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On July 10th, 2019, the World Population Day was celebrated in front of the Faculty of Philosophy with the United Nations Population Fund in Serbia, the Cabinet of the Minister without portfolio in charge of demography and population policy, and the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality. The event featured the ‘living’ books allowing citizens the opportunity to hear real-life stories from marginalized and vulnerable groups and to participate in painting a canvas with messages they would like to send to their fellow citizens around the world.

"The European population is decreasing, and, in Serbia, we currently have less than 7 million people. Our country faces various challenges today, but we must work together to improve the lives of each citizen and in this way improve demographic indicators"- said prof. Dr Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, Minister without portfolio in charge of demography and population policy.

The central activity of the event, the Living Library, a Council of Europe project coordinated by the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, successfully attracted the attention of passers-by in Knez Mihailova street in central Belgrade. The ‘living’ books are individuals selected from various social groups that are often looked upon with prejudice and negative stereotypes. Through one on one interactions, ‘readers’ could hear about their life stories and experiences, the aim being to fight stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination often faced by marginalised social groups such as people with disability, the elderly, LGBT, ethnic minorities such as the Rome and women victims of family based violence. 

“It's important that people hear a real-life story. In this way, they see that those who are perhaps different are also people who are struggling, who are strong and persistent, and who often do noble things”, said a living book. These stories are also featured in a new UNFPA Serbia publication ‘Heroines: human stories that change perspectives’, about women who suffered discrimination or violence.

During the event passers-by in Knez Mihaila street also engaged in writing, drawing and painting messages that will be 'sent to the world' via social networks, symbolically connecting citizens of Serbia with other parts of the planet. Some of the messages were: 'love makes the world go around', 'we are all equal', 'no hate'. You can find other messages on the UNFPA Serbia Facebook page.

Under the slogan ‘25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development: fulfilling the promise’, UNFPA celebrates its 50th birthday, as well as the 25th anniversary of the conference that changed global thinking on reproductive health and related rights. At the opening of the World Population Day celebration, Marija Rakovic, Acting Head of Office, UNFPA Serbia, emphasized: "This is an important moment. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) encompasses topics that are essential for every country and for every individual. If we want to develop in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals, which we have set out in Agenda 2030 and other important documents, we need to focus on what we agreed on 25 years ago and fulfill these promises."

Read more> Want to increase birth rates? Try gender equality By Alanna Armitage and Tomas Sobotka