Forty young Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs gathered in the summer of 2017 to attend a summer camp focused on stimulating teamwork, critical thinking, cooperation, and well-being, and building tolerance, which enabled them to start breaking the national stereotypes between them.
The camp was organized by The Be a Man Club (KBB) in Kopaonik and developed within the project “Engaging Young Men for Gender Equality”, supported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and implemented by the non-governmental organizations “Peer Educators Network Network” (PEN) and “Sinergija” in the northern part of Mitrovica.
While the project is an initiative to break gender stereotypes by bringing gender equality, speaking against violence and prejudice, this camp, alongside the workshops, is one of the similar events held during the summer.
Saša Gavrić, a Gender Advisor to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said that non-governmental organizations and other relevant international organizations, such as the European Union and United Nations agencies, have a supportive role for some of these activities aimed at developing skills and opportunities for youth in the areas of public leadership, volunteering, building confidence, critical thinking, justice and social inclusion, freedom of expression and dialogue.
“It has been very important for us to show support for Peer Educators Network (PEN) from Pristina and ‘Synergy’ from North Mitrovica for the activities of their wonderful initiative with young people in Prishtina, Ferizaj, North Mitrovica etc.”, he says.
Participant Eldiana Azemi said she was not hindered by any other nationality of the participants.
“It was important to get along and show that we are equal, not discriminate,” she says.
Her Serbian peer, Andjelina Spasic, said she had a good time and met great people, stating that the young Kosovars had communicated to her in three languages: English, Albanian and Serbian.
“I would like these friendships to continue after the camp,” she says.
The organizers said they’ve not encountered a single problem and noted that one of the rules in this camp was the lack of nationalist symbols.
“Usually the participants are selected, and these participants are trained and have gone through workshops that are pro-equality and are against discrimination and violence. We want to create mutual societies, it doesn’t matter the nationality that one belongs to or the language they speak” says Korab Jaha, Project Coordinator for Young Men Initiative within which Be a Man Club operates.
Stefan Veljkovic, director of “YEC Synergy” program said that this non-governmental organization is the only one in North Mitrovica.
“Many young people are unemployed and most of them are out of the country. The situation is not good for them, but such non-governmental organizations like PEN and YEC Synergy are working to empower youth” he says.
The OSCE Gender Adviser emphasizes the importance of further strengthening cooperation between institutions and civil society organizations. He says these organizations play a fundamental role in society, as they work directly with target groups and are able to identify problems and solutions. That is why, according to him, they should receive more support from government institutions.
“This last youth camp in Kopaonik has shown what cooperation looks like and that it’s up to the younger generations to redefine stereotypes and work together for a brighter future,” he says.
Author: Njomza Berisha