- Louis Venters
"Be a Man": New Definitions of Masculinity Unfolding among Bosnian Youth
Here's a great little documentary (less than 9 min.) about the Be a Man Club in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It profiles 16-year-old Dragan Kisin, who went from a troubled youth to a mentor for others through the influence of the Be a Man Club, a project of CARE International that creates a space for Bosnian young men to forge paths to a new kind of manhood that is both nurturing and strong. In a country where the traumas associated with the war of 1992-1995 still have profound effects on families and young people--with alarming rates of unemployment, substance abuse, and interpersonal violence--this is a big deal. Take a look, and let Dragan Kisin and his peers become your heroes, as they are mine.
Dragan's captivating story is a great illustration of the extraordinary power of sensitive mentoring in intimate groups to help young people navigate their challenging teenage years and develop the skills and attitudes they need to become forces for social good. "As long as there is at least a small group of people in this with us," he says, "we have a chance for change." His confidence in the power of such groups to change the world is inspiring: "I think there's a good change my generation will be the one to change everything in this country, while we're still young and willing."
These comments reflect an approach to social change that is not only good for Bosnia, or for other post-conflict societies, but for everywhere that young people stand in need of purpose. I know something about the courage and candor of Bosnian young people: my wife and I spent the first year of our marriage in Banja Luka working for a peace education program, and we were constantly impressed with the big-heartedness and optimism of people who might have had every excuse to feel the opposite. Their experiences, through the Be a Man Club and other similar efforts, should truly be an inspiration for the world.
In addition to all of the above, the short video is a great audio-visual introduction to Bosnia, its lyrical language, and the city of Banja Luka, a place that will always hold a big piece of my heart.
For more of my writing about Bosnia, see this blog post and this longer piece published at goodmenproject.org.