STEP business training in N-Macedonia
I have been the international director of Operation Mercy for 3 months now. One of my highlights during those 12 weeks were two field visits one to Jordan and a recent one to North Macedonia.
North Macedonia is a little different from most of our project countries, it is in Europe it is a tiny country not even recognised by all its neighbours and predominant Christian. It is also better off than most of the other countries we work in, ranked 80 on the Human development index.
What such statistics and info sheets don’t tell very well is the story of minorities, the pain still in the hearts of many even two decades after the Kosovar war. North Macedonia is home to a large number of what we often call Kosovar Albanians who are Muslim of faith and spread over Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, in North Macedonia this group is living in a sub culture that surprised me beyond anything I could have imagined. Skopje is a divided city – it feels like crossing major culture lines just walking through the old town.
Our team works on building bridges in this divided society – some of our Macedonian staff are learning Albanian and are getting push back from their own community for it. Our health and hope drop in centre in the middle of the Albanian part of town, gives women from very conservative backgrounds a place to come and get advice, do exercises for their backs and have a cup of coffee among friends.
Recently we started the STEP project, a vocational skills development programme for Albanian women. Currently they are learning about business, marketing, clients – as well as ethics and growing their own self confidence as entrepreneurs. In the new year they will start their apprenticeship in hair dressing, tailoring and baking.
Equipped with new skills and new confidence these women from a minority group are stepping out into society – making their way, creating family income, opportunities for their daughters and sons.
Our team in North Macedonia creates hope, capacity and community – for those forgotten after years of conflict and mistrust.