Young people represent the most vulnerable social group, prone to developing extremist ideas and supporting extremist movements.
In societies where values such as tolerance, inclusion and togetherness are not fostered, extremist attitudes and behaviors may seem to young people to be the only way to cope in society and community. CARE’s Young Men Initiative (YMI) initiated development of a new programme for prevention of extremism and radicalization among youth in the Balkans in 2018.
After initial planning and study visit to Vienna in November 2018 where YMI partners learned from Austrian CSOs and institutions experience how to successfully deal with youth. From that moment, tailored models were piloted in Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia and Kosovo by YMI partners organisations. Core approach in Program Y Plus piloting was building relationships and trust with young people and communities – by reflecting on solidarity and engaging variety of stakeholders – centers for social work, law enforcement, youth detention and cultural centres, religious communities etc.
By exploring different dimensions of tackling youth extremism, partners developed theater play on extremism in Serbia, designed educational program for youth from centres for social work in Banja Luka, established community forums by engaging teachers, parents and community leaders in Tirana and created space for exchange in Podujeva where prosecutors, judges, social workers, police and media are working together with youth at risk to make their community better!
The play EXTREMISM: How Can I Explain This to My Son reveals to young people that that we all have our own stereotypes and prejudices. By revealing our own extremist, we will find ways to break stereotypes and eradicate prejudices.
“Anger prevention and management require efforts and sacrifice to put it under control. During these trainings we gained knowledge, information and developed managing mechanisms on how to react in managing anger, negative emotions, and emotional overload.”Elmedina, a 17 years old girl from Podujeva
Workshops with students with history of violence involvement in Kosovo to increase their resilience to harmful behavior, violence, gender prejudices and labeling.
Young people in the Balkans face problems such as a lack of self-confidence, trust and honest relationships with peers and parents, which often include depression, labeling, violence, extremism and radicalism. YMI created two impactful social norms campaigns targeting youth and selected communities, around hate speech and promotion of positive roles in community by addressing extremism and violence.
AreYouOK Campaign was created in order to promote values such as friendship, trust and support in community. The goal is to empower young people to recognize when someone has a problem, not to judge and to be OK with seeking help and advice from people in their environment – Be a Man Club member, friends, parents, school staff, youth organizations and alike.
Additional Campaign #TurnOnKnowledge #TurnOffHate was developed for those who feel deprived, see themselves as victims or believe in violence as a way to solve problems or establish dominance over others, may be at potential risk of extremism in behavior and attitudes.
We can belong to different religions, but we all believe in something, we can be of different sexes or genders, but we all want our own safe spaces, we can be of different sexual orientations, but we all want love. We can be born in different countries, in completely different circumstances, speak different languages, but we all want friends. Our strongest weapon is knowledge, not hate –is the message coming from Be a Man clubs across Balkans!
Violent extremism is often based on false information, stereotypes and manipulations, so it is important to develop critical thinking, get to know the facts and participate in spreading knowledge, not hate. Developing training, building understanding, critical thinking, inventing new forums for exchanges, theatre of the oppressed and forum theatre, moving into social media and rethinking educational processes and how to use the public space is a mission for CARE and partners in the Balkans countries.