Interviewer: Lea Linin
Your endeavours for a better society should always start by enunciating MJAFT!. But, you shouldn’t stop here. Going the extra mile is what counts. Say yes to romantic and idealistic inclinations, but also be firm in your actions in making these ideas work. All matters revolutionary and anti-apathetic are being elaborated by Ardit Rada, the Media Coordinator of MJAFT! Movement, Albania. Let’s take a leaf from their book!
When translated Mjaft! means Enough!. What made you say Enough!? Could you provide us with a little background on how the movement was established?
It was December 2002 when a group of young people began discussing the socio-economic situation in Albania. During that time Albania had too many problems with democracy, especially the high level of corruption. So, we had two opportunities – to work for our country or to go somewhere else for studies or work. We thought that everything was possible in Albania, but first of all, we had to say “enough” to the apathy of the citizens and then to the political problems in our country.
How did you first become involved in the movement? And in what ways have your involvement and activities within the movement changed over the years?
I was a high school student. When MJAFT! started its work, it was something new in Albanian life and society. MJAFT! was the first citizens’ advocate in civil society and later it became the most serious NGO. I remember that when MJAFT! started as a campaign, I was not politically oriented. It is quite normal for the parties in Albania to have young people or children in their meetings or electoral campaigns, but I never liked this. So, when I learned about MJAFT!, I immediately tried to join these young people. We really needed something independent, something from the people and for the people. From MJAFT! all the Albanians, including myself, learned that voluntarism is not a shame, it’s not something that belongs only to the communist regimes. We learned what activism, direct action and civil campaign are. Voluntarism is one of most important characteristics of a democracy.
Being active in the civil society sector, Mjaft! strives to promote the principles of democracy, active citizenship, the attainability of change, strong communities, equal opportunities, solidarity, volunteerism, and the irrefutable power of debate. What major Mjaft! activities are under way at the moment? And how have your past activities shaped your current ones? Do you feel confident that you will succeed in realizing them?
Actually, we are working on a project called ‘I Vote’ which consists of monitoring the Parliament, the House of Courts and the Hall of City Councils. Young people, boys and girls, are responsible for monitoring every parliamentary meeting, taking notes on the attendance of the deputies and their role in each meeting. We are also monitoring meetings at the House of Courts and the Hall of City Councils and the declaration of the judges’ properties. We do all this to make the work of our ‘elected through vote’ people more transparent. We publish a report every six months and give it for free to the people and the media. We are also working on some other short-term projects dealing with environment, free media issues, etc. We have gained considerable experience in the above mentioned projects and, of course, our results were good, accepted both by our donors and the public.
Is there a particular occasion that you feel has largely contributed to the civil society strengthening? Or do you find that your day-to-day, small-scale activities are just as important?
According to the experiences we have had with small-scale activities, we learned that they are as important as the long-term activities. For example, when Albania joined NATO, in a few days young people learned how NATO functions, what its role is, and what it stands for.
I guess what Macedonian society misses is having such an active, organized and outspoken movement as yours. How can this situation be remedied? How can people be instigated to care to make a difference?
First of all, people have to start a campaign. They don’t have to ask to get funding as the first step. They have to show what they stand for and have an idea of how they want to realize their objectives. After this step they have to think about concrete projects according to the democracy’s necessity. I think that this is the way all “revolutionary” movements started.
What are the essential elements of making an initiative work?
I think that people have to get inspired from the historical examples and experiences of the past. If we want to start a campaign about freedom, we have to choose between peaceful and radical revolutionary movements. So, we have to choose between Gandhi and Che Guevara and then it’s up to us to decide which way we want to take. It is just a random example, but what I’m trying to say is that it’s not hard to start something that you really want to make happen. You should also have a database of the people you think might help you because they are also dealing with this problem.
Mjaft! shows great fondness for international cooperation and unselfishly shares its experience!
We have a good relationship with different movements from all over the world. This is because we are working on the same issues. Four years ago we held Tirana International Activism Festival and the participants were from all over the region and the East, as far as I can remember some of the participants were OTPOR (Serbia), PoF (Lebanon), and GONG! (Zagreb). MJAFT! Movement doesn’t have any criteria, but it depends on the similarities of the issues we deal with. We are open to cooperate with any movement or to offer our assistance according to our experience.
Have you ever considered developing the movement further and spreading it outside Albanian borders on a more international or South Eastern European level?
We don’t need any national or international organization, because MJAFT! can’t lead a Macedonian movement because it wouldn’t be appropriate for the Macedonians. This applies to any other nation as well. The only thing that we can do is give our neighbors in the region a good example to follow or help them in matters related to running an organization, writing projects, and experience exchange through volunteering or regional projects where we can invite people from other countries.