This week, we bring a short interview with a Youth Alumni who has taken it upon herself to promote and advocate for evidence-based drug use prevention in her country. Meet Eva Djordjevic from Norway, a Youth Forum 2021 participant, eager to see changes made in her community and beyond.
Would you mind first introducing yourself to our readers?
My name is Eva; I am 24 years old, and I live in Norway. I currently spend most of my time studying clinical psychology and working with an amazing team in a non-governmental youth organisation called Safer Youth Norway (Norwegian: Tryggere ungdom). We strive to create a safer society for young people through different means such as activism, national and international political influence, dissemination of knowledge and participation in public debate. With sub-goals on prevention work, health and solidarity promotion, and facilitation of safe upbringing, we aim to reach our general goal of a safer future. We also get to collaborate with and learn from, all kinds of different and amazing people in other groups and organisations, including our parent organisation Safer Drug Policies.
How would you describe your experience at the UNODC Youth Forum 2021?
It was great and intense. I remember being excited, exhausted and exhilarated all at once after the end ceremony. I got to learn a lot about substance use prevention and policies, and I met motivated youth from all over the world. I learned more about the importance of evidence in prevention and policy, including scientific findings indicating that a punitive, moralistic and controlling approach to substance use not only is ineffective but it can also be detrimental. There is a prevalence of policies that are more likely to cause people issues than to help them. Instead, prevention should focus on what really is its main goal - to help people live happy and healthy lives.
It is remarkable that you are engaged in activities for youth and children alongside your studies! Please tell us a little bit more.
I guess that closely reflects my experience in the UNODC Youth Forum - challenging but also very rewarding. I am currently honoured to lead our organisation together with an awesome team of other passionate young people. There have been a lot of late nights and early mornings working on different projects and tasks, but we have also had a lot of fun, and I am amazed by how much we have achieved together.
The activities we organise are primarily for youth (15-30) to engage indirectly, however, consistent with our general goal, a big part of our work also reaches younger children indirectly. For instance, we are currently collaborating with UNODC to adapt the Listen First campaign to a Norwegian audience. We are also actively working towards ending the cruel practice of so-called "youth contracts" in Norway, which involves forcing children through painfully humiliating, and potentially traumatising drug testing regimes.
What inspires you to do this work, and what motivates you to continue working for youth empowerment?
I think it would be difficult not to be motivated when realising the status of drug policy and related science and practices. I guess it can also be quite overwhelming. The need for change is way overdue, however, and although slowly, changes in the right direction are happening. That is quite motivating.
Is there anything you would like to share with young people who are also passionate about youth empowerment?
Thank you for caring, and I wish you lots of strength and patience and an openness to positive change.
Made possible with the support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta