Several children and teens writing and drawing climate-change related messages on large chalk board
Credit: USAID Youth Actively Create Opportunities

Youth at the Forefront of Climate Action in North Macedonia

By Tara Kalaputi, YACO Team

In an era defined by urgent environmental crises, the collective power of youth is a beacon of hope for combating climate change. Through a multifaceted approach including activism, solutions-based competitions, and research, USAID’s Youth Actively Create Opportunities (YACO) Activity empowers young people in North Macedonia to take proactive measures against the impacts of climate change. The YACO Activity encourages youth to channel their passions and creativity towards tangible solutions for our planet's future. Involving youth in development programs is vital to driving meaningful change and inspiring global action.

Youth-led Creative Activism

In ten municipalities in North Macedonia, the impacts of climate change are propelling participants of the Activity’s Youth Engagement Clubs to develop creative ways to raise awareness of these impacts within their communities.

For example, in November 2023, student Milena Peshevskachose to express her creativity in a giant interactive cube on a technical college campus in Skopje. Each side of the cube contained one thought-provoking activity: a wall of mirrors with the message, "You are a reflection of the environment"; space for young people to leave messages, recommendations, and advice for contributing to and caring for the environment; and two sides for artistic expression via creating a mosaic from recycled waste and spray painting.  

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Two teen girls kneeling in front of mirror with message on it
Students in Skopje interact with a mirror showcasing the message, “You are the reflection of the environment.”

When asked about the inspiration for this cube, Milena replied, “I think there is a lot to be done in [raising awareness of climate change]. The awareness of the majority of people is not high enough. Pollution is still high, and this topic is not sufficiently discussed.”

In Strumica Municipality, youth set out to raise awareness of green transportation methods because, despite the city of Strumica’s bike infrastructure, sustainable transportation appeared to be underutilized. Members of the local Youth Engagement Club organized a “Green March” in which youth were invited to ride their bikes, skateboards, scooters, and roller blades around the city park to encourage use of the area’s bike lanes.

For members of Delcevo Municipality’s Youth Engagement Club, Earth Day was an opportunity to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and the urgent need for climate action. They drew a mural depicting the effects climate change will have on the planet if no action is taken versus how the planet might look if people do take climate action.

Youth-driven Innovative Solutions

In addition to encouraging artistic creativity, the YACO Activity also fosters technical innovation by hosting solutions-based competitions. 

For example, a Green Solutions Hackathon held in September 2023 sparked a wave of innovative inventions to combat climate change, including organic fertilizers, an online marketplace for second-hand clothing, cutting-edge smart bins, a zero-waste approach to leather production, and the integration of AI into solar panel energy generation.

It was a really rewarding experience. Everyone had great ideas. We met new people and learned a lot.

Emine Nazifovska, a member of the winning team BIODEFEND, which consisted of talented secondary school students from Resen, a small town in North Macedonia.

Similarly, Climathon inspired novel ideas for achieving a greener city. This hackathon, organized as part of the EU’s EIT Climate-KIC climate innovation agency and community, gathered 11 teams comprising approximately 50 youth. The winning team received an award and is currently in the process of implementing its idea. 

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Three teens putting trash into bag
Members of the Youth Engagement Clubs in Skopje take the time to clean parks in their community.
Youth-directed Climate Research

The youth participating in the YACO Activity are not just using their creativity to inspire change. They are also conducting research to emphasize their pivotal role in generating valuable insights and contributing to the discourse surrounding environmental challenges. As part of a youth-led research program, a team of four young researchers is studying the impact of climate change on young people’s mental health. Their desk analysis will be followed by quantitative research to result in recommendations for young people and other groups. 

Youth-inspired Sustainable Practices

The YACO Activity is committed to incorporating climate action into its daily activities. This includes using organic produce in cooking training sessions, arranging field visits to organic gardens, opting for reusable promotional materials, and encouraging investment in environmentally friendly endeavors like a green job training hub for youth. 

Whether through creative environmental awareness-raising campaigns, innovative climate solutions, or important climate-related research, young people in North Macedonia are leading the way to lasting change. With youth leading by example, our future is in good hands!

Country
North Macedonia
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Mitigation, Integration
Topics
Education, Green Jobs, Health, Transportation, Urban, Youth, Air Quality, Climate Change Integration, Digital technology, Locally-Led Development
Region
Europe & Eurasia

Tara Kalaputi

Tara Kalaputi holds an MA in Human Rights and Democracy in South-Eastern Europe. For her MA thesis, she conducted research on the detention of unaccompanied children on the move in Bulgaria. Her professional expertise is children and youth protection, migration, and emergency preparedness and response. She has extensive experience in diverse humanitarian contexts both nationally and internationally and has worked for UNHCR, UNICEF, and Save the Children International, among other organizations.

 

YACO Team

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