Interviews from the Alliance of Youth Movements summit: Natalia Morari.
On the 6th of April of this year, 15,000 Moldovans rallied in the streets the day after their national election to protest the Communist Party's rigged victory. It might have looked like any post-election protest in an emerging democracy but there was an important difference: This protest was organized entirely through new media-Twitter, email and text messages, and social networking sites. The number of peaceful protesters continued to grow over the course of a few days, and they eventually succeeded in upsetting the Communist Party's majority in parliament.Guest blogger Erin Mazursky spoke with Natalia Morari, one of catalysts of the protests and keynote speaker at the recent Alliance of Youth Movements summit. Morari now leads ThinkMoldova, a platform to help young Moldovans take part in the future of their country.ERIN MAZURSKY:How did you mobilize so many people in such a short period of time?NATALIA MORARI: When the results were announced the day after the election, with the Communist Party as the winners, so many of my friends were saying they wanted to leave Moldova. The country was in mourning. So a few of us met up at a café to talk about what we might be able to do. We decided to do a flash mob that evening in the center of Chisinau, Moldova's capital city.We immediately began sending out messages in every way we could-through Twitter, Facebook, email, SMS-with the message: "If you believe your vote was stolen, if you did not vote for the Communists, come to the center of the city." And people came. We are generally a quiet people, and tens of thousands in the street is a big deal.EM:What is your hope for Moldova?NM: My dream used to be to live and work in Moscow. I left for Russia in 2002, went to college there, and became a journalist. In 2007, I was arrested in Russia because I was writing about various corruption scandals. The experience made me come back to Moldova, and I realized that my place is there. I really want to do something great for my country's future and raise my children there.So many young people leave for the West, get their degrees, and never come back, but these days more and more of these young people are coming back with the intent of making real change. My hope for this country is that together, these young people can help shape a better future.EM:How is ThinkMoldova helping to make this happen?NM: ThinkMoldova is currently creating a platform for young, educated people interested in politics, economics, and social life to come back and talk about how we can best develop the country, and who are willing to start working on the issues in our country when they are young. We are bringing in people from all over the world who have helped shape progress in their own countries on issues from tax reform to infrastructure building so that we can learn from others' experiences and apply it to Moldova.EM: How is this generation, the so-called Millennial generation, different from generations past?NM: The only thing that's different about our generation is that we have this great opportunity to feel like we are a part of the big world. If I were born in Moldova 100 years ago, I never would have seen other European countries or dreamed about visiting America. Now, we can travel all over the world sitting just in front of a laptop. We have more freedom of expression, a greater access to information, and new experiences just because we can communicate with each other through the internet.It's a question of who uses this information and to what ends, of course, but you are not just born in your country. Our generation isn't confined to our respective nationalities-American, British, Moldovan-we are global-Americans, global-British, global-Moldovans. We have more possibilities now, and I think that's great.EM:What was your favorite part of your experience at the Alliance of Youth Movements summit?NM: It was really crazy to meet someone like Oscar Morales, who mobilized 12 million people around the world against the FARC, or a kid like Shubham Kanodia, who is just fourteen, who made a great social movement in India after the Mumbai attacks. The most interesting thing was to find how similar we were and know that, for example, someone who was in Ecuador is experiencing different problems but driven by the same principles. All these people were young and all these people do believe that they can make real changes. To feel like we were all connected was the great thing about A.Y.M.Erin is a proud member of the Millennial generation, an independent nonprofit and political consultant, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, and a contributor to the GOOD column Canapés and Kalashnikovs.