ifa: What particular obstacles do young people from minority groups face in the Republic of North Macedonia and why, in your opinion, is it important to promote their participation in the democratic process?What particular obstacles do young people from minority groups face in the Republic of North Macedonia and why, in your opinion, is it important to promote their participation in the democratic process?
Goce Todoroski: Young people are leaders of positive change in the country and in the world. They are a resource of innovation and the future drivers of social and economic development. In my work with young people from minority groups, I recognize the importance of their inclusion and participation in the democratic processes. However, they are faced with the constant obstacle of not being recognised as a powerful force of society by the elders in their community. Very often, their voice is not being heard, which is why they lose the motivation to get involved in the decision making processes. This feeling of worthlessness makes them withdraw from other groups of minorities and focus only on their peer groups.
I believe that we have to promote their participation in the democratic processes in order to overcome the barriers of the elders’ society and prove that the voice of young people indeed does matter. We support them to organize and to catalyse their ideas into reality. On the hand we are showing the community that young people are capable of providing innovative solutions to problems, on the other hand we are showing young people that their voice can be powerful. To promote the participation in the democratic processes of young people from minority groups is essential, especially in societies like ours, where everyone is connected with politics and political parties.
Only by building true partnerships between institutions, community and young people, we can ensure that the policies are inclusive, reflect and address the real needs of young people and stimulate social integration.
ifa: How do you assess the work that has been done by your organisation in terms of supporting and encouraging young people to engage more actively in their community lives? What were the main challenges you faced during these years?
Todoroski: The main challenge we faced when working with young people and establishing connections with institutions was the slow acceptance of the institutions in regards to the ideas of young people.
I believe that we have contributed towards the increased awareness of young people about the value of their ideas and the importance of the cooperation with the community and the institutions. We have formed ten strong youth groups able to identify problems and develop solutions by implementing their project ideas. Our activities have given young people a voice to speak in front of members of the municipalities, mayors and political parties. They grew strong the moment their project ideas were included in the local policy making, and even stronger when they saw their ideas turn into reality.
Our efforts are rewarded when we see the satisfaction of young people, the implementation of their ideas and their cooperation with institutions. Facing the COVID 19 pandemic, young people are becoming even more interested to take part in the activities as this gives them a sense of importance. They are finally able to see that it is also their responsibility to find ways to get involved in the participation processes.
We would not have been so successful in the implementation of our actions for more than 23 years if it was not for our good cooperation with governmental institutions. Within our work, we have not only developed a good cooperation with most municipalities on a local level, but also with all relevant ministries on a national level. We are cooperating with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Ministry of Local Self Government through working groups for policy making.
The successful inclusion of young people in the decision-making processes highly depends on our good cooperation and relations with institutions both on local and national level.
About the project
The organisation Center for Civic Initiative (CCI) is engaged in Northern Macedonia in protection of human rights and civil rights.
About the zivik Funding Programme
The zivik Funding Programme supports civil society actors worldwide in preventing crises, transforming conflicts, and creating as well as stabilising peaceful social and political systems. With their commitment, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) complement state actors by providing significant perspectives and activities. The zivik programme is providing funding for international, national or local NGO projects, which are dealing with civil conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.