– February 6 2019
“I’m unstoppable”: A young woman prepares to shape her future
Una will not let high youth unemployment rates in Bosnia and Herzegovina discourage her. She is building her employability and life skills and seizes any opportunity to acquire work experience. Despite of her difficult childhood, she is confident that she can reach her goals.
Una*, 17, is an active young woman with a lot of dedication, energy and idealism. She calls herself an activist and feels happiest when she can help others.
Una came to live at the SOS Children’s Village in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, when she was 15 years old.
“I immediately fit in because I wanted a family like that,” Una says in fluent English. Before, she had lived only with her father. “This family came into my life just at the right time.”
She lived with her SOS mother Edina and her SOS siblings for a year before she moved to the SOS youth house. But the contact with Edina is still close and she often comes to visit.
“Edina is the best. I have a real connection with her and we talk a lot,” Una says.
Employability training as an investment in the future
Una knows that she is at an age where she has to start preparing for an independent life. Getting ready for the job market is one of her priorities. Over the last two years, she has attended a series of employability and skills training courses at the YES Center, the Youth Empowerment Services Center of SOS Children’s Villages, in Sarejevo.
The courses covered topics such as communication and presentation skills, time management, self-awareness, self-esteem, CV writing as well as IT and German classes.
The investment in developing her competences and skills has already paid off.
“Learning at the YES Center will help you find a job. It will make you stronger and prepare you for the job market,” Una says. “I have had first jobs already where I have gained experience.”
Una has had various summer jobs, working in a production company, at a gas station and in a hotel. Each experience is valuable for her – she wants to learn as much as possible from everything she does.
“Before there was nothing on my CV. I didn’t know what a CV was. Now it is full. In job interviews, I will have something to say now,” she says.
She also remembers the special feeling when she got paid for her work for the first time. “It’s my work and my money. It’s good to buy something from my own money,” she says.
To complement her education, Una also does voluntary work. She is part of a non-profit youth organisation that advocates for and supports young people to encourage them to become active participants in public life.
“I like volunteering. It makes me happy when I have a chance to help people and stand up for them. And even if I don’t get paid, I get experience.”
Multiple professional qualifications
Una is currently attending a secondary school where she is being trained as a dental technician. Although she is good in this field, she knows there is limited demand for this profession in her country.
To broaden her options in the future, she is looking to acquire additional qualifications. She hopes that with the help of the YES Center she can find a scholarship to pay for a training to become a make-up artist. Her ultimate goal, however, is to become a physiotherapist.
Although more than 40% of young people are unemployed in Bosnia, and many are looking to leave the country in search of opportunities, Una is optimistic about her future.
“I know I will work. It’s not important what I do as long as it is something dignified,” she says. “Every job is welcome. I know I live in a country where I can’t choose. But I won’t give up.”
Speaking up for young people leaving care
As an activist, Una participates in advocacy efforts in favour of young people leaving alternative care.
“I’m a child in alternative care. When I leave care, I won’t have support from the state. That’s not right. The state has a responsibility towards us – to me and other children in public care,” she says. “As care leavers we want to say: We exist. We need support.”
Despite the difficult times in her childhood, Una believes in herself.
“I had a lot of problems in life,” she says. “But after everything, I’m a strong person. I have learned not to be a quiet person. I always say what I mean and what I want. Now I’m strong. I’m unstoppable.”
*Name changed for privacy protection
Photo by Katerina Ilievska
The YES Center supports young people aged 15-29 from disadvantaged backgrounds. Young people who have grown up in SOS families, from families in the SOS family strengthening programmes and from the local community benefit from a range of services including:
- competence and skills assessments
- support in job orientation and job search
- individual development plans
- access to vocational training, language, ICT and financial literacy classes
- life skills training covering topics such as communication and presentation skills, time management, self-awareness and self-esteem
- training and mentoring to start a business / self-employment training