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Youth activism and elections in BiH during the pandemic – ASuBiH

Alisa Karović

The pandemic has impacted every part of our society, especially secondary school students. Most of their education now takes place online, and as first-time voters, they had their first elections also in pandemic conditions. Association of secondary school students in BiH is trying to work with their peers as much as the pandemic allows them. The goal is to educate and motivate students to participate in elections, even if they don’t fully understand the work and the importance of the local government.

As a part of the POINT Talks program, we talked to Ajsel Kaniža, a youth activist from Bugojno, who works as a PR manager of the Association of secondary school students in BiH (ASuBiH). ASuBiH is an organisation that is unique for many reasons. It has a great number of local teams and members across the country, it is an NGO gathering high school students from the entire country, and is completely run by high school students.

We talked with Ajsel about how and how much the pandemic affected high school students in general, but also their activist life, especially in the year in which the pandemic and elections take place at the same time, which are the first elections ever for high school students. She stated that their greatest success in the pandemic year is that they managed to organize their activities, work with their peers and offer them as many opportunities and support as they had before the pandemic. When it comes to the elections, she says that most of the secondary school students don’t fully understand the work of municipal and city authorities, which leads to the consequence that they don’t find local government and elections important.

“Through our research on the participation of young people in decision-making processes, we could see that young people don’t even know who to turn to solve problems in their local community”.

Unfortunately, the pandemic made the situation for students even worse. Even before the pandemic, they did not have complete knowledge about the election process and participation in the elections, so the pandemic election conditions further demotivated them and made them more confused. All of this served as a great motivation for them to organize training for local representatives through the “Youth participate” project, which deals with the possible participation of young people in decision-making processes, as well as the importance of elections and motivation for voting.

Ajsel also says that the spread of misinformation has a significant impact on voters and that students need to be information and media literate in order to make quality and correct decisions.

“What we have as an advantage is our corporation with “Zašto ne” organisation, as well as their project “Ne klikam u prazno”, where young people have an opportunity to be educated about media literacy as well as the fight against disinformation”.

For more of what Ajsel had to say about these issues, please watch the video.