I arrived in Skopje two days ago – a day late, after getting stuck in Prague. My plane flew into Skopje in the middle of a thunderstorm, and my view out the window of gray, misty mountains seemed to fit every Balkan stereotype. Skopje itself is small and safe, so it’s easy to get around. In some ways the city is reminiscent of Tbilisi, Georgia, where I spent a summer two years ago, although Skopje is more developed and easier to navigate as a foreigner. My (very poor) Russian skills are already coming in handy, since many older people here speak Russian and it’s similar to Macedonian.
I spent part of the day yesterday meeting everyone at ISC and getting their take on ESE. ISC partners with ESE through a USAID-funded initiative called the Civil Society Strengthening Project (CSSP), which selected 17 “leader NGOs” in Macedonia as the beneficiaries of grants, technical assistance and other capacity-building initiatives. Through these leader NGOs, the CSSP aims to strengthen Macedonian civil society as a whole.
From everything I heard, ESE is one of the best-run and best-financed leader NGOs. Its staff is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable. ESE has had some notable successes, including the passage of legislation it supported to address domestic violence through changes in the Criminal Code and Family Law. But as one ESE staff member pointed out, “It’s Macedonia—there’s always more to do.”
Already I can see I’m going to learn a lot – and hopefully I’ll be able to contribute something to ESE’s work, too.
Posted By Stephanie Gilbert
Posted Jun 8th, 2007