Research conducted by the Youth Communication Center (YCC) indicated that a lack of mechanisms prevented secondary school students in Bosnia and Herzegovina from participating in decision-making processes. Recognizing the potential of secondary schools to foster youth activism, YCC received BTD support to implement a project that would strengthen a network of secondary school student councils at the municipal and entity levels, providing students with experience in decision-making processes at school and a mechanism for participation in government. This project furthered a previous BTD-supported initiative which established an entity-wide network of 87 secondary school student councils from 45 municipalities in the Republika Srpska.

YCC supported the sustainable development of the existing student council networks and the expansion of the network across entities through the establishment of new student council networks in three cantons – Una-sana, Central Bosnia, and Tuzla – in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Project activities included 160 secondary schools – facilitating networking between more than half of all of the secondary schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina – and brought together elected student representatives from different ethnic backgrounds for a training series on public advocacy, policy development, communication, networking, and also research into needs assessment.

All of the student networks coordinated advocacy campaigns to raise public awareness of youth issues, successfully reaching and engaging more than 30,000 people. The newly established student networks implemented public advocacy campaigns to stop a teachers’ strike that was impeding the access of secondary school students to education; raise awareness about options for further education; and to resolve ethnic segregation between secondary school students. As a direct result of a campaign to encourage the budgeting of government funds for the secondary school students’ activities, over 3,000 letters were submitted to the Republika Srpska’s Prime Ministerial Office, requesting the increased inclusion of the secondary school population in decision-making on youth issues. The campaign included the organization of a student street demonstration, ‘Students Conference under Tents’, to draw attention to the government’s dismissal of the needs of the youth population. Widespread media coverage increased pressure on government institutions and representatives of the network held meetings with the Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister for Family, Youth and Sport, to help facilitate communication between students and government ministries and to deliver recommendations for future activities.