‘Be a Man’: Changing male attitudes in the Balkans

Boys and teachers at a school in Pristina Kosovo

Besnik Leka, Young Men Initiative frontline worker in Kosovo:

“One of the boys was always getting into trouble. A girl at the school hit him and the Head of the school could not believe that the boy came to him to talk about it rather than reacting with violence.

“The school Head is really taken aback by the change the lessons have had on these boys, especially given that there have been many stabbings in similar schools in the city.”

Armend Morina running a session on what it means to be a man © CARE / Armend Nimani

Armend Morina running a session on what it means to be a man

Armend Morina carries out the 'Be A Man' training in technical schools that have traditionally had the biggest problems with motivation, attendance and violence:

“The difference is tremendous. Their values have changed so much. They don’t label girls or each other anymore; they organise campaigns for the rest of the school.”

'Problem kids'

“Their teachers approached me and asked, how we have done this? These were the ‘problem kids’ but that only makes me more motivated to do it more.

“If you give these guys the right space they are so creative, but it needs the right approach. I think the peer-to-peer approach is the key to success, it needs to be participatory and not the usual top-down educational approach. We make the topics relevant to their lives.”

Post-conflict countries

“Sometimes I think it is easier to do this work in a post-conflict country than in a country with years of developed institutions. There is a general will to contribute to reconciliation and it is easier to convince institutions that don’t have systems in place already.”

Agon Ferida and Aid Kelmendi © CARE / Armend Nimani

Agon Ferida and Aid Kelmendi

Ferida Kelmendi is the mother of 18-year-old twins Agon and Aid:

“Kosovo is a young country with a lot of youth, and real problems with drug and alcohol abuse, and I think that contributes to the high levels of violence. There have been lots of reports of stabbings in schools.

“I have been on the parents’ committee for many years and Agon and Aid’s school doesn’t have these levels of violence any more. There has been a really positive impact since the Young Men Initiative started, and now I hear parents proudly telling other parents that their son is part of the programme.”

Changing attitudes

“It would have been so good to have this training for the men of my generation. The boys were only three years old during the war. I hate the war. When I see war on TV I pray for it to stop and for no-one to be suffering in the way that we did.

I am so happy and proud of my boys for taking part, I think the project has really let them shine.

“Even in the house their attitude has changed, they taken the initiative and just start helping me without my even asking.”

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.