WeBalkans is proud to present a unique online event featuring Europe’s brightest young leaders, who, through a number of creative means, have contributed to social change movements across the globe in areas such as human rights, the environment, digital technologies, journalism, international relations, and gender equality.
The WeBalkans initiative, together with the Young European Ambassadors, are both inspired by the notion that there is tremendous power within each of us, which, when unified, becomes a potent driver of positive change – even when faced with circumstances that appear insurmountable.
We also believe that technology itself carries limitless potential as a driver of positive change, and that online tools (including social media platforms) may be used to transform daring ideas into groundbreaking realities.
Moreover, we believe that it is indeed crucial to support brave thinkers who have begun walking this path of change by allowing them to tell us their stories – in the hope that they will inspire others who are equally passionate about such movements to join us.
JOIN WEBALKANS’ LIVE CONVERSATIONS ON 27, 28, and 29 April via their social media platforms!
Moha Gerehou was born in 1992 in Huesca, Spain with roots from the Gambia. He is a journalist at eldiario.es and has been the president of Federation SOS Racismo and SOS Racismo Madrid, both in Spain. He works in different areas related to antiracism, specially focused on the media. His works, through articles and videos, are published on different magazines and online. Author of the book ‘Qué hace un negro como tú en un sitio como este’. He also has developed ‘If I were a black character in a movie’, a show about the representation of black people in films, TV series, advertisements and photography.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
I am a 25-year-old student from Novi Travnik, Bosnia, currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Sarajevo, with a particular focus on European affairs. I have a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy. My primary reason for studying International Relations and Diplomacy is my desire to join forces with young people who are willing to make positive changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to help my country improve its standing at the international scene. Apart from learning experiences, a major part of my education path has been marked by volunteering engagements at the Hastor Foundation, where I work with young people from different parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. My time there has helped me develop her leadership skills, while actually making an impact – thanks to her supervisors who not only recognized my potential but also created a supportive and positive environment for me to grow in and to improve my skills. My interests are very diverse, ranging from art and literature to sports and politics. You will often find me using my social platform networks to promote education, human rights, and freedoms.
Scotland and Pakistan
Hera is the Founder of CHAYN – a global volunteer-run project crowdsourcing resources on the web to address gender-based violence. Chayn has reached more than 360 000 people through its resources which are designed with survivors of abuse. Born in Scotland, raised in Pakistan and living in the UK, Hera knew from early on she wanted to empower women. Hera is a passionate believer in using the power of open source technology and open data to solve the world’s pressing issues. Hera was on the Forbes 30 Under 30 and MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 list.
Hello, I am Aleksandar and I am an undergraduate student at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje. I have extensive experience in multiple national and international civil society organisations, through which I participated in more than 35 international programmes, and organised numerous events, workshops, and projects. Currently, I am a scholar at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, as well as a member of the European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN), and the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia. Additionally, I am the founder and president of the non-profit civil society organisation ‘Youth Empowerment Association’ (YEA). I am also the creator of KaraPlast, a green social start-up idea that went on to become the first Macedonian semi-finalist in the European Social Innovation Competition, organised by the European Commission.
Meeri Koutaniemi is a Finnish photographer and a journalist, born in Lapland and lives currently in Helsinki. Koutaniemi’s work extends to over 50 countries where she has photographed and documented people with compelling stories of struggle and resilience. Her work stems from the question and definition of identity. Koutaniemi has focused on humanitarian side of conflicts, displacement and discrimination. At the core of her work lies a universal ability for empowerment and resistance. In 2012 and 2013 Koutaniemi was selected as the Photographer of the Year in Finland. Koutaniemi has exhibited her photos in over 50 exhibitions around the world. She has published six books from her independent documentary projects. In 2014 Koutaniemi won the Visa D’or Daily Press Award in Perpignan and FreeLens Award in Lumix Photofestival in Hannover. Koutaniemi was selected to participate to Joop Swart and VII Masterclass in 2014. Koutaniemi has also directed documentary series for Finnish TV and worked as a cinematographer for various international documentary movies. At the moment Koutaniemi is focusing on her long-term project about female genital mutilation in different continents.
I am Eris Çunaku, 23, and I come from the beautiful country of Kosovo. I have a bachelor’s degree from RIT Kosovo (the American University in Kosovo) in Management and Web and Mobile Development, with a minor in Public Policy. During my time as a student, I was president of the Student Government, founded – and was president of – the Entrepreneurship Club, and also participated in many clubs, and other youth activities. During this time I organized many successful student activities and events while aiming to engage youth in decision-making processes. Additionally, I was also a member of Kosovo’s Student Union for a year, where I had the opportunity to work with young leaders from different universities across Kosovo. As to my work experience, I have almost three years of experience in Social Media Management and Communication, and one year of experience in Human Resources and Administration. I am very enthusiastic and passionate about youth activism and the protection of our environment, as I believe these two topics are crucial towards ensuring an active civil society and a safe country to live in. I am committed to learning and creating inspiring projects on these topics, with the purpose of making a positive difference in my community. I look forward to serving and representing my country to the best of my abilities.
Francesca Cavallo is a New York Times best-selling author, an entrepreneur, and an activist. In 2016, she co-authored “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” a book that sold 6 million copies and was translated into 51 languages giving birth to the #RebelGirls movement. In 2019, Francesca parted ways with Rebel Girls to start Undercats, Inc. a company with the mission to radically increase diversity in children’s media. With Undercats, she published “Doctor Li and the Crown-wearing Virus”, a story that went viral during the first lockdown and was translated into 38 languages. Francesca is the recipient of the 2018 Publisher’s Weekly StarWatch Award. You can learn more about Undercats on www.undercats.com
My name is Velimir and I’m a political scientist, activist, and writer. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and I’m currently volunteering at the Center for Youth Work, where I advocate for the implementation of Global Education, primarily through the Fun Park blog which I write, and I’m also volunteering at IRIDA, a feminist initiative focusing on educating youths on gender issues and gender-based violence. One of my stories was recently published in a short story collection titled ‘Zb(i)rka mladosti.’ The topic of reconciliation in our region is one of the most important ones that we face today and through my work, I strive to inform others about the ways in which we could all work together and see past our prejudices and empower them to act for peace. What drives me to continue being active in my community is the fact that I grew up seeing ‘the others’ faced with apathy, hostility, and sometimes even violence. As a member of the LGBT community, I will strongly advocate for the safety and human rights of vulnerable groups and for peace in the region.
Boštjan Videmšek has spent last 25 years reporting from all major wars and conflicts around the world. The experience has been extremely valid and humble. But also deeply frustrating. Most of the wars he covered, are still ongoing (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, DR Congo, Somalia, Darfur …). The situation on the ground – and also in his profession – only got worse. He decided to make a career turn. A turn, not a u-turn. Together with an award-winning photographer Matjaž Krivic they decided to focus on the climate crisis. Fight against the horrible consequences of human-made climate crisis is the most important, crucial frontline of humanity of our time. That’s why they decided to start a solution-based project. After a due diligence research, they started their long journey, looking for the best community-driven solutions around the world. His book ‘Plan B’ is a collection of the most promising projects in the fight with the climate crisis.
I am Xhuljana, a professional lawyer who is currently working as a legal consultant close to the Municipality of Tirana. Being in possession of a double major in Law and Business Administration has helped me better understand the way in which legal concepts are associated with finance and administration. Throughout the years, I’ve always been interested in matters that are of concern to society, in particular, the management of solid waste in Tirana, where, due to several factors including the city’s rapid urbanisation and economic development, as well as the growth of its population, the management of the city’s solid waste has grown into a major cause for concern. The opportunities I would have as an EU-level YEA ambassador for Albanian youth would let me address important topics – such as coming up with a solution on how to remedy the damage we’ve caused to our environment. As a youth who wishes to continue living in her country, and as a lawyer who is continuously exposed to laws and regulations, I would like to propose several legal acts and targets that are to be put into place year after year towards improving Tirana’s waste management issue.
My name is Adrijana, I’m 25, and I’m from Belgrade. I’ve always been a talkative person, and I enjoy being surrounded by people – as my father would say, “She began talking at nine months, and she never stopped!” I learned English In kindergarten – but only to sing, not speak it. In my early days, I wanted to change the world with my actions, and, later in life, I found a way to do so. I volunteered for more than 20 international sports championships and was a member of Serbia’s first volunteer NGO. After graduating from school, I began studying IR at the Faculty of Political Sciences, and, during my time there, volunteered for the project ‘Karavan-Duh mladosti,’ which was implemented by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development towards promoting dual education on the SOS television channel. I also manage public relations for the Partizan handball club, and I was a liaison officer at the IPU assembly meeting. I have international experience volunteering for the Roma National Council in Croatia, where I wrote articles, delivered workshops on discrimination, tolerance, and human rights, and ran the ‘pROMIjeni’ campaign against online hate speech. I participated in two campaigns in Croatia – ‘If You Give a Sh*t, Give a Vote’ and ‘This Time I’m voting.”
I am a passionate, result-orientated professional, who is determined to represent Kosovo within the extremely complex and challenging political landscape of the Western Balkans. I successfully continue to pursue academic excellence through the attainment of honorary scholarships, and being simultaneously listed on the ‘Dean’s list’ of three separate universities. I also utilise my curious and inquisitive character to volunteer for numerous organisations, having travelled across Europe on a number of projects as a representative of Kosovo. I am open-minded and knowledgeable academic, speak five languages, and hold a great passion for culture and international political affairs. I am also a lover of nature and aim on using my future political influence in emphasizing the necessity of improving the region’s environmental conditions. With a viewpoint of regional cooperation as a crucial aspect of development, I am extremely motivated to work at the regional level and to meet and form a network with like-minded peers towards a better future of regional cohesion, with discrimination being a thing of the past.
Environmentalist and realist with a professional background in two different sectors. French Diplomacy is where I learned the fundamentals of international relations between the Balkans and the European Union, whereas working in the business sector, mostly on electro-distribution, helped me advance the link between the public and the private sector. My interests include the environment, different cultures, blockchain technology, youth integration, multiculturalism, and multilateralism. I will contribute to my community and to share European values in my country and abroad while being a YEA.
My name is Dado Dervanovic, I’m 21, and I study at the Faculty of Information Systems and Technology at the UDG. Initially, a shy child struggling with self-confidence and self-image issues, I’ve grown to become a confident person who thrives in group environments, loves meeting different people, and getting to know diverse cultures. At the start of 2020, I decided that this would be the year that I do things, which, in the past, the ‘shy me’ would never have done. Some of these include – working at a job that demanded high social skills while speaking to customers, mountain climbing, bodybuilding, traveling more (this one had to be postponed!), and youth activism. I’m also dedicated to fitness, and I’ve decided to continue my fitness journey into bodybuilding. I work on my nutrition and work out a lot, which helps me increase my patience and discipline. I work as a teaching assistant at Digital Bee, a programming school for kids where learning basic programming is made fun. I’m excited to see what the rest, and coming years, have in store for me, and I hope to conquer even more things – including being a Young European Ambassador!