Project Sparked by Democracy Program

A 21-year-old senior at the Russian–Slavic University in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, Anna was already passionate about journalism through her work as a political reporter for an on-line newspaper. Her participation last summer in a week-long youth leadership training event inspired her to take an exciting next step in her career. Perhaps more importantly, she found her voice as an active citizen in her community.

In June of 2011, Anna attended the Summer School of Democracy, held in Bishkek, where she was joined by more than 40 other young people from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. They spent the week participating in a series of lectures and workshops devoted to democracy, civic education, leadership, critical thinking and analytical writing. The School was sponsored by Jasa.kg, a four-year initiative of the International Youth Foundation, supported through USAID, that seeks to engage a new generation of young people in building a stable, prosperous and democratic society in Central Asia.

As part of the training, participants were encouraged to think of persistent problems facing youth in their communities, and then to develop projects that would help address those issues. Eight of the 20 proposals developed throughout the course of the program received small grants to support the projects.

Anna’s proposal to establish a training program for young journalists was one of them. “I believe that the Summer School of Democracy armed me with three important things—the ability to listen, to think and to act,” said Anna. “I started thinking of how to apply the knowledge I gained, and also tried to take steps toward the realization of my plans. Particularly helpful were the sessions on how to identify existing social problems and suggest realistic action plans to resolve them. That helped me a lot when I was developing my own project.”

It took Anna six months to design and implement her plan to set up her “School of Analytical Journalism"—designed to improve the analytical and writing skills of young journalists, ages 18 to 25, by working under the mentorship of experienced journalists. Nineteen young people attended the weekly classes, working on practical assignments that ultimately produced articles on topics ranging from the economy and religion to politics. The young journalists made real progress. By the end of the training, eight of them had already published their articles on various online media outlets.

When asked what had motivated her to organize the project, Anna explains: “I noticed that most newspaper articles are written in very complicated language and thus lack good analysis of the issues. It is necessary to understand that an analytical article is not exactly a scientific product, but this is a way of communicating big problems in a very clear and simple way to your audience. I truly believe that my project will be of some help in filling this gap.”

Her journalism class also served a more practical purpose. From her experience as a university student, Anna was well aware that many post-university students face real challenges finding jobs within their majors. One significant obstacle is that employers are not willing to hire young specialists who have little or no work experience. Unlike in other countries, there are limited opportunities in Kyrgyz Republic for youth to gain professional skills through internships or similar programs. Giving university students the chance to enjoy professional experiences in their chosen field before graduation was another powerful motivation for Anna to launch her journalism training initiative.

Anna credits her active role as an alumna of Jasa.kg for opening new doors for her career. Having seen the success of her first endeavor, she now plans to develop a similar project on a larger scale that would increase the number of beneficiaries and offer more educational opportunities for youth. She is also planning to continue her own education and apply to a master’s program in the field of political journalism.

Anna believes it is important for young people to focus their energy and potential on bringing about positive change in their communities. Through her experience with Jasa.kg, she has discovered an exciting new way to use her particular skills to support democracy and civic engagement in her country—by helping to develop and inspire the next generation of journalists.