This article is product of the project My Europe.
Reporting on European youth from the different parts of the continent. Young journalists from different countries and different media organizations are working all together to show how dynamic and innovative is the youth of Europe.
European media makers from Mladi Info (http://www.mladiinfo.com/), Euradio Nantes (http://www.euradionantes.eu/), Journal Europa (http://www.journaleuropa.info/) and European Youth Press (http://www.youthpress.org) are reporting here on the topics of Gender equality, Youth unemployment, Volunteering and Intergenerational solidarity.
Let’s deal with the topics which were, are or will be in the European agenda. But… in a different way, showing our own vision on what the young people of Europe create and invent to answer those big issues. In a personal approach, our young reporters are analysing how is the youth involved in civil society, to create another way of building the continent.
Project is supported by the fund of Nantes Creative Generations
This is our Europe, this is My Europe.
A sunny day in the idyllic town of Ohrid, Macedonia. I have an appointment with Gordana Angelichin, a 22-years-old student, who set up V-day Macedonia, together with Sandra Kostadinova and Aleksandra Simoska, young students. The three girls successfully started to spread a message of anti-violence throughout the country.
V-Day is a worldwide movement which aims at raising awareness about violence against women. As they state themselves: “The `V` in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vаginа.”. They strive for a world where women live safely and freely. Everything started in 1994 with a play called The Vаginа Monologues written by Eve Ensler, the later founder of V-Day. Since then, the play has been performed all around the world and V-Day allows groups to screen their version once a year in February, March and April. The money that is raised by these screenings is used for local projects and programs that aim to end violence against women. With their activities, V-Day wants to create dialogue and shatter taboos around violence against women and girls.
What were your motives to set up such a campaign?
Aleksandra and I went together to the University of Winconsin. V-Day is an annual widespread event in the States and a group of students were organizing on-campus activities. We we didn’t know about any similar initiative in Macedonia, but we knew how our society works and that a lot of women and girls become victims of physical and psychological violence. Each day we see how boys threat their girlfriends in a bad way. This comes forth out of the common mentality and that it will take time and effort to change this, but at least we can give it a try.
Did people in Macedonia understand these aims?
Some of them surely did, but we had some problems at first. When we contacted the National Crisis Center, they considered us too young and unexperienced to realize anything. Then, we easily got our motivation back when we saw how many young girls were interested to help us.
Mainly, the older generations were not too happy with us. I think they want to take the credits for themselves but in the same way they do not strongly believe in the message we want to spread and, therefore, did not manage to successfully organize something related to this issue.
Do you think you helped to make the topic of women violence more public in Macedonia?
We are really happy about what we succeeded in. The impact of our activities was quite big as all the girls who participated told a lot of people who again told even more people about it. I believe our initiative was groundbreaking and that people now have a different perception on women violence.
Further, we all come from different cities (Skopje, Ohrid and Stip) and we contacted local media in the different regions. Once we explained our ideas, the mass media got interested and reported about it.
How did you choose the beneficiary organization of your project?
When we were looking for organizations to set up educational workshops with, the Red Cross from Ohrid recommended us the smaller Crisis Center “Nadez” (Hope in Macedonian). I am really glad that we chose a small crisis center because they really needed the money. The center is only able to host women one or two nights. With our money, they can prolong and even extend their activities.
How serious is the problem in your country?
The problem is really big. Statistically, 1 on 2 women becomes a victim of psychological violence and 1 in 5 of physical abuse. The numbers are a bit tricky as they change every month but they always vary from 1 in 5 to 6 or 7.
In Macedonia, several ethnic groups live together. Was there an according representation of every group?
Macedonians are more open than other ethnicities even though the women from the minorities are more vulnerable. Unfortunately they are more difficult to reach. We tried including ethnic Albanians as well and at our workshops they were well represented. We need separate projects for the more secluded girls. At the moment we are not competent for this. On the workshops we always had a professional representative from `Hope`, present there so that people who felt like asking a question had the opportunity to open up and receive professional support. The center also provided leaflets in both Macedonian and Albanian language.
Another campaign against domestic violence is supported by the Dutch embassy in Macedonia. Are there a lot of organizations in Macedonia who fight for women rights?
The Red Cross undertakes a lot of projects and so does the Ministry of Labor together with a couple of NGOs. They do their best but the first step is to start changing the mentality of the people and this is a long process. Through education we can reach a lot. Young generations are more open to this kind of subjects and they change their opinions and mentality more easily than older generations. Until now, not really much has been changed but I believe that young people can help the older generations, not only trough informing them but also through structural support.
As I mentioned before, the Red Cross supported us and so did the Crisis Center Hope by giving us a lot of support and the opportunity to learn a lot from them. Besides this, the NGO `Youth Can` helped us finding volunteers, although not specialized in this topic.
Are there existing structures in Europe, or is there a separate branch for Southeast-Europe?
The main seat is in the States. You just apply through their website. They are easily accessible and so far events have been organized in over 140 countries. In Europe they do not have the same annual organizing tradition of screening the monologues at universities as they have in the States.
With the website, you can see all events that are organized around the world. Once we got the license of V-Day we just followed the rules as written on their website. We did not contact other regional organizations because we saw a lot of examples in America.
In the US, organizations campaign against V-Day. Did you also get some negative reactions?
We personally experienced how a professor disliked a Serbian student because she took part in the local screening of the Vаginа monologues. When we led campaign in the shopping mall in Skopje, two elder men approached us and they acted really rude. For them, it was impolite to promote this kind of event and to openly speak about these topics. It shows that a lot of elder people can`t understand our project.
How did you personally grow during the project?
Yeah, personally I changed a lot and I think the other girls did so too. I feel stronger about the topic and I am more motivated to undertake something and definitely improved my organizational skills. Also the feminist inside me grew and I became more aware of myself as a woman. Further I gained skills to motivate people. I think this was a really important experience for me.
Also, I’d like to tell an anecdote that really touched me. We were selling tickets for the screening of the documentary `Until the Violence Stops` when a husband and wife approached us. The wife told us her mother has been of victim of domestic violence her whole life and how she suffered from this as a kid. Her husband was really supportive and he even took the initiative to go to this kind of events. During the monologues I could see she was really touched. I felt so happy to see that she was not ashamed to tell us her story and was touched by the support of her husband. I hope this will be the case with more and more women in our country.