Ema Nikolova from Republic of North Macedonia was awarded the Third Prize in 2020 for her essay:
Peace and Youth
Nearly half of the world’s population is composed of young people whose energy and ambitions could have a destructive nature if they are not channelled in the right direction. The youth is often seen as a problem to be solved, and a threat to be contained because of the narrative dominated by groups that are focused on extremism and manipulated by stereotypes. The perception of youth is distorted and they are being led on a path where they have problems understanding their own potential. Young people need to be provided with education that is complemented with opportunities, an education that eliminates stereotypes and promotes equality.
Youth is marginalized by prejudice and discrimination, seen as the problem and not the solution. Without the proper education and resources, with a lack of psychological and psychosocial support, young people could easily be manipulated to commit notorious crimes and be both the perpetrators and victims of violence. People should let the hurtful walls of social exclusion which refer to young people, finally collapse. Governments need to understand that youth is the missing part of the puzzle called peace: young people need to be educated and seen as possible peace builders and peace advocates.
It is often said that education is the foundation of a peaceful society. From a young age, youth should be taught moral and spiritual values such as communication and esteem for all members of humanity. They should be presented with analytical and practical peace building skills and have opportunities to apply them. They should learn to eliminate political, cultural and socio-economic barriers. Educated adolescents create various workshops where they spread their knowledge about peace building through different activities such as singing, dancing and reading poetry and drama. Their main goal is that people should understand different forms of violence, its causes and consequences, learn how to analyse problems and how to structure solutions.
I live in The North of Macedonia, a fragmented country with deeply rotten roots that divide the nation between the different nationalities, religions and cultures. With deep concern, as a young adult I can say that we are exposed to many negative influential factors such as propaganda and one-sided media with a nationalistic political rhetoric. I believe that, regardless of what the media and society has to say, we could build bridges between individuals and connect with the power of our voice and thoughts, talk openly about our fears and insecurities. Dalai Lama said “World peace must develop from inner peace.” We should own the country and use our voice to make a change.
I believe that peace is like an open book and everyone can contribute to fill in the blank spaces because future peace and prosperity depend on us.