by Gordana Angelichin
V-Day is a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. It promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. The movement fights to stop violence against women and girls, including battery, rape, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery. Local volunteers and college students around the world participate in the V-Day campaigns; they help organize benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues, screenings of V-Day’s documentary Until The Violence Stops, workshops to educate people in their communities about this issue and many other events.
We are three students from Macedonia, Gordana Angelichin, Sandra Kostadinova and Aleksandra Simoska, who had the opportunity to volunteer in a V-Day college campaign last year in the USA. We got involved in it because we recognized the enthusiasm the organizers had and how much it fulfilled them to know they would help victims and make them feel better about themselves. Being compelled by the experience, we decided to do some of V-Day’s activities in Macedonia this year. Having the authorization of this global movement, we started with activities in October 2010 under the official name Vday Macedonia. Our campaign successfully ended on 5 March, but I will explain more about it later. First I would like to share with the readers our plan and our goal.
We planned this campaign to have three phases and so it was. We started off with little money and planned to make our budget larger step by step by donations. First we held educational workshops in order to make young people talk more about violence against women and realize how big that problem is in our country, and then to tell them about VDay and encourage them to spread our word and message. Secondly, we spent two months doing media campaign in order to “prepare” people for the final phase which was screening of the VDay documentary Until the violence stops and performing the Vagina Monologues. The goal was to raise funds for these two events, but spend as less as possible since our main goal was to donate as much money as possible to a crisis shelter located in our capital. The three of us worked as a team from the very beginning and having good cooperation with each other helped us achieve our goal and finish our project successfully!
So firstly, we held four workshops in three cities in Macedonia – Ohrid, Stip and Skopje, starting in October. We wanted these workshops to be as interactive as possible and in that way we thought it would be more effective for young people to change social attitudes towards violence against women. The first workshop was held in the city of Ohrid, where the Red Cross Organization helped us both promote and organize it. The participants who were previously familiarized with our topic and who voluntarily came were at the age from 15 to 20. The program of the workshop was carried out in the following order: what violence against women is in general, what types of violence exist, what the reasons for violence are, statistics about the issue in Macedonia and in the world and how to prevent from it. The participants were also familiarized with V-Day’s cause and encouraged to volunteer in the further events. As I mentioned earlier, we made the workshop as interactive as possible and the outcome was great! And it was a lot of fun since we had energizer games, which helped the participants relax and be open. That was the most important thing because in our country this issue is not something people openly talk about. The mentality plays a big role in this, so we were very happy to have managed to make young people say their opinion out loud. So, as the first workshop went great, we began to realize we could really be successful with the other three. And so it was! The American Corner in Stip and Skopje helped us organize the two other workshops in November and the NGO called Youth Can helped us with the last one in late December 2010. Collaborating with these organizations brought us much more success, since they connected us with the people who were deeply interested in helping us and spreading the word.
In early February 2011, VDay Macedonia started with the second phase which was a large media campaign and advertising on social networks on the internet. We also started with preparations for the two main events: screening of the documentary Until the violence stops and performance of The Vagina Monologues. Speaking publicly and using every media source available we managed to gather a decent amount of funds in order to organize the final phase of our project. But in that way, also, many people were informed about us and decided to help us.
February was a busy month indeed: we were handing out flyers, printed posters, tickets for the main events and T-shirts with the Vagina Monologues logo and we were selling them in one of the shopping centers in the capital, where many people, too, got informed about our campaign.
Also, on the 4th February we held auditions for the Vagina Monologues. Vday always auditions girls and women who voluntarily want to participate and act in the Monologues, and so we respected that. Again, the audition was a great success, because many girls showed up and were interested in participating. One of them even took the role of a director of the Monologues, and she did a great job. She had this amazing ideas and concepts and worked tirelessly with the rest of the girls for a month, preparing them for the big show! Having her helping us with that part of the finale, we dedicated time to other organization details and of course trying to get more donations. We were so happy that our campaign was successful especially because we wanted as many people as possible to come to our two main events, which meant we could really achieve our goal of raising funds to donate later to the crisis center! What was even better, many people approached us, willing to volunteer, which meant our voices were heard!
After a couple of months of hard work and organization, it finally happened! The great finale! We held both of the events in a small humanitarian theater which was suitable for the occasions.
On 4th March we screened the documentary Until the violence stops which is about Vday’s goals, how the founder of Vday, Eve Enstler, came up with the idea for the Vagina Monologues and how Vday has helped many women around the world. The interest for the documentary was big, we had tickets sold out beforehand and many people showed up.
On 5th March, for the performance of the Vagina Monologues, which are actually stories from interviewed women around the world, we had more things planned out, since it was the last and most important event. Following Vday’s organization rules, we decorated the theatre in the Vday spirit – in red and pink. We set decorated tables in the corridor, where an auction took place after the performance of the Monologues. An hour before the beginning, we didn’t imagine what would follow…SO MANY PEOPLE came that there weren’t even enough seats for all of them!!! We really didn’t expect that to happen. The theatre was full, which meant we did it! We couldn’t believe it, we were so happy! The performance of the Monologues was great, at the end the applause just wouldn’t stop. But, that wasn’t the end. Like I mentioned above, afterwards we held an auction, where people were able to buy previously donated funds by individuals or organizations in the form of handworks, ornaments, T-shirts and books. Needless to say, it was a success as well and we actually raised a lot of money.
Couple of days afterwards, still being under impressions, we officially donated 90 percent of the funds we raised to the shelter centre Nadez (Hope). The wonderful women who work there were so grateful and at the same time happy that three girls with the help of many volunteers managed to raise those funds. The other 10 percent of the proceeds were donated to V-Day’s Spotlight Campaign for the Women and Girls of Haiti, since each year V-Day spotlights a particular group of women who are experiencing violence with the goal of raising awareness and funds for them.
The three of us are honored to have been given the chance to organize all of these events. We feel so fulfilled knowing we have helped as much as we could to raise awareness about violence against women in Macedonia. And we were so lucky to have worked with so many amazing volunteers who will continue to spread Vday’s message. We are especially proud of the fact that we everything we did was met with success, although it was the first time we did such a thing.
Positive reactions won’t stop, and we hear people want us to do the Vagina Monologues once more. Knowing that keeps us motivated and encourages us to continue this project in the years to come.