After a long, uncertain lockdown, the last week of May finally allowed us to board a plane from Amsterdam to Tirana, and then take a shuttle bus heading east, to the lakeside town of Pogradec, on the Albania-North Macedonia border. Here we met up with artivists from the broader Western Balkan region, actors from the cultural and civil society sectors, diplomatic representatives and professionals who have worked with youth and human rights advocacy in the region for over a decade. For five days we participated in talks on artivism, EU youth work funding programs, trans youth visibility, the importance of safe art spaces, the growing visibility of queer culture through arts, and the road ahead towards gender equality. These instances allowed participants to engage in discussions with the young people spearheading the inclusion of LGBTQ+ rights into mainstream society through arts, starting from their own experiences as a members of a marginalized minority, and how they used art to reach other individuals like themselves and gradually infiltrate mainstream culture through heartfelt creativity.
As one of the last instances of the Youth Artivists for Change project, it was extremely fulfilling to see their ongoing individual journeys become part of the broader process of change which is slowly but surely taking place in the Balkans. As we saw their projects come to completion in film screenings, you couldn’t help but praise their bravery and originality, but also their commitment towards the LGBTQ+ community everywhere, shining a message of hope to other young people everywhere..