By Shambhavi Chouhan
As I write down this final blog, it stems from a sense of finality and melancholy, as after this assignment, Peace Lab is officially over.
Reflecting on the first few days home after our arrival from Kosovo, many things felt distant and alien, to an extent. I was still immersed in the experience of Prishtina and was coming to terms with settling back in Amsterdam. We had met young individuals who were forced to live in a system which was corrupt, inefficient and devoid of opportunities. The country is still buzzing with frustration and unemployment. The last few days in Prishtina were monumental for me as we met inspirational individuals who through their power were trying to push for a change. Despite the magnitude of the given problem, they were hoping to create a dent on the inefficient system. Examples included young women such as, Tadi, Mr Petrit Selimi’s assistant, who apart from working for the Millenium Development Fund were also organizing drag parties. And young men such as Rinor, from Kosovo 2.0, who while working for an unconventionally bold magazine were also trying to narrate their story of growing up as Albanian in Serbia.
Kosovo suffers from an unfortunate geographic situation, with unfriendly neighbours but the warmest people. What caught me off guard, was the kindness and the warmth of the people. We were living with Enver’s family and they immediately made us feel at home. It was unfortunate to witness the challenges they had to face due to the circumstances of the society around them. A lot of the youth wanted to leave the country, but a lot of them didn’t want to either. These Kosovars maintain a strong relation and identity towards Kosovo and want to make it economically prosperous. As Petrit Selimi, the founder of the Millennium Development Fund stated, he eventually hopes that the “brain drain” in Kosovo becomes “brain gain”.
Significantly, Kosovo is brewing with history and hope (for a better future). It was inspiring to witness the role of small NGOs such as the Kosovo Women’s Network or the New Social Initiative, and the strength of their vision, as opposed to the international organizations which were often bureaucratic, riddled with inefficiency and corruption. The importance of narrative also starkly comes into play in Kosovo as a lot of people relate their identity to their Albanian or Serbian past. A uniform identity in Kosovo is missing and as we witnessed while meeting Albin Kurdi, a lot of politicians push for a historical narrative which relates to their ethnic identity.
Currently a daunting number of challenges lie ahead for Kosovo: visa liberation, fighting corruption and inefficiency and possibly joining the European Union. The government still lies a world apart from the grievances of the locals. The only thing which is pushing the country forward right now is the cluster of social initiatives by the driven locals and the hope for a better future. The question then remains whether this would be enough?