Spark Fund panelist reflects on what it means to be youth-led

By Maria Creamer | March 24, 2022 | Europe & Eurasia | Youth Empowerment

In March, GFC hosted its regularly scheduled “Hey, it’s Hayley” interview series on IG Live. GFC Managing Director Hayley Roffey spoke with Eteri Khanjaliashvili, a Spark Fund panelist and political activist from Georgia. Eteri shared how and why she got involved in the Spark Fund and why youth voices are so important. She also shared her solidarity with Ukrainians.

Watch IG Live Here

Would you please introduce yourself?

I’m from Georgia. I am an expert in international relations and international security – that’s the short story about me.

I come from a very small country, and for us, international security matters a lot. The recent developments show that that’s a very important issue for my country and all of Europe as well. Nowadays, that’s the most talked about topic in my country and the world as well. I try to follow the updates. That’s really important.

I graduated with a master’s degree in international relations and international security studies, but currently I am engaged in a training program in national security and public policy funded by the US government. It’s very interesting as well. There is still a long way to go to study everything about these international security issues.

I am keen to focus on conflict and conflict resolution. That’s why I would like to work with international organizations who are working on these issues and tackling the conflicts and working on conflict resolution – that’s my ideal job.

How did you get involved with the Spark Fund?

I got this information from a friend. I got interested in this project because it gives people the opportunity to be heard and to feel that they matter. That they are taking part in the decision-making process that affects their society. That is why I applied, and I got selected. I was honored to be a panelist with my friends and colleagues from different countries. And they also [included] Ukrainian friends. I want to express my support and appreciation to the Ukrainian people. I stand with them in this war.

[I was involved in] creating and designing the Spark Fund [grantmaking process] which would support the youth engagement and youth activities in four countries: Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine. We were designing [the process] and supporting the young generation in those countries to be heard and make positive change in their countries.

Spark Fund creates amazing opportunities for organizations in different countries to make changes in their society. I hope that everyone will use this chance and apply for this project.

What’s it like to be a Spark Fund panelist?

[Being a Spark Fund panelist] was my first experience in financing the organizations, and I felt a huge responsibility to choose the right organizations and proper young generation that would make really good, positive changes in their countries. I felt a really huge responsibility toward myself and those societies as well.

I got pleasure from discussing with the panelists, I heard a lot of information from these countries that I didn’t know before. For instance, I got acquainted with problems from Ukraine and Moldova that I had never heard before. How they were describing these situations in their societies, and how they were working to improve these problems. And that was amazing. Also, reading the ideas of young generations and how they feel the pain of their societies and how they desire to improve these problems was amazing. I had a really good time, and I don’t know how to express in words these feelings.

It really does inspire people. I mean, usually young generations are excluded from the decision-making process in their societies. When they feel their voices are heard, they feel more important for their society. And they become motivated by these types of projects and programs. I really appreciate that. It gives hope to the younger generation to be heard and to be taken into consideration while discussing their issues. That is really exciting.

What does it mean to be youth-led?

Personally, to me, youth-led means when the young generation are engaged in the decision-making process of any type of institution. When their voices are heard in decision-making processes that are youth-led – I really appreciate this kind of organization. I think there should be even more – I don’t know how to define what I want to say – but youth-led organizations are not as much as they should be. They should be engaged more and better, and they should be increasing, especially in places like Georgia.

It’s challenging but that should be supported because that is needed. [It’s] what societies need now because the young generations have new ideas and new views of this life. And they should be heard. They should be supported by the organizations and institutions. And the Spark Fund is really amazing that they are doing this in a good way.

BEING FROM GEORGIA, How are you feeling about the situation in Ukraine?

I just wanted to reflect on this situation in Europe and the world nowadays. And tell my Ukrainian friends to stay strong even though it’s difficult to stay positive. I want them to stay strong and to continue resisting. I hope that the organizations that we financed during the [Spark Fund] will continue their work and not lose hope. I support them and I hope they can continue their job in their country.

Click here to enjoy the recorded version of this IG Live.

The Spark Fund, which was established by GFC and the Avast Foundation, invests in youth-led and youth-focused groups tackling injustice and inequality, driving transformational change, and building a more inclusive post-pandemic world by harnessing the power of digital technologies.

GFC and Eteri have edited this interview together for clarity and to provide additional updates.

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