reasons for concern were violence and poverty: two-thirds of children have experienced some form of violence, while one in three children are at risk of poverty.
Not long ago, the whole country was shocked by media reports of a baby being beaten to death at home. We must not allow this to happen again to any child in Montenegro. That is why we have to report violence
He urged children and young people to regularly report and discuss peer violence and all other forms of violence.
"We need your help to ensure that, as a society, we don't just dwell on discussions about violence during those few days when it is breaking news in the media, given that we forget about it very quickly. I urge you to raise this issue regularly before your teachers, school principals, parents, the media and others,” Khogali said.
The Young Ambassadors were interested in Khogali's opinion on the quality of inclusive education in Montenegro. He recalled that in 2010, only a small share of Montenegrin citizens supported inclusive education, while most of them feared the new idea. After three years of the “It’s About Ability” campaign, implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Montenegro and the EU, most citizens have changed their attitudes and have begun to support inclusive education.
“Today, we have public support for inclusive education, but we need to work more to improve its quality. I am pleased to inform you that I am following the ongoing public debate regarding the PISA testing results and the need to improve the quality of education, as well as the need to improve the status of teachers in Montenegro. Better education cannot be ensured without more support for teachers,” Khogali said.
The Young European Ambassadors were interested in how society and the international community can help reduce the number of Roma children dropping out of school.
“I recently visited a kindergarten in Nikšić, which is attended by Roma children as well. I spoke with their parents and, to my satisfaction, I saw that they were aware of the importance of education as a means of putting an end to multigenerational poverty. Less than one-fifth of Roma children in Montenegro aged 3–4 years attend preschool education. We need to support both preschool institutions and Roma communities to collaborate more in order to increase this number as soon as possible,” Khogali said. After answering this question, he had a message for all young people.
“Invite Roma children to join you for a walk. Talk to them. Be friends with them. When you organize birthday parties do not exclude poor children, just because they do not have money to buy you a gift, which can make them feel bad about it. You will surely learn a lot from them and make genuine long-lasting friendships with them,” Khogali told his young interlocutors.
Less than one-fifth of Roma children in Montenegro aged 3–4 years attend preschool education. We need to support both preschool institutions and Roma communities to collaborate more in order to increase this number as soon as possible.
The subject of innovation piques the interest of children and young people, especially in the digital age. That is why the Young European Ambassadors were interested in how UNICEF is making use of innovation.
“The UNICEF office in Montenegro is known for launching innovative initiatives, such as the introduction of the Daisy textbooks for children with visual impairment into inclusive education practices. Through the UPSHIFT workshops and the Youth Innovation Laboratory, we are supporting young people in their efforts to change local communities. We are also supporting teacher training initiatives in the field of digital pedagogy. We have developed an application and a website named netprijatelji.me which are helping children learn to use the internet safely. Our media literacy campaign received a global award a few weeks ago,” Khogali recalled.
The international community is an important factor when it comes to promoting respect for human rights. One of the questions raised by the Young Ambassadors was how UNICEF and the European Union are cooperating in that particular field.
“Over the past 10 years, UNICEF and the EU have collaborated on various initiatives in Montenegro, such as the ‘It’s about Abilities’, ‘Every Child Needs a Family’ and ‘End Violence’ campaigns. We have organized a number of joint activities to reform the institutions and systems providing care and support to children with disabilities and children deprived of parental care. UNICEF and the EU are cooperating regularly and this practice will continue in the future, as we share the same values and goals – every right for every child,” the UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Osama Khogali concluded.
Khogali was interviewed by Young European Ambassadors from Podgorica, Nikšić, Berane, Kolašin and Rožaje, including the winners of the “Human Rights Quest” competition and the “EUmetrics” TV quiz. The interview was attended by: Tamara Stojanovska, Nikola Miličić, Neda Miletić, Marica Lutovac, Jana Rakočević, Balša Bubanja, Emra Kurgaš, Gojko Bošković, Neda Mijović, Mara Vujošević, Almasa Husović, Semina Kalač and Elda Kalač.
The discussion between the Young European Ambassadors and Khogali was also attended by the Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav. Last month, he was the one to answer questions from UNICEF Volunteers - young reporters who, in the context of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the UN CRC, took over the EU Delegation to Montenegro and discussed the process of joining the European Union from the perspective of young people growing up in the digital age.