YouthFest 2019: youth stories – youth power

Brain drain is not what happens after spending too much time in front of Netflix but a serious issue affecting many countries in the Balkans. Young people don’t see a perspective at home and leave in search for a better future. What is necessary to make people stay?
Youth Fest, a festival in Skopje, highlighted the YOU in YOUth and gave a stage to the stories and accomplishments of young people in Macedonia. It intended to give young people the feeling that their stories matter, their ideas are worth sharing and they can accomplish the change they are looking for.

Interview with Jovana Gerasimoska from the organiser: Youth Council of the US-Embassy in the Republic of North Macedonia

You have been preparing for ages, how do you feel that the day has finally come?

We have been working everyday for the last month and I want to quote my friend from the council: It feels like everyday is Monday, and today is also Monday, but then tomorrow is Monday. But we have worked hard managed to reach an amount of people unseen before by the Youth council. I feel we are accomplishing our goal which is to reach out to the young people and to accomplish what matters to us.

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Speaking about the young people, what is the goal of this festival, what’s happening here today?
The core of the festival is to show the stories of young people through the exhibition.
It is a white board showing the Silhouettes of group of young people and below there is a table with a booklet with their stories and pictures. We chose to share these stories, because they matter. They are talking about things they changed or are planning to change in their lives and society.

_MG_8212And in our little Macedonian bubble of problems we feel it is important to share such stories to show that there are people who make a difference. The interactive part is for you to take a piece of paper and write or draw your own story. We want to share and highlight the stories of young people, that is the main goal of the YouthFest. Then there is a Bazaar of local people that do their own crafts and arts which they sell at the festival. We are also part of the initiative “On Bike”, so everyone who arrives on bike will be given a little present to support the sustainability movement in our country. The American corner is doing a boardgame table for people to hang out and play. Then there are the bands. First, Minstrel’s Gallery, a different type of indie-progressive, performance art, something quite unique in the music scene of this country. Then there is circa. They actually live in Germany but started their journey here in Macedonia. Then we feature Dj Ux (Oubli) and DJ Dino who has his own show called HipHopMania. What is special about him, is that he is extremely invested in music and he’s doing amazing things for the hiphop genre in this country. Later we have a debate and in the end, a fire show.

So the goal is that young people feel that their story is worth sharing?
Yes, we want everyone to share their story and we want people to know that there is a network of young people doing something in this country. I think that inspires all of us to strive for more and to do more.

The debate will be about staying in Macedonia. Do many people ask themselves whether they should stay or they should go?
Yes, the debate is called “Why stay here?” and we have four young people from different walks of life discussing about why it is worthwhile staying in this country. Why stay in a country that is perceived as broken in many aspects? We hope to inspire people to see things in a different light, to see that they can stay to make a change.

The goal is to inspire young people to stay and think about how to improve their own society?
Yes, but I would like to say that staying here should not mean that people should not go abroad to get education and broaden their horizon. The good thing about doing that is that by going abroad you have new experiences, learn new things and from that you take the best aspects and recreate them in your society. That brings new input into society here, more ideas, more diversity and ultimately helps moving society forwards.

Will this be the last edition of YouthFest?
No, definitely not. We will continue to share the stories and plan to have many smaller follow-up events to build on today’s experience. We plan to grasp what we have done, seen and experienced today and plan to integrate it into future events of the YouthCouncil. And we strive to kickstart initiatives such as this for people to start changing this society into a society with less obstacles and more opportunities for young people, a society that will make young people want to stay.

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Should I stay or should I go – YouthFest debates brain drain

The Facts:

20% unemployment(1).

44,7% youth unemployment (2).

15 – 20% Macedonians abroad (3).

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The Debate:

Over 30% of people want to leave Macedonia(4). Over 70% of professors and university staff would leave if they had the chance(5). Those are the effects of brain drain, the phenomenon of educated people moving out of the country at high rates. And that is a big problem for a country because they spend a lot of money educating people which then don’t don’t pay taxes and don’t contribute to the society and economy of that country. This was also a big topic of the YouthFest. In the afternoon they hosted a debate of young people, mostly students from different backgrounds on why people should stay in Macedonia. They discussed some of the reasons people may want to leave such as difficulties to find a good job, low wages and worse education opportunities than abroad. _MG_7684However the discussants also asked, if everybody goes, who will stay to move society forward? Who will make the changes necessary so the next generation won’t have to leave. The general tenor was that it may seem difficult to stay and much easier to go chasing for opportunities abroad, but that with determination and hard-work young people can make a difference and if they can’t find their place in society they should create it. On the other hand the discussants also called for more pressure on societal leaders to create more opportunities for young people. Young people should not let the older generation out of their responsibility. They should demand change and progress, but, as one discussant said, shouldn’t just blame the older generation for failing them and then just do nothing themselves. “Instead of blaming the older generation, strive to be the person that your younger self would look up to.” That quote ties in quite nicely with the general mood and aim of the YouthFest. Most, but not all, visitors and participants that were asked about why they stay said that, after all they love their home and hope to contribute to making it a better place for the future.

Spotlights and impressions:

What is your impression of the festival?
The energetic feeling because I see so many young people around, many that I know but also many new people. It’s really positive and

Why do you stay?
I stay because I want to have the experience of working in Macedonia and I feel that there is a lot of potential here that needs to be used and realised by young people.
We need to take a stand for ourselves and our potential because it is not always understood by the government and society. They often say that young people are lazy, passive and not interested. But I don’t believe this and I believe that there is a big potential for change.
Vesna Ilievska

What is your impression of the festival?
It’s a cool festival, I think there should be more of it.

Why do you stay?
I personally really like my life here. Also, if there’s anything that you dislike, why not stay and change it.
Ana-Marija Karadjovska

What is your impression of the festival?
My highlight is to represent the young people in society.

Why do you stay?
I feel this country belongs to me and I see a lot of potential here. Young people in other countries succeed as well, so I want them to succeed here as well.
Sara Djekova

What is your impression of the festival?
The music is cool.

Why do you stay?
I don’t know, I don’t have enough money to go. But if I could I would leave.
Stefan Vujisic

Mathis Gilsbach
photographs: Aleksandar Cokrevski

Sources:
1. 2018 data – theglobaleconomy.com https://bit.ly/2WoVSM9
2. 2018 data – worldbank https://bit.ly/2Y9KofY
3. 2017 estimate – financial observer https://bit.ly/2UvqFq1
4. 2015 – 2017 survey – demostat https://bit.ly/2DQf1z0
5. 2017 survey balkaninsight.com/ Institute of Strategic
studies and education https://bit.ly/2Wuf4rK

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