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Empowering people with sustainability leadership skills: interview with Indira Kartallozi

This interview with Indira Kartallozi was conducted by Sustainable Living Kosovo.
Indira Kartallozi is the director at Kaleidoscope Futures and founder of Sustainability Leadership Kosova. Indira’s expertise ranges from sustainability, social enterprise, human rights and transformative leadership. Her work in sustainability has taken her to various countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Latin America. She also influences the work of ‘Impacto’ – a Malaysian social enterprise which helps future-proof businesses against economic, environmental and social risks, Women for Peace and Participation – a non-profit organization promoting social and political leadership of women, and Mentoring our Future – a Kosovo based initiative promoting knowledge exchange and professional mentorship. Sustainable Living Kosovo talked to her about her career as a sustainability change-maker, how she empowered herself and how she devoted her life to empowering others, and her wishes for the young generation in Kosovo.

The passion of empowering youth

“Generally, there is a lot of societal pressures coming towards young people in Kosovo. As a young person, culturally, you are supposed to listen to your elders. But, I think that there should be more courage to take ownership of the future, which belongs to young people. This is where I, through my work with Sustainability Leadership Kosova will help. I want to empower youth to disrupt society positively. It’s their future! My work is not about empowering myself. I’m already quite empowered, I have done my job, I have been a changemaker for most of my life. But to see that through our work, we utilize the potential of young individuals who want to leave Kosovo, and empower them, while also working on sustainability related goals. That’s what I want with Sustainability Leadership Kosova.

Sustainability Leadership Kosova is focused on three main pillars: education, consultancy and movement building. Within the education-pillar we have designed different training programs which focus on giving sustainability knowledge and leadership skills to individuals. These individuals then we hope to become change-agents, whether as an individual or a representative of an organization. Through consultancy, we help the private sector change their business models into more sustainable models. Whereas our movement building pillar draws attention to sustainability risks and challenges. Most of people within our team are young and this goes hand in hand with our vision.

The road to becoming a changemaker

I’m Kosovan by origin. I left Kosovo 30 years ago and went to the UK. Although my qualifications were not recognized there, I became a translator and interpreter. This work empowered me as a refugee. I then became an advocate of refugee and migrants rights. I re-educated myself and became a legal advisor on housing, social benefits and immigration. And later on, I did my Master’s, focused on human rights and migration. For 15 years I worked with refugees and migrants. During this, I came to realize that the work that we do with NGO’s is not enough. We’re working on the symptoms on the problem, but there are bigger problems that we’re not addressing. In western countries we’re so sheltered, we live in our own bubble, not looking at the sources of conflict and what’s happening globally. So, my curiosity led me to analyze in a deeper level. But, I also set up my own consultancy firm, utilizing a network of entrepreneurial migrants. Also, to promote the idea of their contribution to the economy, to speak out against the victimization of refugees and migrants. They are often seen as people in need, instead of people with assets. I was a refugee, and it pains me to be considered as a victim.

While I was doing this, my husband was a sustainability expert whose work and research was focused in business and sustainability. I used to joke: “you work with the devils”, because I had an anti-corporate viewpoint, considering the damage they create. It was a funny combination, us two. Then the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, asked me to develop some content for their Master’s program material. They wanted to integrate issues of forced migration, because of the number of climate refugees being on the rise. This program was aimed at executives who go into sustainability businesses and management. That’s when I started to be more in touch with what the private sector does, learning the corporate side of things. Then I did a business sustainability management program at the same institute. This learning gave me a bigger perspective. That’s when I realized that I needed to shift my own attitude and explore different horizons. My husband and I decided to merge our companies. He would focus on the strategic, business integration of sustainability and I would look into the social aspects, social enterprise, labor rights, human rights, specifically related to migrants and refugees. That’s where my road to being a sustainability change-maker began.

Kosovan beginnings

Our work with Kaleidosope Futures Lab engages in projects all around the world, working in Thailand, South-Africa, Belgium, and the UK. But being a Kosovan, it pained me to go back each year and see young people feeling so hopeless. There’s a huge gap between their generation and the parent-generation. The parent generation in Kosovo have suffered a lot through war. For that reason, in general, they became part of a system that traps people in dependency. That’s why, with the help of a local NGO and young people in Peja, we delivered a changemakers program. It was absolutely wonderful. This inspired me to create a Social Enterprise Kosovo Activation (SEKA) and eventually my own NGO Sustainability Leadership Kosova. I started it, but with the idea that I would establish it, build a young team that could take over and then move out. Together with Rina Fetahaj , we got some funding. And here we are now. This is my contribution giving back to Kosovo. Which started with frustrations that the youth got so much potential, and it wasn’t utilized by the systems and the older generation. This was what made me think: how can I utilize my own power, my own networks, my everything that I have, to create something in Kosovo that will both empower young people and push sustainability agendas.

Sustainability Leadership Kosova

One of the moment where it all came together for me, was before the presentation of our #MosëMarrMalin campaign, about the deforestation problem in Kosovo. Two of the girls of the team hugged me and said “It’s amazing to be here, after all the work we did.” That moment was amazing. When I see my young team loving their work, not being able to wait until they are in the office, excitingly planning their own ideas: these are the moments when I feel so happy. That’s what we need in Kosovo. That’s what I want to see for the country. It helps to have a degree, but the world is changing. People become changemakers and that’s the career they have chosen. My message to young people of Kosovo is – be confident, believe in yourself and take ownership of your future. Some of the decisions you make, some people may not like them. But that’s fine. There will always be someone that will not like it. But, this is your future, it’s your children’s future. Take it. Own it.”

This article was first published by Sustainable Living Kosovo, and this is the original link.

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