Youth activism in Albania

If we take a look 10 years back from now, we’d notice how much our society in Albania has changed. We didn’t have many NGOs or proper information back then, so only a part of the youth was really active in the society. Now the situation is completely different for everyone who wants to reach that information, but especially for youth who are beginning to understand that they can take part and speak for themselves. What’s even better, is that they get the opportunity to not only help themselves but all the other humans too, to protect the environment – the city they live in, to express their opinions, to fight for their own rights and, most importantly, to put their ideas into motion.

Over the past few years, youth activism in my country grew in little steps, but nowadays is actually a huge part of our society and it has a great impact on our lives. Now we have many NGOs, from environmental to human rights, to those which support disabled individuals and promote equality. Not only NGOs, but even different movements have been encouraging youth to raise their voice, ask for their rights and, more significantly, to open their eyes and understand what’s happening right in front of them.

There would be many different movements from those which want to raise awareness, as: Make the world orange, Let’s clean Albania in one day, Cook one more meal etc., to the kind of specific movements as “For University” which asks for the student rights, or “# Movement” which is one of the biggest movements for the moment and the only anti-governmental one.

Different NGOs

Out of many NGOs, I would like to mention Beyond Barriers, which is our contact point for Salto-Youth. It’s an association that protects the rights of young people in general, and especially those with fewer opportunities. Beyond Barriers organizes many seminars, trainings and conferences to inform the youth, show them the benefits of volunteering, and also raise awareness about antisemitism, inequality, poverty, discrimination etc. This association has its own wide network of volunteers who cooperate with centers for disadvantaged people by helping them and trying to integrate them in the society.

Another NGO would be Youth Center Borderless. They engaged in two of the most widely known campaigns for women around the world.
1) “He for She”- For this campaign YCB was on a tour around Albania to promote gender equality. Since this campaign in itself seeks to involve men and boys to engage in this movement, it was a novelty in Albania where most of the families are still patriarchal. The slogan of this movement was: “Change your perspective, be a he for she”.
2) ”Orange the World” is the latest campaign in which this organization is working on.

This is also an international campaign, about elimination of the violence against women.

It started on November 24th and it’s going to last for 16 days. All the trees at the main boulevard are “dressed” in orange for this campaign, also the municipality of Tirana is helping to raise awareness by turning orange the lights of the main institutional buildings.

New Vision is an NGO that organizes new projects apart from the others. One of their most successful projects was “Youth competition of writing” which consisted of poetry writing and supporting these young writers to express their talent and to be appreciated for it. The winner of this competition got her book published. They are also doing a project called “Every day with children” which from the name itself consists in spending every day for a couple of hours into volunteering near the disabled children institutes (mental, hearing and visual abilities).

Environmental projects

Our environmental organizations are involved in many different projects, such as:

1) “Let’s clean Albania in one day”, which takes place on November 20th. This date is almost as important to us as the Independence Day. In each city of Albania, civil society is voluntarily cleaning the streets, their neighborhoods, schools, and most public areas. The purpose of this is clearly not only to clean but also to raise awareness about protecting the environment and to take care of the city where they live. This movement is getting more popular year by year and more and more people are participating in this, so that’s a success story for us.

2) “Tirana without cars”. A day of the year when the city center gets “rid” of all the cars and the bicycles “populate” the area from the city center all over the boulevard to the university corpus. The organization ECO Bicycle is always getting people together to protest for more bicycle lines, for a greener city, and to cooperate with other environmental organization too by pedaling.

3) ”Earth Hour”. This is one of the most important worldwide campaigns by WWF and the next year the Earth Hour is going to be on March 19th from 8:30-9:30 pm. The aim of this project is for people to make their stand against climate change. Everyone is supposed to turn their lights off for at least one hour that day. In my country this is held in Tirana, and with the collaboration of the city hall all the lights at the city center go off by 8:30 pm.

4) “Plant your own tree” is an open activity for everyone to join and it consists of populating the most polluted parts of all the cities in Albania with trees.

Protests and Youth Activism

Regarding protests, I wouldn’t categorize Albanians as wise protesters, most of the time they protest for things they’re not even informed completely. And yet, one of the biggest and most successful protests was the one against the dismantling of the chemical weapons in Albania.

There were thousands of people protesting and basically just saying NO! for 3 long days. In the end, their voice was heard, so even the prime minister spoke in front of them and decided to say no to chemical weapons.

There are still meaningful protests going on, whether for the student rights – to remove the university fee, for protecting our little green spaces – stopping the construction of a residential complex at the Grand Park of Tirana, for the people who pedal or those who don’t use cars – making more bicycle lines and pedestrian areas too.

At the end, I hope this youth activism spirit will not go unnoticed or will never fall on deaf ears. I’m almost sure Albania youth activists are on a right track. Maybe some need to work more, but the final result is great and their ideas, energy, hard work and help never ends. We’ve all come from a long road and we’re still learning how to raise awareness, improve ourselves and how to succeed. Youth activism in my country is more than a green light, it’s hope for all of us so we won’t give up, or stop doing what we’ve dreamed about: Making our society a bit better day by day.

Romina Begaj, Albania

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