February 23, 2015

Reaction of NGO Youth Power / Snaga Mladih and CARE International Balkans

Reaction of NGO Youth Power and CARE International Balkans to broadcasting of the second episode of the series “Perspektiva” in which the student of the Traffic Secondary School Mostar presented a series of claims that may be understood as offensive, and the reactions that occurred after broadcasting of the aforementioned episode of the series

CARE International Balkans and NGO Youth Power / Snaga Mladih, organizations that have been working with young people in Mostar for many years, on this occasion wish to express their concern regarding reactions that were caused throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina by broadcasting of the second episodes of the series “Perspektiva”. As most readers probably know from a video clip that has appeared on the Internet, one of the students of the Traffic Secondary School Mostar presented a personal opinion about the division that exists among young people in Mostar – Croats and Bosniaks. Using the language that may be deemed offensive, but at the same time expressing his beliefs, which indicate that the division is certainly present, this young man has opened an issue that has long been kept quiet. The reactions that followed indicated that many in Bosnia and Herzegovina deny reality pretending that such views do not exist any more, while at the same time the vast majority approves and accepts the walls formed after the war conflicts with their longtime silence.

CARE International and NGO Youth Power / Snaga Mladih are concerned about the consequences caused by the broadcasting of the film, especially by the mockery to which the young man from the video as well as other participants in the series were subjected. Although the views and opinions presented in the video have shocked many this is nothing but mere representation of reality that we are facing with, in which this young man and many others across the country are products of inadequate approach and lack of accountability in the upbringing and education of young people. The existence of this and these opinions are proof of the failure of politicians, educators, parents, sports clubs and citizens in general to build a healthy environment in which a young person could grow and develop into a responsible citizen with progressive views of life, which a modern civilization adopted long ago.

Over the past few years we have worked with students from both schools that operate “under one roof” – Traffic Secondary School and Engineering and Traffic Secondary School, and with them we have implemented activities within the project “Young Men Initiative”. This program is focused on the promotion of healthy gender norms and building of skills needed to overcome the difficulties and challenges through which a young person goes. Methods of non-formal education and educational campaigns are used in the process of working with young people. All project activities required active participation and cooperation, and the project involved male and female students from both schools, young people who previously did not have a chance to meet each other, and they were rarely able to meet on the street, in passing. We worked with young people on the problems of labeling, discrimination, gender inequality and violence prevention. From experience we know that youth work can lead to changes and we have many positive examples from many schools including these two. The results that we have achieved in terms of joint work of students from the two schools and research and understanding of different environments in which they grew up and worldview they acquired, which certainly define their behavior and understanding of the other and different, are proof that things can be different and that young people only should be given a chance. Many invisible walls were demolished during our work thanks to the wonderful experience of working with young people who have found a common starting point from which they started to work on improving their schools, but also their communities.

Although we make efforts through the youth work to prevent oppression and social injustice, we feel responsible when young people are used as a tool for displaying the own failings of those who run this society. As the author of the series stated in the response to reactions which the second episode caused, the young man who presented views that can be understood as different was brave enough to raise them and these views were actually his beliefs that he acquired in the environment where he grew up. He did not do it out of malice, which cannot be said for a large number of comments and reactions that his statement has provoked. Certain media have reported that after broadcasting of the video the same young man does not appear in the school due to offensive comments on social networks and forums. We condemn any threat and any form of hate speech on account of this young man.

We believe that much more needs to be done in Mostar and many other cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina. CARE International Balkans and NGO Youth Power / Snaga Mladih as one of the local partners (together with Perpetuum Mobile from Banja Luka and the Association XY from Sarajevo) are working together to promote healthy values ​among young people. With the help of the Swiss and Austrian governments our program will soon begin to implement in an additional 10 municipalities and cities across the country. In Mostar, we will continue to work with schools representing different communities – Engineering and Traffic Secondary School and Secondary School for Tourism and Catering. We hope that in the coming days we will get a chance to re-establish cooperation with the Traffic Secondary School where we can work together on education of young people in the development of life skills needed for coping with negative and harmful attitudes that stand in the way of reconciliation of young people of Mostar.

We hope that, like us, the events of the past few days will be an additional motivation to all those who have influence in the community to invest additional efforts and resources in order to provide adequate education to young people that promotes the values ​​of civilization and tolerance.