In the Cabinet of the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, under the patronage of the Wife of the President, Elizabeta Gjorgievska, an event titled “United against Gender-Based Violence” was held today, aimed at supporting the National Network against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
The President’s Wife, Elizabeta Gjorgievska, addressed the event, while Elena Dimushevska, Executive Director of the National Network against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, gave a presentation about the work and challenges faced by the National Network. The social worker Bojana Lazarevska and the psychologist Nebahat Imeri spoke about the services provided in the Women’s Centers in Skopje and Tetovo.
In addition to representatives from the National Network, the event was attended by representatives from the diplomatic corps, the United Nations office, the civil sector in the country, as well as by representatives of the business community and socially responsible companies.
Research shows that in North Macedonia every third woman has survived some form of gender-based and/or domestic violence. Statistics indicate a number of 1,500 newly recorded victims of violence every year, but this number is approximately only 2% of the actual cases of violence in our country. Half of the women were victims of intimate partner violence, every second woman is a victim of psychological violence, and one in 7 women is a victim of physical or sexual violence.
Since 2020, the National Network against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence has been providing counseling services for women and children victims of violence, and in 2021 it opened the first Women’s Support Centers in Skopje and Tetovo, where so far help and support has been provided to more than 600 women and children victims of violence. Their financial sustainability is of exceptional importance for this vulnerable category, but also for developing the overall system of protection against gender-based violence in our society.
I sincerely thank you for responding positively to our invitation, and for being here today with us, with the Minister of Labor and Social Policy, with the representatives of the diplomatic community, the business community and the civil sector, to jointly send a message that we are UNITED in the fight against gender-based violence – an ongoing struggle that requires dedicated strategic and tactical sensitized steps.
Gender-based violence is not just a topic we need to discuss. It is a reality for many of our fellow citizens and a daily life lived by many women, girls, mothers… and it is not enough to just show empathy or just condemn such phenomena. In order to achieve real success in the fight against gender-based violence, a coordinated approach of all relevant institutions is needed in order to ensure effective protection of victims from various forms of violence, as it is necessary to work on developing support and reintegration mechanisms of victims in society.
It was not by coincidence that I mentioned different forms of violence, because most of the time when we talk about domestic violence, we think of physical violence. It is very rare to talk about psychological, sexual, economic violence, which are hidden in the shadow of the dominant, often patriarchal, cultural and social dynamics. These forms of violence also have long-term consequences for the victims like physical violence, but they are in the gray zone and there is almost no record of them, because first of all it is difficult to prove their existence before the judicial authorities, so the victims usually do not dare report it, because of the shame caused by cultural stigmatizing stereotypes, and rather they decide to remain silent and ignore it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
If reliable institutional mechanisms are provided to support the victims and if protocols for specialized services are applied, if there is a legal resolution in favor of the victims, as well as greater representation of women in the labor market, which will be the basis for their economic empowerment and thus independence as well as better social position, we will by far manage to help reintegration, rehabilitation of the victims, thus preventing the repetition of violence or new violence. Therefore, the shame of the environment, the distrust in legal institutions and the fear that they will never win justice, economic dependence, insufficient education about their own human rights, are among the key issues that must be widely addressed by several social actors.
In addition, we as a country, unfortunately, face limited institutional, financial and human capacities, which imposes the need to redouble efforts and find additional ways to help and support victims of gender-based violence.
Allow me to stress that significant progress has been achieved from a normative point of view, which is indeed to be welcomed. And continuous campaigns have largely resulted in raising public awareness, and in reality we have taken the biggest step with the adoption of the Istanbul Convention, although amendment and harmonization of the national legislation are still ongoing, in order for this convention to revive and be operationalized.
Unfortunately, what is worrying is that in the country in the last few years, especially during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen negative trends and a registered increase in the number of victims of domestic violence.
In that direction, the efforts and cooperation of public institutions, the civil sector and the business community to provide services for victims of gender-based violence are worthy of respect. However, further efforts are needed.
The women’s centers of the National Network against violence against women and domestic violence, which offer specialized services for victims, need financial sustainability in the long term, because their functioning is of exceptional importance for this vulnerable category, but also for developing the overall system of protection from gender-based violence in our society.
Therefore, the GOAL of this event is not only to raise public awareness among all socially responsible actors, but above all to give concrete support to the National Network and other actors who work to support victims, know the challenges they face, but also the problems that complicate the fight against violence.
In conclusion, let me just briefly mention some of the statistics that the National Network shared with us.
“Every third woman has survived some form of gender-based and/or domestic violence. Every year there are 1500 newly recorded victims of violence, but this number is approximately only 2% of actual cases of violence. Half of the women in North Macedonia were victims of intimate partner violence. Every second woman is a victim of psychological violence, and one in 7 women is a victim of physical or sexual violence.”
These are not just numbers. These are wounded human lives, often placed on the social margins, which represent the sad picture of our society, for which there must be zero tolerance.
Once again, thank you for your presence and I sincerely hope that together we can help change this devastating situation.