"I am still here" - Letters from Serbia

Ana Janošev

Ana believes that investing in youth, is investing in our future, and is fulfilled by helping them find their passions, interests and their career paths.

She has been working on youth social enterprises in Serbia, delivering workshops on idea generation, business modeling, planning and pitching for young people, developing incubation programs for idea stage social enterprises and creating a network of young social changemakers.

I am 25-year old Serbian. I was born in 1992, in the midst of Yugoslavia’s breakup and wars. My first year of elementary was marked by the NATO bombing, and the second year by the so-called “colored (or bulldozer) revolution”, when the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic was taken down, and the new “democratic” era started.

That means that in less than 20 years, Serbia experienced two huge systemic changes. What happens with youth in that situation?

Unfortunately, in Serbia that resulted in a big discontent and apathy. Only 10% of youth votes in elections and about 20% is politically active. There exists a widely spread disappointment in the system, due to corruption, nepotism, lack of rule of law, high unemployment…

Research shows that 73% of Serbian youth doesn’t think there is enough space for them to show their creativity and talent, 66% believe there is no perspective for youth in Serbia, and about 50% think the best job for youth is in public administration. Along with the data about youth unemployment (36.1%) it is understandable why Serbian youth has stopped believing in the system.

However, working as a youth worker for the past 5 years has made me hopeful the situation is not all that dark. There are several examples I would like to point out.

The IT industry in Serbia, mostly led by young, well-educated people, is shaping our economy. This community, mostly gathered around two organizations – Startit and ICT Hub, has made some impact on the creation of new trade, online business and financial laws. They are pushing for government to focus more on the potential of this industry, to invest in the education in the field and shape laws in a way that enables startups and entrepreneurs to bring in value, instead of taking it out of the country.

On the level of youth politics, Serbian Youth Umbrella Organization (KOMS) has been advocating for the involvement of youth in the decision-making processes, advising government on the youth issues, proposing solution and educating youth to become active citizens.

In recent years, a lot of effort has been put into promotion of entrepreneurship. The pioneers of promotion of entrepreneurial learning was Junior Achievement (JA) Serbia, which started with their programs in elementary and high schools in 2005. Since then, more than 60.000 pupils from 289 schools participated in their programs. JA Serbia was a big advocate for making entrepreneurship a subject in elementary and high schools, which is currently being implemented.

In the country where corruption is so widespread, the changes are slow. That’s why many organizations have moved away from working with or within the system, into working with individuals. Programs like Future Studies (Belgrade Open School) or Social Impact Award aim at developing individuals who will create change in our society. They are the future impact makers, with broader minds, developed skills and passion for influencing the system for the better.

Even though more than 40.000 people a year emigrate from Serbia, I am still here. I am here because I am still hopeful that young bright minds of this country can tear down this system of corruption and lawlessness, and create a system that benefits its citizens.

I am still here. And I am here to do everything in my power to create environment for more people like me stay.