Youth Participation – November 24 2020

Youth fights for a safe online world for children and young people

Today, the lives of children and young people are increasingly moving online. From gaming to socializing and schooling, children and young people grow up in a virtual world. But, is growing up online safe? "Online living brings online bullying," says 16-year-old Alma* from Kosovo. "We must stop this. We must raise our voice for children and young people, and be the fiercest advocates of our rights."

Young people can make a difference

A student of a secondary medical school, Alma's affinity and passion for helping others comes naturally. She started her path as a youth advocate two years ago when she became a youth trainer for the Child Protection Policy of SOS Children's Villages – an initiative that SOS Children's Villages Kosovo started in 2016 and is successfully promoted among young people ever since. "It is our responsibility to help our peers," Alma says firmly. "I became a youth trainer to show that young people can make a difference."

Along with a group of fellow young enthusiasts, Alma received trainings on the Child Protection Policy of SOS Children's Villages, organizing workshops, presentation skills, using Compasito: Manual on Human Rights Education for Children, training on different children's rights, and on cyberbullying.

Teamed up with few other youth trainers, Alma started delivering trainings to children and young people from SOS Children's Villages Kosovo to raise awareness of their rights. The team jointly recognized that the topic of protection against cyberbullying raised great interest and decided to develop it further.

In late November 2018, Alma took part in a meeting organized by the Ombudsman of the Republic of Kosovo with children and young people from all over the country. "I felt I spoke for my generation when I said that at today's age of technology we're losing our sense of humanity," Alma explains. "I said we need to be focused on respecting each other and helping each other."

Advocates for children's online presence

The deep concern and determination of the young advocate persuaded a representative of the Ombudsman to attend their next training on protection against cyberbullying. Alma and her peer trainers were 'armed' with passion, determination and a brochure on cyberbullying developed together with the staff of SOS Children's Villages that was distributed to all attending children.

Recognizing the importance of the issue and the drive of the young advocate, in December 2018 the group of youth trainers were invited to participate in a workshop organized by the UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo. The four-member team of SOS Children's Villages Kosovo became one of the winners and received a grant to implement their project named Live & Let Live.

"Live & Let Live is a project against cyberbullying," explains Alma. "The aim is to raise awareness, promote understanding and protection against cyberbullying. The purpose is to organize awareness raising activities for children and young people about their rights and responsibilities through a number of actions that clearly show their rights and define the abuses children face in a child-friendly way."

We listen firsts, then we do – for children!

"We developed the idea based on the needs of our many peers who are exposed to cyberbullying," explains Alma. "There are many children and young people who do not openly express their problems, but choose to talk about them only with close friends."

"In developing the idea in depth, we consulted many children and young people at our schools. We asked what would they want to see included in the project to address this highly important and sensitive topic. We then consulted the staff at SOS Children's Villages to make sure we design the project's objectives and activities in the best possible way. At the UNICEF Innovations Lab workshop, we had a mentor who helped us shape the final design."

The Live & Let Live project entailed various activities conducted over a period of six months. This included: training of peer trainers on child protection with emphasis on cyberbullying; peer to peer training in three schools in the community; publishing an awareness booklet for peers; various awareness raising activities in schools and in the community; producing an awareness videos against cyberbullying; organizing a round table with peers and an expert in the field of cyberbullying.

Finally, the project was presented at the Second International Conference on Children’s Rights, Health and Education in Pristina on 01 June 2019. "My teammates and I were very happy to participate in this conference," Alma says. "We presented our results: we reached over 100 children in schools and over 50 in the programmes of SOS Children's Villages Kosovo."

Stronger and louder

The making of the video is one of the project's highlights for Alma. "We had help from an external production company and from SOS Children's Villages Kosovo. But, we ran the show. Our voice and our ideas were central, we participated in all stages of the video making process and we love our video."

"What I liked best was that during the implementation, we got a lot of good feedback from the students at the elementary schools. We kept on learning while delivering the trainings and conducting the activities because we were always in discussions with our peers on this and other topics that bother us."

And though the Live & Let Live project has officially ended, the drive of Alma and her teammates remains alive. "We plan to continue with peer to peer trainings on child protection, youth participation and advocacy with our peers from the programmes of SOS Children's Villages Kosovo and local schools. We want to empower young people to increase their participation in decision-making and advocacy processes. We also planned for regional exchanges, but the COVID-19 pandemic held us back."

The success of the Live & Let Live project drove the ambitions of Alma and her fellow youth trainers higher. They've applied to another UNICEF Innovations Lab call with a much bigger project. "We won again," Alma gives a cryptic smile. "Our voice is getting stronger and louder. You'll hear of it next year."

You can see the video that Alma and her group made on the following link.


*Name changed for privacy protection.