by Ismayil Fataliyev, Local Correspondent from Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is the country with one of the highest percentages of the millennials’ generation in Europe. State and civil-society organizations try to actively involve the youth in the life of society. The first ones prefer to focus on ensuring the physical, spiritual and psychological development of the new generation, promoting patriotic feelings. The second ones thrive to identify talented young people and their possible contribution to the country’s future. Since the majority of the population live and work in Baku a huge portion of relevant activities and needed resources are concentrated there. But active individuals and NGOs in the regions try to close the gap by implementing civil society-oriented projects.
Mingachevir, a city some 300 km westward off Baku, holds special place in this respect. Thanks to the huge hydroelectric station, other industrial enterprises and location on the banks of the Kura River, the fourth largest city in Azerbaijan bears the title of the City of the Youth.
Aysel Ismayilova, 25, is a teacher. A couple of years ago she started working at the Mingachevir Youth House (MYH).She admits this step opened up opportunities for her to achieve success, good education. The main goal of the MYH is to support youth initiatives, effective organization of youth’s leisure activities, psychological rehabilitation, legal and informational help to youth. She managed to expand her network by contacting experts with diverse professional backgrounds. Also, by participating in capacity building events she gained relevant expertise. “I gained knowledge and skills on many topics that I did not know. After a while I became a trainer. When listening to people’s success stories, I work harder and try to achieve great deeds. I wish one day I will have my own success story, “- she says.
She is happy there are many young people around who can actively participate in her city`s life. Aysel has launched one of the social media accounts of the MYH. Here, she arranges online discussion panels for youth and invites trainers, experts to join online meetings. She proudly notes this account has already turned into a favorite online platform of the Mingachevir youth. “When working with young people, many do not know how and where to start. They need advice, the right direction, guidance and motivation. Our platform delivers important information and social messages not only to the youth of Mingachevir, but the rest of Azerbaijan. Students and young people from nearby cities and regions follow us,”- Aysel says.
Aysel says community and youth organizations in Mingachevir are united and act on the basis of the same social values. This makes a significant contribution to the development of civil society, strengthen youth cooperation and teamwork. Young activists say civic engagement within society is the key indicator of public control and development of interrelations. They insist that development of civil society ensures tolerant peaceful coexistence of diverse cultures, faiths, customs, peoples.
Hamid Huseynov, 36, is a internally displaced person from Aghdam. His family moved to Mingachevir when he was a little child. Holding a degree in philology Hamid was a teacher at school for three years until 2012. Since then he has joined civil-society organizations. Within Ümidli Gələcək” (Hopeful future) he worked as a social worker in a rehabilitation center for youth who suffered from domestic violence. In the “Gənclər Klubu” (Youth Club), another public union, he initiated the “DİSCLUB” project, a discussion platform where activists and youth could discuss topics related to education, healthcare, unemployment, public control in the army, etc. In 2013 -.2016 Hamid participated in various capacity-building trainings in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Macedonia, Slovakia, Belgium. He learnt how to write project proposals properly and professionally, to implement, evaluate and apply relevant methodology. “I realized importance of social responsibility. I understood I needed to apply those skills to contribute in youth and society development. Acquired skill set helped me to fulfill this for them,”- Hamid says.
Eventually, he managed to implement a year-long project that included almost 500 participants and taught them to enhance organizational, strategic thinking and leadership skills. Hamid proudly say that recalls those participants have held various positions in government or NGOs, started their own organizations, launched social projects, or continued academic studying in prominent universities of Turkey, the USA, Europe. By the way he provided dozens of young people who wished to study abroad with information about study opportunities such as Work and Travel, EVS, Flex, Erasmus +, Fulbright, Chevening, , DAAD, as well as instructions on proper preparation of applications. Hamid was a mentor, speaker, trainer in joint projects carried out by local and international organizations in Mingachevir (GIZ, UNICEF, etc.)
Hamid admits lack of funds to implement projects, less time for personal life are among the main disadvantages of being a civil activist. But, personal and social responsibility, enthusiasm as well as support of loved people make him turn a blind eye on these cons. The successful outcome of his work, he says, is to upgrade young people’s personal responsibility into social responsibility. “Social responsibility should include all spheres of our society. Because today’s youth are tomorrow’s doctors, teachers and other specialists. Those who work in areas of current interest, like education, culture, medicine and technology, can become professionals in their fields. They can act effectively if they recognize this responsibility,”- adds Hamid.
At present the current generation of young people prefers to either found their own associations or maintain their activities individually. When implementing today’s social projects activists face issues and challenges that differ from those in previously implemented projects. “In Mingachevir there are enough smart, creative, motivated and strong young people. Therefore, the future of Mingachevir depends on working with the youth in the appropriate direction and the opportunities created for them. Mingachevir could become the true City of Youth not only in Azerbaijan, but in the region as well. If the quality of provided education, career opportunities, social initiatives for young people comply with their modern demands,”- he concludes.
This article was produced by Ismayil Fataliyev, the Project’s local correspondent and EaP Civil Society Fellow from Azerbaijan in the framework of the EU-funded ‘Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility – Regional Actions’ Project. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Ismayil Fataliyev and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the Project.
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