Ulcinj, PR Press Service, May 2016 – The project “Empowering young people at risk of social exclusion”, which will run until October 2019 in the Western Balkans will contribute to facilitating the situation of this population, said the Executive Director of the Non-Governmental Institution (NGO) Juventas, Ms Ivana Vujovic.
She said that this project, supported by the European Union, is coordinated by NGO Juventas, and its project partners are the following organization: ARSIS from Albania, Association Margina from Bosnia and Herzegovina, HOPS from Macedonia, Labyrinth from Kosovo, Prevent from Serbia and SHL Foundation from Germany.
Following the first training of these organizations’ network, Ms Vujovic explained that they would carry out activities with the aim of contributing to the active participation of young people from the Western Balkans, who are at the greatest risk of social exclusion, in the social processes.
“Based on the previous years of experience in the field and outcomes of the relevant studies, common problems have been identified in the countries that are represented in the network. Young people, in particular those at risk of social exclusion, have not been adequately recognized in legal and strategic documents”, said Ms Vujovic.
As she highlighted, guidelines for the provision of services to young people at risk of social exclusion had not been sufficiently developed in various fields.
“For different categories of young people at risk of social exclusion, many necessary services are lacking in the field of interest, including: health, education, employment, social protection, participation, safety. It is evident that young people in the region are in a difficult social and economic situation, as the data on the high unemployment rate and low social activism show”, explained Ms Vujovic.
As she noted, there are some additional factors, such as: lack of awareness of young people, lack of/inaccessible services for young people, lack of confidence in the system, and non-stimulating legal and institutional framework for personal growth and development.
Within this project, the term “young people at risk of social exclusion” includes the following target groups: youth and children who are in conflict with law, youth and children who use psychoactive substances, young people who live in families with a history of conflicts with the law and/or substance abuse, youth and children living in the street, young Roma, and young people who were children without parental care”, explained Ms Vujovic.
According to her, the project is looking to strengthen organizations working with young people at risk of social exclusion, intensify international cooperation at the regional level and exchange of knowledge and experience, develop guidelines for working with young people at risk on the basis of facts and studies, and improve cooperation between NGOs and public institutions.
“The project aims at empowering young people to fight for a better position in the society, providing recommendations for improving the normative and strategic documents which regulate the situation of young people at risk, and informing the public and professionals on identified problems and proposed solutions”, said Ms Vujovic.
She stated that EUR 210 000 would be distributed regionally during the implementation of the project for mini grants to NGOs that implement projects aimed at improving the situation of young people at risk.
“By the end of this year, the network of NGOs from the Western Balkans established through the project will develop a regional study on the situation of the specific groups of young people at risk of social exclusion”, said Ms Vujovic.
President of the Association Margina, Mr Denis Dedajić, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the biggest problem that young people were facing in that county was unemployment, which, according to him, amounts to more than 60 per cent.
“In addition, there is the problem of the lack of harmonization of the educational system with the labour market, and a huge “brain drain”, said Mr Dedajić.
President of the Association Prevent from Serbia, Mr Nebojša Đurasović, stated that the biggest problem that young people were facing in that country was unemployment, “particularly regarding the populations we are working with”.
“Our organization provides services for marginalized youth populations. These are primarily people who use drugs intravenously, and young people involved in sexual activities. Their biggest problem is the lack of society’s support, as well as the lack of commitment of the institutions”, said Mr Đurasović.
As he stated, he was hoping that the network of organizations would encourage institutions through the project to pay attention to that population.
Representative of the organization Labyrinth from Kosovo, Mr Lindor Bexheti, said that the biggest problem of young people in that country was exclusion of people who use drugs, and who use the services of that organization.
“There is a huge stigma connected to the population that uses drugs, that policies and laws entirely support. That is the biggest problem”, said Mr Bexheti.
Representative of the organization HOPS from Macedonia, Mr Ivica Cekovski, said that the greatest problem that young people in that country were facing was unemployment, decreasing quality of education, and “brain drain”.
“Many of the challenges we are facing concern the respect of human rights and access to services for young people who are at risk of social exclusion or who are socially excluded. We hope that our joint initiative will advocate that institutions pay more attention to people who are at risk”, said Mr Cekovski.
Representative of the organization ARSIS from Albania, Mr Ilir Lico, said that there were a number of problems young people faced in that country face, including education, unemployment and the level of social exclusion of young people who are marginalized.
He also said that he held great expectations from the project.
“I expect that we will exchange best practices, experience and expertise, to better use our joint resources”, said Mr Lico.
Programme Director for Harm Reduction in the NGO Juventas, Ms Tijana Žegura, said that four boys, born from 2000 to 2002, had recently visited that organization.
“When I asked them why they had come, they told me that they needed help because they used drugs. They showed me their hands that had visible traces of several months of taking drugs. Unfortunately, today in Montenegro, we have no place to send these children or young people to, because there are no adequate services of health and social protections available to juveniles”, said Ms Žegura.
As she stated, it is for that reason that connecting with countries from the region was important.
“We believe that together we can do much more, and put pressure on our Governments to work on strengthening services for young people”, concluded Ms Žegura.