On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, the first institutional Youth Dialogue with the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Brankica Janković was held.
At the very beginning of the Dialogue, data from the Alternative Report on the Position and Needs of Youth from 2021 has been highlighted showcasing that 66% of young people said that they had faced discrimination, while 59% had faced discrimination motivated by age.
Upon that young participants discussed personal examples of discrimination: in the education system, in health care, in public transport, in the labor market… After the examples, participants gave suggestions for concrete measures that could improve position and equlity of young people in Serbia. Suggestions such as introducing intergenerational dialogue in companies or institutions where both older and younger employees would meet and discuss the challenges they face together in the business environment, and have the opportunity to hear each other’s views.
It was noted that young people face challanges on labour market, such as unrealistic expectations of having a certain number of years of experience for entry positions. Also, it was pointed out that My First Salary program should justify its name, which includeds word “salary” and that the monetary compensation of this program must not be below the minimum wage in the Republic of Serbia.
One of the participants suggested introduction of a mentoring mechanism in certain companies, which the Commissioner praised and agreed with. The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality said that this type of cooperation already exists within some companies, but that it needs improvement. She also indicated that the report of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, entails recommendation for strengthening the intergenerational dialogue. “I think we have many opportunities to improve intergenerational dialogue, I think that maybe even the key to our success lies in it. I think that is a great potential, considering the part of our identity and considering that relationship of respect for the elderly”, she said. She reminded that the doors of the Commissioner institution are always open.
Regarding other examples presented by young participants, the Commissioner said that it is possible to tackle individual cases, as well as that there is some progress in the work of this institution. To add to it she cited the example of inability of become a headmaster if a person faced charges of discrimination, as a big step forward greater equality. She said that problems can be solved according to priorities.
She pointed out that KOMS and young people can count on the support and partnership from the institution of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality.
At the end of the Dialogue, Uroš Savić Kain, President of the Governing Board, presented the main message on behalf of KOMS.
“The topic of inequality of opportunity for all young people in Serbia deserves much more attention than one day or one event. At events like this, we lay the foundations for further work on the topic and provide an opportunity to hear the voice of young people and create recommendations that will hopefully be implemented in the coming period until, hopefully, the next event to make a cross-section of what has been done in the meantime. . (…) Each young person in Serbia is valuable, in both the present and the future. Also, every young person who leaves Serbia or for any reason does not have the opportunity to actively participate in social life in Serbia is an immeasurable loss for the present and the future. We had the opportunity to hear a large number of stories of real young people, which in themselves are a sufficient call to action. We have heard an examples of discrimination that suggests that a large number of steps are ahead of us before we achieve the ideal of the society we are striving for, which refers to equal opportunities for every young person, and we have also heard suggestions that can be the first steps towards such a society. It is necessary to sensitize those who work with young people and for young people, especially those who work with young people during the most sensitive phases of their development and through which young people gain first impressions of the world around them. (…) “
After that, one of the young people following the Dilaogue through Facebok raised the question about how hatred in parliament and how young MPs could be sensitized, as well as the opinion of the Commissioner on the introduction of quotas for young people in parliament.
She first referred to Uroš’s speech, saying: “I would not draw conclusions, I would just like to continue. To make this a practice”, and then she referred to the questions asked. On that occasion, she said that the Comissioner institution submitted an initiative and recommended development of a code of ethics, which she said had been drafted.
Finally, it was once again underlined that the Commisioner is open for dialogue and the need to work together on informing young people about the mechanisms available to them, such as reporting discrimination when they endure it. It was said that it is necessary to encourage young people to get rid of fear, to get rid of the feeling that they will not be taken seriously. “Just talk – that’s my conclusion” she said.
Also, the Commissioner pointed out that KOMS is a real example of an organization through which young people can speak both as individuals and as an association, from a group.
The dialogue was broadcast live on the YouTube channel and Facebook page of the National Youth Council of Serbia, and you can watch the entire video here.
The dialogue of young people with the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality was held in cooperation with the Institute for Media and Diversity through the project YOUTH: Media literacy alliance and digital importance, which is supported by the EU Delegation to Serbia.