NEW YORK, USA, 20 September 2012
Katerina Thanasi is a fifteen-year-old girl from Gjirokastra, Albania. Supported by Save the Children, Katarina is working to promote peace and conflict resolution in her country. She recently participated in a Children, Youth and Peacebuilding event in New York organized by Save the Children, the International Peace Institute and the Permanent Mission of the Norway to the United Nations. In the lead up to the International Day of Peace on the 21 September 2012, UNICEF interviewed Katerina about her projects and the importance of using education as a tool for peace.
Q: When did you get involved in programmes that promote peacebuilding and conflict resolution? What was your motivation?
A: I started participating in my school’s student government, which is structure composed of a number of senators elected by each class. The senators then elect a president who represents the school in different forums where the children’s rights are discussed. Peacebuilding and conflict resolution is one of the topics we often talk about and this is how I initially got involved with Save the Children.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: We’re in the midst of organizing a peacebuilding event to celebrate the International Day of Peace on 21 September. Together with Zeri 16+, a children’s organization that works to promote children’s rights in Albania, we are organizing a public gathering to demand that schools are treated as peace zones. One of the most acute problems in Albania is violence in schools and communities. The teachers and the parents know about it but it’s still present. On the International Day of Peace we are calling for an end to violence in schools and for building peaceful learning environments so that every child can go freely to school and get the education they deserve.
Q: Who is supporting you on this project?
A: It’s mostly the young people in Peshkopia, a town in northern-east Albania where the event is taking place, and also a small group of teachers and parents. The reality is that in Albania there are a lot of adults that don’t take young people seriously. They think youth activities are unimportant.
Q: What role do you think schools can play in the peace process? Can they support it or cause more conflict?
A: In Albania is a combination of the two right now but I believe that if we work hard, if we bring awareness to the importance of peace, if we explain to young people what peace means, the schools can turn into pillars of peace.
Q: What are you doing to involve more young people in this process?
A: We are talking to them, sharing information, explaining certain perspectives. We have started to notice that more and more young people are getting interested and involved, even if it is by posting a simple note on their Facebook page.
Q: What is your message for the Albanian youth on the International Day of Peace?
A: We can change the reality only by starting from ourselves, be the change you want to see. This is my motto.
Interviewed by Rudina Vojvoda
UNICEF is currently implementing a new four-year programme on Education, Peacebuilding and Advocacy, with the support of the Government of the Netherlands, in 14 countries around the world.
For more on the programme and the critical role of education in building sustainable peace, please see the following resources: