Reaching out vulnerable children in Macedonia
International evidence relating to the gamut of child protection issues clearly demonstrates that vulnerable children (especially poor and/or marginalized children from ethnic minorities and/or households with limited resources) are more likely to suffer neglect, discrimination, abuse or exploitation at the hands of service providers and others. Poor and marginalized children are also more likely to be sexually exploited and abused, trafficked and/or employed in an unsafe or otherwise exploitative environment. There are some mechanisms for support of the vulnerable groups of children but they are not supported continuously by the state, they are not known to the children and children do not know where to turn when they need help and someone to talk to.
In the period from 4th of July to 31st of January 2012 First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi implemented the activities from the project “Reaching out vulnerable children in Macedonia” supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) presented by the Office for cooperation in Skopje. The main goal of the project is to contribute to the improvement of life of vulnerable children by providing appropriate social, psychological and legal support for them.
2. The situation with the rights of the vulnerable children
It is difficult to say that the situation of our main target group (vulnerable children) was improved last 7 months. It depends how we look over the things. If for example, we begin with a legislative, the institutions, the changes of the laws, conventions, than logically we will say that yes, there is an improvement in respecting the children rights.
The First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi still is most worried that all these changes of the laws last years are practically very little implemented in the way that is the most desirable. We have identified implementation problems especially in the Laws for primary and secondary education which are very important for the involvement of the vulnerable group of children into the educational process. That happens for a several reasons, for example some of the law changes were made without previously consulting the conditions for their implementation, that usually means deficit of human or technical support of the state institutions which should implement these laws in practice, not well and sufficiently educated people, isolated acting and lack of collaboration and coordination on several levels as inadequate implementation. Macedonia can do much more with its kids! We need more attention toward children and strategic actions for solving the bitter questions that will not solve through night, but if we approach them comprehensively they will for sure have an impact.
Brеaking of the children rights has its continuity and is from different character. Macedonia has 5-6% of the total number of the children that are not going to school, 2000 street children, only 9-15% (depends on the municipality) of the children are included in the preschool education, that is very important for the vulnerable group of children.
We really hope that with this project we succeeded to improve the situation of the vulnerable children helping them in different ways: advocacy and lobbying, education, direct services, SOS helpline for children and youth and counselling, Free legal service, Daily Center for children who do not attend school...
Results/ bigger accomplishments achieved in the reporting period
With the implementation of this project were achieved the following results:
Recruited 9 volunteers (psychologists, pedagogies, social workers) to work on the SOS helpline. The services of the SOS helpline are provided every day 12 hours.
Annual report about the work of the SOS helpline for the period January - December 2011 is prepared and presented on the press conference conducted in February 2012.
The First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has reacted trough media about the monstrous case of paedophilia and rape in Skopje. Children’s Embassy Megjashi is continuously fighting against paedophilia by requesting the highest punishment for the paedophiles, as well as collecting data for the persons who have raped and abused children. Our organisation is deeply concerned that this data is reported mostly from the marginalized and rural environment, which doesn't mean that it is not present in the urban environment.
The National Commission on the Rights of the Child in Republic of Macedonia recommends to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies in the frame of its possibilities to provide continuous functioning of the SOS toll free helpline for children and youth as a six digit European number 116 111, that is accessible from all mobile and landlines in Macedonia.
The Child Helpline International has sent letters for support to the President of the RM, the Prime Minister of the Government of the RM, the General Secretary of the Government of the RM, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, and the Agency for Electronic Communication to express the support and to emphasize the importance of the harmonization of the SOS helpline with the European number 116 111 and providing 24 hours free of charge work of the service.
Recruited 9 volunteers (psychologists, pedagogies, social workers) to work with the children in the Daily Centre. The Day Care Centre works 5 hours every day.
The First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi was visited by Mrs. Emine Erdogan, wife of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Mrs. Borkica Gruevska, wife of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia Mr. Nikola Gruevski. They attended the creative workshops for children where the children made origami and art work and presented them with some of their handcrafts. Mrs. Gruevska donated TV and DVD equipment for the children who attend the day care centre.
The training course for the representatives from the municipalities was conducted from 25th to 28th of October 2011 in hotel Alpina, Mavrovo, on which participated 13 representatives from 12 municipalities, 2 trainers from the Children’s Embassy Megjashi, and 2 volunteers for technical assistance.
Representatives from the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi, during November, December, and January have conducted presentations/ workshops in 20 municipalities in the Republic of Macedonia (Bitola, Gostivar, Mavrovo and Rostusha, Vrapchishte, Debar, Tetovo, Strumica, Ohrid, Kavadarci, Prilep, Veles, Shtip, Centar, Gjorche Petrov, Chair, Lozovo, Kumanovo, Saraj, Karposh and Chashka), in order on the field to determine the problems and needs of the vulnerable children. In each municipality we have discussed with the representatives of the Local government, as well as with the professional staff as: social workers, pedagogues, psychologists, special educators, education inspector, labour inspector, police officers for juvenile delinquency, directors of the schools etc. Because the target group are vulnerable children in each municipality were discussed the following questions:
- number of not registered children in the municipality
- children who are begging
- number of foster families
- inclusion of the children in the education process
- existing or not existing of classes for the disabled children
- centres for children addicted
- the problems of child labour exploitation
An informal network of cooperation was established with municipal leaders in the range protection of the vulnerable groups of children with opening of mailing list and link to the Facebook page of Children's Embassy Megjashi
269 local community leaders are mobilized to dedicate more attention to the vulnerable groups of children in their communities
To respond to vulnerable children in need of care and protection offering immediate help with psycho-social and legal support
One of the most important mechanisms for support of vulnerable children is the SOS helpline and counselling free legal service. The S.O.S helpline for children and youth functions almost 19 years (since October 1993) and has registered more than 18 250 calls. The S.O.S phone line represents a service for direct help and support of children, youth and their families. With only one call, children may receive help and information, expert advice, psycho-social support or simply talk about the problems they face with. The principle of working of the line is consisted of conversations with the caller about their problems, so that our operators do not immediately give complete solutions of the problem. It is talked about alternatives for solving the problem they have and the caller is helped to find their own solution of it. On the free S.O.S helpline for children and youth, there are professionals that work on: Pedagogue, psychologist, social worker and lawyer. In the activities there are also volunteers involved, who are usually students at the Faculties of Pedagogy, Psychology, Law studies, Social Work. Those people primarily conduct the conversations with callers and are always in coordination and mentorship with the S.O.S helpline coordinator and the other services for direct help in the First Children Embassy in the World Megjashi. In order to provide continuous work of this service the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has implemented following activities:
Every day 12 hours working of the SOS service by the trained volunteers
During the report period the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has prepared a semi-annual report (for the period from January to July 2011) and an annual report about the work of the SOS helpline (for the period January - December 2011). Both reports were presented on the press conference conducted in August 2011 (semi-annual) and February 2012 (annual). During 2011 on the SOS helpline are registered 235 reports concerning 477 children. The general conclusions of the annual report are:
- not protected and exposed to violence within the family - 17.61%
- not protected and exposed to violence at the schools - 18.03%
- not protected and left from the institutions to fight alone - 18.03%
- 191 children are exposed on physical, mental and sexual violence, and neglect of children. They are silent and endure violence. It is rarely reported because they are scared. Disappointed and discouraged from those who should take care of them.
- Only 15 children have courage to raise their voice and ask help for protection of their rights.
On the Agenda of the 16th Session of the National Commission of the Rights of the Child conducted on 01st of December 2011 was the information from the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi about the recommendation from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from Geneva for 24 hours toll-free SOS helpline for children and youth. The Executive Director and Founder of Children’s Embassy Megjashi, Dragi Zmijanac presented the recommendation from the Committee to the National Commission, and emphasized the importance of harmonization of the SOS helpline with the European number 116111, as well as the written support of this initiative from the Child Helpline International. The conclusion of the National Commission according to this issue is: "The National Commission on the Rights of the Child in Republic of Macedonia recommends to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies in the frame of its possibilities to provide continuous functioning of the SOS toll free helpline for children and youth as a six digit European number 116 111."
Organizing direct and indirect contacts, written remarks to the Institutions for Social Work, Psychology, Pedagogy, and other Post Secondary institutions for the informing the students of volunteer opportunities
- Written remarks with call for volunteers are sent to the Institute of Social Work, Psychology, Pedagogy, and Special Education. The students of those institutes were informed about the possibilities listed in the remarks, and the remarks were announced on the informative boards.
- Recruited 9 volunteers (psychologists, pedagogies, social workers) to work on the SOS helpline.
- On the end of September and the beginning of October 2011 on occasion of the Children’s Week the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi were visited by 320 children from 12 schools. With the children were conducted workshops on which they were acquainted with the work of First Children Embassy in the World Megjashi, and the SOS helpline in particular, and learn more about the child’s rights.
Meetings with already existing SOS phone services for children
- Representatives from First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi attend the Regional Conference for Professionals and Volunteers working on the Child Helpline in Montenegro. On the Conference they presented the work and the achieved results of the SOS Helpline and the free legal service. Also they share experiences and ideas with other Helpline providers from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia.
- Letter for requesting support is sent to all members of the Child Helpline International to support First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi in the process of harmonization the SOS Helpline with the European number 116 111, and providing 24 hours free of charge work of the service. The process is supported by UNICEF and Child Helpline International (CHI).
The representatives from 4 members of CHI have sent a letter of support for the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi. The Child Helpline International has sent letters of support to the President of the RM, the Prime Minister of the Government of the RM, the General Secretary of the Government of the RM, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, and the Agency for Electronic Communication to express the support and to emphasize the importance of the harmonization of the SOS helpline with the European number 116 111 and providing 24 hours free of charge work of the service.
- Dragi Zmijanac, the Executive Director and Founder, of the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi attended IV Regional Consultation for Child Helpline in Athens. During the Conference the members of CHI from the region discussed about the actual work of the help lines and the further plans and possibilities for cooperation in order to improve the work and to make the help lines more available for the target groups.
- The First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi and South Eastern Europe Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (SEEC), managed by the Greek non governmental organization “The smile of the Child” in the premises of the Children’s Embassy Megjashi had a meeting during which was discussed about the possibilities of implementation of the number 116 000 for a helpline of missing children in the Republic of Macedonia, as well as the possibilities for establishing Macedonian National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. During the meeting were also shared useful experiences with the representatives from the NGO “Open Gate – La Strada” and was discussed about the possible collaboration.
- On 22nd of November in the premises of the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi was conducted a meeting with the representatives from other NGOs which also provide a helpline service. On the meeting participated the representatives from the NGO “Open Gate - La Strada” and the Association of Social Workers of Skopje. We have exchange experiences for the work of all helpline and discussed about the challenges we face during the work as well as about the possibilities of cooperation among each other.
General view of the objective 1
Despite our efforts to reach children, particularly the vulnerable groups of children and to raise the percentage of calls by children, in 2011 to the SOS helpline addressed only 15 children. After the project activities which included printing and distributing flyers, posters, calendars about the SOS helpline for children and young people across all municipalities in Macedonia, it could be noticed a slight increase in calls from children. From this it can be realized that the next goal will be to reach the marginalized groups of children, which would be desirable to be through a direct contact with them in order to directly inform them about where to refer for violation of their rights and would increase their trust in the SOS helpline.
Some of the calls that were recorded at the SOS helpline for children and young people were for the vulnerable group of children; we have data on 89 children at social risk and calls for 21 children on the street. The greatest percentage are for children who struggle with poverty and are forced by their parents, guardians, or other organized groups to work from their earliest age and provide material funds through collecting plastics, paper and scrap metal, and by begging as well. That is approximately 1/3 of the total no. of call which is a concerning indicator of the state of the vulnerable group of children and their treatment in the society.
Regarding the problem of begging, in 2011 there were calls to the SOS helpline reporting 14 children which is why the SOS helpline for children and youth and the free legal service immediately and separately for every case contacted and asked the relevant institutions like the Center for Social Work and the Ministry of Labor and Social Politics to immediately act in the field and provide the necessary care and protection to this vulnerable group of children. We believe that these activities exceeded the expected results, the SOS helpline had good cooperation with the relevant institutions and they urgently acted on the field; however, the disappointment is that the state hasn’t found a permanent solution for this vulnerable group of children and these activities were only a temporary solution.
General view of the objective 2:
Through working with these children most targets have been achieved; the children socialize, have gained hygienic habits, acquired habits of learning, respect the adults etc. Through the activities, there are improvements in teaching the children about their fundamental rights and responsibility. What was a step forward is that there was a direct contact with these families, their living conditions and through the training in the municipalities we managed to raise the public awareness about the condition of this marginalized group of children.The main current problem is that after the children leave the Daily Centre they are left to the parents who do not pay enough attention and do not educate them. The reason for this is the difficult financial and social situation of those families and absence of a strict monitoring for responsible parenthood by the Centre for Social work. In Macedonia 2 of the day care centers function in the frames of the civil organizations and their existence is in question.
What we should have devoted more attention to is the direct work with parents through meetings that will look for alternative solutions to this difficult situation of these children and families.
Objective 3: To link up with and strengthen local governments in addressing matters concerning vulnerable children in their municipalities and to promote protection and advocacy for children in needs
Children's rights and the rights of the vulnerable group of children are not on the top of the Political parties' and the municipality's agenda
Preparation of the criteria for inclusion of municipalities in the project distribution of call and contact with the Municipalities
In order to strengthen the cooperation among municipalities and centers for social work, schools, NGO’s in their territories, First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has conducted several activities with the municipal leaders in the field of child protection. In the activities have participated 20 municipalities selected by the following criteria.
The criteria include that the municipalities were involved in the project that First Children’s Embassy in the World has already realized such as the International Campaign for Education "Global Action week" aimed for raising awareness of the need for inclusion of all children in mandatory process of education throughout the world, and the project "Building a culture of child participation" through which children participated in the process of monitoring the implementation of their rights and prepared its report on the situation of children in the Republic of Macedonia presented to the Committee of the Rights of the Child in Geneva. Moreover, we believe it is important that the municipalities within their work programs have adopted action plans to protect the rights of children and communities in the future plan to develop and implement local action plans to participate in the project.
According to the criteria 20 municipalities were selected to participate in the three days training course. Each municipality has delegate one representative who will participate in the training course and the following activities.
The implementation of a three-days training course, for 13 people, prior to it will be observed the criteria of joint and gender proportionality
The training course for the representatives from the municipalities was conducted from 25th to 28th of October 2011 in hotel Alpina, Mavrovo, on which participated 13 representatives from 12 municipalities, 2 trainers from the Children’s Embassy Megjashi, and 2 volunteers for technical assistance. Although, 20 municipalities were selected, the representatives from 7 municipalities couldn’t participate on the training because of other priority commitments, nonetheless they were included in the execution of the workshops in the municipalities.
On the beginning of the training the participants were introduced with the children’s rights, the forms of its violation, and the responsibilities of the institutions for its protection. Also, the participants have workshops for the children’s rights, so they could practice different ways of protection, and could share their on experiences about handling different cases. During the training was also discussed about the worst forms of child’s labour and the role of the municipalities in the decreasing the abuse of the child’s labour. On the end, the representatives prepared action plans for conducting a presentation/workshop for the Local government key representatives for children’s issues which will help them to identify and treat the main problems of the vulnerable children in the municipality.
Presentations/workshops with Local governments key representatives for children’s issues, regular meetings with the municipalities
Representatives from the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi, during November, December, and January have conducted presentations/ workshops in 20 municipalities in the Republic of Macedonia (Bitola, Gostivar, Mavrovo and Rostusha, Vrapchishte, Debar, Tetovo, Strumica, Ohrid, Kavadarci, Prilep, Veles, Shtip, Centar, Gjorche Petrov, Chair, Lozovo, Kumanovo, Saraj, Karposh and Chashka), in order on the field to determine the problems and needs of the vulnerable children. In each municipality we have discussed with the representatives of the Local government, as well as with the professional staff as: social workers, pedagogues, psychologists, special educators, education inspector, labour inspector, directors of the schools etc. Because the target group are vulnerable children in each municipality were discussed the following questions:
- number of not registered children in the municipality
- children who are begging
- number of foster families
- inclusion of the children in the education process
- existing or not existing of classes for the disabled children
- centres for children addicted etc.
From each presentation/ workshop is prepared report with detailed explanation of the situation with the vulnerable children in the municipality.
From the analysis of the information gained from the municipalities are derived the following conclusions:
- The problem with not registered children is very serious and causes violation of many other rights of the children. The municipalities should undertake some measures and to increase the collaboration among the institution in order to overcome the problem.
- The problem with the children beggars is present in many municipalities. Even though they are making some efforts to help them it is important to continue with it because they are present on the streets very often.
- The municipalities emphasized the need of existing centres for rehabilitation of children addicted to alcohol and drugs. Some of them have opened such centres, but need support from the State to continue with the work.
- According to the inclusion of the children in the educational system most of the municipalities have agreed about several conditions that are important for increasing the number of children who are going to school. All the school should have a social worker who will be the link among the children, parents, and the institutions. Also the preschool education is essential for the vulnerable groups of children, in order to prevent them of going to streets and start the addicts in the early childhood. Regarding the conditional cash compensation the representatives from the municipalities considered that it should be provided for the students from primary education as well, in order to motivate them to achieve better results. Also the developing of the intensive programs will help the children who miss to start the education process on time to continue with the studying. The work with parents is also important step for increasing the number of the students who are attending schools.
- For the children with disabilities according to the information from the municipalities, it is important if there are classes and Day Care Centres for them, but the categorization of the children should be under a strict monitoring to avoid any kind of abuse of the children. Also the secondary education for the children with disabilities is problem, because it is provided only in Skopje.
- The number of the foster families in Macedonia is very low, and they are rarely interested to take children with disabilities. The foster families need appropriate trainings and education to care for children, especially those with special needs. Also they need a financial support from the State to help them to take care of the children.
- In the procedures for adoption are needed changes which will allow the potential parents to spend more time with the children and to develop stronger emotional relations.
General view of the objective 3
During the training and the workshops in the previously stated municipalities, representatives from the municipalities and the other professionals that attended stressed that this kind of cooperation with the NGO sector is quite useful and welcomed. With some of the municipalities we managed to identify important issues that we might solve together and to be their partners in programs and activities that are aimed at the vulnerable group of children.
During all workshops, notes were recorded about the discussion that was provided and the children's rights that are not respected were addressed, the causes for it, recommendations on how to overcome them and the major problems that municipalities face in their daily work in implementation of their competence in the field of protection of marginalized groups of children. Afterwards, a final report was prepared in which the data obtained was summarized. The report is structured in a way that it does not only identify the violations of the rights of the children, but it also provides recommendations to overcome them.
It is particularly important to address that throughout this cooperation with the municipalities, the First Children’s Embassy in the World - Megjashi also provided monitoring to the rights of children in Macedonia and the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Children and the concluding observations of United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Children that were sent to the Government of Macedonia in June 2010.
The identified condition, the obtained data and recommendations are already listed in the draft version of the Alternative Report for the situation of children’s rights in Macedonia, which is scheduled to be published and presented to the public during March 2012. It is particularly significant that the data that came from the municipalities provide a picture of the situation with the children’s rights at the local level and in different regions of the country.
For this planned purpose it can be concluded that the activities provided had great support from the municipalities
Objective 4: To promote the protection of vulnerable children and their rights for articulating their needs
First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has implemented set of activities aimed to raise awareness for children rights and the existences of support structures for children in need among children, parents, local communities’ leaders, teachers and media.
Creation, design and distribution of the printed materials (posters, leaflets, inserters, t-shirts, calendars, bookmarkers)
During the reporting period First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has designed and created promoting materials for the municipalities. Printed materials (posters, leaflets, calendars and bookmarkers) were distributed to all municipalities in Republic of Macedonia. The Local governments distributed the materials according to the number of primary schools in the municipality.
During the project implementation, FCEWM has constantly developed and executed various activities to promote rights of the vulnerable children. This was conducted through printed materials, media, lobbying and running of the campaign. The main purpose of informing on children’s rights is to increase the public awareness of the citizens about the need of a more efficient protection of vulnerable children and youth in the Republic of Macedonia. Through the media, Children's Embassy Megjashi constantly makes and puts in the forefront of respecting marginalized children's rights. Also we received the interest and support from the citizens and other nongovernmental organizations who were informed about the activities by the media.
1. Municipality Karpos
2. Municipality Stip
3. Municipality Ohrid
4. Municipality Veles
5. Municipality Tetovo
6. Municipality Strumica
7. Municipality Debar
The First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi has continuous good cooperation with the most of the media in Macedonia. Usually the media are interested about the situation with the violence of the children’s rights, and the ways that the SOS helpline handle different cases.
A lot of information connected with the children's rights, presentations at the workshops in municipalities are posted at the web site and the facebook of the Children' Embassy Megjashi. More materials can be downloaded from:
· the web-site: www.childrensembassy.org.mk,
· the E-Newsletter "Bushavko"
· YOUTUBE CHANNEL http://www.youtube.com/?user/Megjashi/videos