7Arte is excited to share the story of Elira Sahitaj and the campaign #MoseMerrMalin. This is an article that emphasizes young women’s local movements on climate and environmental issues in the country of Kosovo, part of the “Showcasing the Unheard” project that is organized by YEE (Youth and Environment Europe).

Elira Sahitaj is 23 years old, she has studied Philosophy in the University of Prishtina in Kosovo. Elira’s journey as an environmental activist started when she was 13 years old, engaging in different initiatives for the benefit of the community where she lived. “A key factor for my current engagement in climate change issues is Sustainability Leadership Kosova (SLK), an NGO where I have been working for a year and a half now.”

Sustainability Leadership Kosovo in collaboration with the Institute for GIS and Geospatial Technology of Kosovo IGGTK in Kosovo, CorrelAid and MasterStory in the Netherlands has led research on the deforestation of Kosovo. With the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and using satellite images from the European Space Agency, SLK has learned that the state of forests in Kosovo in the last 20 years is alarming. The research done and the interactive map created explain this visually. This is how the #MoseMerrMalin (don’t take the mountain) movement was created, a public event which marks the beginning of the movement for the protection and regeneration of Kosovo’s forests. The name of the movement and its material was inspired by the activists, participants of the #CreAct project supported by the Community Development Fund as part of the Human Rightivism Project.

The MoseMerrMalin Movement has been one key factor that made me realize that I can’t stay as a spectator and watch my country’s environment slowly being destroyed. At SLK we call deforestation “the silent killer”.

Elira states that being involved in #MoseMerrMalin became her professional and personal mission. “I have been engaging with environmental activism since I was 13 years old, but my professional engagement regarding environmental issues started with my work in SLK about a year and a half ago where I got to really understand the need to be involved and do more about climate change and other sustainability practices. When I first started working at SLK, I came across the visualization of accurate data on deforestation in Kosovo, where one can immediately understand that Kosovo has very few healthy mountains left. Being aware of the deforestation problem made me eager to get more involved in this movement, and help in any way I can. There have been a few challenges especially when we first launched the campaign, a lot of people have told us why we care about forests and why we keep talking and working about it, but this has never discouraged us in any way. We are determined to work with #MoseMerrMalin until the forests of Kosovo are regenerated and protected.”

Elira is an enthusiast of nature, she practices urban gardening so she can feel more connected to nature since she lives in Prishtina, the capital city of Kosovo which has limited green spaces. “For example, in Prishtina during the hot summer days whenever you go into the city you can feel the extreme heat which results from the current climate changes. Moreover, another frequent occurrence are the intense thunder and hail storms which cause many damages to the crops”, explains she the impacts of the climate crisis in her local area

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Elira values awereness-raising as one of the main keys to youth and all people engagement in climate and environmental issues. She says that awareness is what people of Kosovo lack mostly, a key factor that hinders the development of youth activism. “Not only in Kosovo, but also globally, the engagement of young people in raising awareness of environmental issues is extremely important and plays a big role, considering that the youth is the future of a country, it is very important to see youth engagement in this aspect. Environment is the future, and if we are not heard and/or engaged in these issues we won’t have a future.”  In addition to raising awareness, Elira believes that Kosovo should work on legislation. “Taking examples of different countries on how they manage environmental problems and observing the ways some countries approach the issues created by the climate crisis, for example the Scandinavian countries.“

Elira’s last message for all is to: “Reduce, reuse, recycle: It’s time to take action for our Nature! If we don’t take action now, and wait for the next generations to do so, we will pay the price and not them.”

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