Hundreds of young people unite for EU/CENN Youth Year initiative in Georgia
EU and CENN for youth empowerment
This article summarizes how the EU and CENN support the development of young people living in the regions — their empowerment through entrepreneurship and more.
Green entrepreneurship for young people living in Akhmeta and Ninotsminda
15-year-old Angela Gharsliani from Ninotsminda makes handmade jewelry by recycling plastic and metal bottles. The idea came to Angela after participating in the “Green Entrepreneurship Ideathon”. The latter was organized in Ninotsminda by CENN.
For the third year, CENN and partner organizations (KRDF and Green Lane NGO) are undertaking the EU-supported project “EU4Youth: Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Cross-Border Regions”.
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The goal of the project is to develop the entrepreneurial potential of young people living in Georgia and Armenia, to strengthen their skills in the direction of social entrepreneurship and green innovation, and to promote the employment of young people.
Thirty young people, including Angela, living in Ninotsminda were involved in the ideathon. Young people were divided into groups and came up with five project ideas. The jury selected three and awarded them a cash prize of 500 GEL.
Angela’s idea won first place. The second and third place participants also had interesting ideas. Like Angela, they are from fourteen to sixteen years old.
Seda Kazariani, Nanuli Stamboltsiani and Karina Amirkhaniani will sew eco-friendly bags from fabric scraps, while Ani Avakian and Arman Khosian make natural juices from ecologically clean products.
“Ideathon was a good opportunity for youth in terms of development and employment. Now they know what social entrepreneurship is, how to find funding and get a job. We gave young people the opportunity to have their own business and yet not leave the region”, Irina Karsliani, CENN coordinator in Ninotsminda, says.
Similar to Ninotsminda, an ideathon for young people was also organized in Akhmeta. Fourteen students from Akhmeta and Matni village schools were involved.
In Akhmeta the participants of the ideathon were divided into two groups. It turned out that the jury liked the ideas of both groups and both groups received funding in the amount of 500 GEL.
“Most of the group members were participating in a project like this for the first time. That’s why we considered it important to provide information on the environment, climate change and the challenges in this regard”, Shorena Khangoshvili, the local coordinator of the project, says.
School students also focused on environmental protection. Their projects included the greening of schoolyards, waste collection, clean-up campaigns, environmental quizzes and peer awareness training.
“Young people learned how important green entrepreneurship and business development are. I think we were able to raise their awareness with this project. Young people should know how to take care of the environment from a young age,” Khangoshvili believes.
Gori youth to raise awareness of small entrepreneurs and society
Zura Macharashvili and Nikoloz Kevlishvli live in Gori and lead the NGO “Adolescent Center New Generation”. Both are participants in CENN youth projects. In their organization they work toward the development of the local community and the empowerment of young people, and often grapple with environmental issues.
Zura and Nikoloz are also the winners of the “Green Entrepreneurship Ideathon” held in Gori in December 2021.
“I participated in the CENN green innovators camp. I heard about the youth ideathon there. The knowledge gained at the camp directly corresponded to the ideathon concept, and the idea came to me then. I immediately decided to participate,” Zura Macharashvili tells us.
His idea was to raise public awareness about alternative energy sources, and he decided to come up with a project through which small entrepreneurs would gain knowledge of how to do business and take care of the environment.
“We wanted to start a campaign that would offer trainings on alternative energy sources and energy generation, and include a visit to a solar panel factory in Tbilisi and wind power plants in Gori. The last stage would be the distribution of information booklets to the population,” Zura says.
The project was refined with the help of mentors. Their idea – “Bridge of the Future” – was named the best out of seventeen teams by the jury. They received a cash prize of 800 GEL and began implementing the idea:
“We selected small entrepreneurs from Gori district. We had a total of fifteen beneficiaries. After training, they had the opportunity to learn theoretically and practically how solar panels are made and how they are used. They visited the wind power station and saw how windmills work. We also distributed information brochures,” Zura tells us, recalling that the owners of family hotels were especially interested in solar panels.
EU and CENN for youth empowerment
“All this helped me demonstrate my knowledge and gave me the opportunity to share the experience gained through CENN with the public. I taught, for example, how to plan and properly conduct a campaign, and I provided information on alternative sources of energy,” Zura says.
“European Year of Youth” in Georgia
Another initiative, dedicated to the development of young people this year by CENN, was a youth conference held in Tbilisi in May called “Challenges and Opportunities of Youth in Georgia”with the support of the European Union.
To overcome the acute consequences of the pandemic and to support young people, the European Commission announced 2022 the “Year of Youth”.
“We decided to dedicate the entire conference to the issues that concern young people, to discuss challenges and solutions. It was quite a heated discussion, interesting issues were raised”, Natela Lagurashvili, leader of the youth mobilization and development component, says.
The conference was attended by more than a hundred people – active young people living in the region, representatives of the EU delegation in Georgia, local and international organizations and state agencies.
“Lack of youth spaces in the regions, involvement in democratic issues, lack of opportunities, limited access to information. These issues were highlighted at the conference. Because of this, young people leave their regions,” Natela says, adding that through this conference, young people had the opportunity to get to know people working on problems in their region and to discover new opportunities.
The project “EU4Youth: Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Cross-Border Regions” is coming to an end.
During the last three years, innovative knowledge hubs were created in the target regions, where young people have access to digital technologies, the internet, and office equipment. They have also had the opportunity to gather and implement their initiatives.
In addition, a number of campaigns related to the environment, social entrepreneurship and other issues important to young people were held. A cross-border platform was established through which Armenian and Georgian youth could communicate.
Future activities are already planned — soon youth camps will be organized for young people living in Armenia and Georgia which will be about social entrepreneurship and environmental topics.
Natela says that progress is being made:
“Several young people involved in our activities are now trainers in their municipality, some have formed youth organizations. Our goal is that after the end of the project, active young people with initiatives and relevant skills will remain in Regioenb”, she says.
EU and CENN for youth empowerment