ifa: Moldova is currently facing large outflows of young people. What are the reasons?
Natalia Mihailov: Mostly economic reasons. Poverty, lack of decent job opportunities and low salaries are the main push-factors for youth migration. The majority of the young migrants are from rural areas, where the lack of good employment possibilities is most oppressive. Some of the young people leave their home towns in search of better education and opportunities, while others are tired of the way the state institutions work. The most important issues young people need to deal with are both low participation and representation in the democratic processes, youth's indifference, limited access to education and political instability. This creates an ever-growing gap between young people and political systems. Consequently, little priority is given to young adults, to policies targeting them, or the obstacles they face in accessing information on human rights. Many tend to believe that their voices are not being heard, and unfortunately Moldova has no future.
With 'Empower Youth in Moldova – ProDEM' we want to stop the migration outflow. And to do this, we want to empower a new generation of decision makers who will help shape a more inclusive and democratic society.
Young People as a Positive Force for Social Change
ifa: You are focussing on young people and first time voters. What role do they play with regard to the democracy process in Moldova?
Mihailov: The current project sees youth as a positive force for transformative social change. It aims to help enhance the political participation of youths by addressing inequality and social exclusion of all groups of young people in Moldova. Active involvement of young people in public life, as well as electoral and decision-making processes represent the key elements in boosting sustainable democratic development in the Moldovan society. They directly determine the extent to which the political class responds to the needs of youths. If young people are able to organize collectively and take strategic political action, they can develop the power to make government more transparent, accountable, inclusive, and responsive.
ifa: How can participating in the project help young people and first time voters to exercise their rights and actively take part in political decision processes?
Mihailov: By involving youth in interactive, practical and youth friendly capacity building measures, we enable them to engage in electoral and decision-making processes with equal opportunities, advocate for their rights and vote in elections. Awareness raising campaigns, mentoring and guidance motivate young people to express their opinion and to actively participate and engage in community life. Effective dialogue and sustainable platforms for sharing knowledge, experience, and exchanging opinions increase the awareness of representatives of local administrations, educational institutions and civil society of the importance of youth civic participation and motivate them to involve and support youth in policy and decision making.
Micro-projects: Implementing What Young People Really Need
ifa: You helped initiate the so-called 'micro-projects'. What are they about, and what skills were needed in order to do so?
Mihailov: The granting of funds is an effective means to involve young people in local development decision-making, giving them a voice and the influence of power, with benefits for themselves and their communities. During the Mock Election Exercises, young people were given the task to identify the community needs and problems. During electoral campaigns they had to propose efficient solutions, create work plans and determine the level of resources necessary for addressing these problems. Young community members were given the opportunity to vote for the most needed and impactful ‚electoral promises' or micro-projects, which were then financially supported. Following the successful implementation of 24 small projects, young voters have gained new experience, acquired new skills, learned responsibility and accountability, developed a sense of involvement and ownership, thus contributing to the good of their communities. Capacity building programs tailored to meet the needs of the youth included trainings in campaign planning, debating, media engagement, network building and management, policy review and evolution, conflict resolution, and strategic planning. All of which were provided in the frame of a Leadership camp.
About Natalia Mihailov
Natalia Mihailov manages the project 'Empower Youth in Moldova – ProDEM' and has been working as Country Manager and Financial Director of the Hilfswerk Austria Branch Office in the Republic of Moldova for more than 15 years. She holds a master's degree in Corporate Finances and certificates in both Professional Project Management and Professional Business Analysis from the Project Management Institute.
Evghenii Kolibaba, 18 years: The team 'ActiON' of the Theoretical Lyceum L. Tolstoy city of Glodeni has built a light signal system at a pedestrian crossing to ensure the safe movement of pedestrians. During the implementation of this project we realised that in order to improve the life of young people in our city we must act together. Cooperation is very important. Working together with students of different ages on one topic helps young people to unite, and to gain new, important and necessary knowledge and skills, for example skills in developing, implementing and promoting projects. Participation in the micro-projects increases the interest of students and their motivation to make the life of young people in the city safer and better.
About the organisation
Hilfswerk International (HWI) is an Austrian organisation which provides disaster relief, reconstruction and effective development around the world. Their focus is on the people, their health, the improvement of their living conditions and the promotion of families – and especially children.
The zivik Funding programme supports civil society actors worldwide in preventing crises, transforming conflicts, and creating as well as stabilising peaceful social and political systems. With their commitment, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) complement state actors by providing significant perspectives and activities. The zivik programme is providing funding for international, national or local NGO projects, which are dealing with civil conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.