“Youth Response” Visoko: “Young people gathered and empowered to take a leadership position in the society that belongs to them”

December 6, 2022

The project “Youth Response” of the Association “Young Volunteers” from Visoko presented an alternative concept by which young people can be carriers of changes in the community, but also drivers and initiators of development. Supported through the EMBRACE program funded by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), one of the main goals of the Youth Response was to bring together and empower a group of young people who would know their position in society and lead further social change

“We are very happy with the results of the project. The intended target group was about 100 young direct beneficiaries who went through various activities – such as round tables, volunteer actions and etc., and we ended up exceeding the planned number and have more than 300 direct participants”, said Mr. Belmin Debelac, the manager of the Association “Young Volunteers”, adding that he was particularly encouraged by the fact that during the implementation of the project they could see that young people were not as disinterested and lethargic as they thought:

"We had a surplus of registered participants at some activities, so we had to add them on the lists of participants and expand the space so that everyone could attend."

The project, together with partner organizations such as the "Muharem Berbić Foundation" and the Association "Be My Friend", brought together the informal "Alternative Youth Government", which, as Mr. Debelac added, remained and continued to operate in its local community after the project completion:

“We planned to work at the national level, but they also acted at the local level, so that they could initiate changes through initiatives, actions, writing to councilors, attending pre-session discussions… At the workshops, we drew their attention to the fact that they can point to a local problem, if lighting is broken in some street, to indicate that they are asking the authorities to solve the issue like that of asylum for dogs etc., and help them to recognize violations of theirs and others' rights, and to know how to act in these cases and who to turn to, "said Debelac.

Some of the initiatives that were sent to the local level have already emerged from the Association of Citizens - Youth Roma Initiative "Be My Friend" from Visoko, whose activists participated in numerous activities, conferences and meetings of the Alternative Youth Government, street actions and cleaning actions during the project:

"The project meant a lot to the young people from our association, regarding the activities to improve education and make a cleaner city and settlements in which they live. We had one big cleaning action that proved great, and then we had a street action through which we marked and presented our most significant holiday – Đurđevdan (Saint George’s Day), and similar activities that moved and affirmed young people as active members of the community." Said Ms. Biserka Halilović, representative of the Youth Roma Initiative "Be My Friend", adding that one of the resulting initiatives towards the local government unit was a request for solving the problem of stray dogs:

“Since we do not have adequate accommodation for stray dogs, we have launched an initiative and sent a request to the City Administration regarding stray dogs. We got an answer, and they went in the field and looked, and most importantly, the story is ongoing, and we're hoping that it will be resolved now. The main thing is that the youth are interested, they like such projects, and it has encouraged them all to become more involved in the work of the community and see that they can influence the changes."

Ms. Nejra Ohran, coordinator of the "Muharem Berbić" Foundation and participant of the project said that particularly important segment were trainings through which young people acquired a lot of knowledge in the field of activism, volunteerism and competences of the levels of government, all with the aim of proper approach and sending initiatives to the right addresses:

“All activities have contributed to improving the competences of young people in our local community, which gives them the opportunity to position themselves in leadership positions. The project has influenced the improvement of the quality of the overall position of young people. Young people came with different proposals, depending on the participants, highlighted the problems of unemployment, schooling and the complete financial situation throughout the country with the problem of youth leaving, and most importantly - they discussed ways of solving these problems."

Project participant and project assistant at the "Muharem Berbić" Foundation, Ms. Adisa Muhedin, added that the implementation of the "Youth Response" project enabled the improvement of the position of young people in the area of the City of Visoko through active involvement in public dialogue processes at the local level:

“In this way, young people can position themselves in the leadership position that belongs to them. Thanks to numerous trainings and financial support through the project, we organized various activities and participated in them, and in this way, we noticed the problems that young people encounter, and where they could express their views loud and clear by offering solutions to these problems. Young people really need a quality education system, they need quality health care, sports, culture and all the other things that are intended for them directly."

Mr. Belmin Debelac pointed out that it was particularly important that the further activities of young people gathered through the project "Youth Response" would not require budget funds, but only educated, empowered and networked young people:

“It is enough for them to notice the problem in the local community and to address it adequately. We have launched several initiatives that are already delivering results, and we believe in our young people. If nothing else than in the sense that they will continue to launch local initiatives," he said, adding that in addition to the basic target group, this project would also have an indirect impact on other young people from the area of the city of Visoko, different political parties operating in Visoko, but also the entire local community.

The project "Enable and Embrace Beneficial Civil Society Environment" (EMBRACE) was financed by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway in the amount of USD 880,000 and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with the aim of strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve the quality of services provided to citizens and citizens in local communities.