Who we are
The First Children's Embassy in the World Megjashi is an international NGO with the purpose to protect children and their rights and to strengthen the NGO movement for the children's rights. Founded on the 29th of April 1992, Megjashi strives for respecting the child's personality through protection of their rights, advocating for their best interests, connecting children from different backgrounds and enriches their lives with events that make the childhood secure and fruitful. It also strengthens the NGO movement for protection of children rights in the Republic of Macedonia, by developing the voluntary approach in its operation and by exercising concern for the Convention of Children Rights.
Social movements, institutions and organizations have tasked themselves with alleviating injustice by creating the same chances for each child and ensuring a safe, positive and encouraging environment for children throughout their early childhood. As one of the leading children’s rights organizations in Macedonia, the First Children's Embassy in the World Megjashi, contributes in realizing this.
Megjashi is the first registered NGO for protection of the children's rights in the Republic of Macedonia in the period of transition. With its activities it contributed in the development and strengthening of the civil awareness for the children's rights, broke the silence of the children's sufferings revealing many cases of child abuse in public and it directly engaged itself in establishing more efficient mechanisms for protection of the child.
1.1. Problem analysis
In November 1993, Macedonia signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and developed a basic law for ensuring children’s rights, i.e. the Law on Child Protection. However, since its independence, Macedonia experienced economic, social and political turmoil. Its resources limit Macedonia's commitment to children's rights and welfare. Macedonia does have social welfare programs to support children, but the current economic crisis has rendered many inoperative.
Although Macedonia experiences a low infant mortality rate, disparities in access to health and education between rural and urban areas are an obstacle towards achieving the low mortality rate of Western European countries. Over 92 per cent of children in Macedonia are immunized and safe of diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and rubella. Children are prepared for elementary school through formal pre-school education as well as community based early learning initiatives aimed at developing child’s cognitive abilities.
Still, 8 percent of the children are not immunized, and 10 percent of the Roma children never enrol in school. Some 2 percent of children are not registered at birth. Pre-school education remains to be low at 12%. Children in rural and poor communities have difficulties accessing basic social services due to traditional attitudes towards early marriage for girls, start of work for boys and the looming economic situation. Children working and begging in the street continue to pose challenge for the country to work on the realisation of children rights.
In early 2001, an ethnically-driven conflict erupted in Macedonia between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. During the nine months of sustained fighting, approximately 170,000 individuals were displaced. Hostilities ceased in the Autumn of 2001 with the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.
The majority of those displaced have now returned to their original communities. However, considerable inter-ethnic tension remains, and many individuals fear another protracted conflict. An environment of scarce economic opportunities compounds ethnic tension lingering from the 2001 conflict. Unemployment in some areas affected by the fighting is as high as 80%.
After more than nine months of conflict, the situation in Macedonia finally began to stabilize in the Autumn of 2001. Compounding this problem is a lack of trust and confidence between different ethnicities in many of the returnee communities, promoting real and/or perceived safety and security concerns.
A lingering ethnic tension exists, especially in the areas where there was direct conflict in 2001. Collaboration between groups of different ethnicity is rare, and most communities are characterized at best by a tendency to simply co-exist. Many fear another ethnically driven conflict.
At the high-school level, while both ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians attend the same high schools, courses are taught in either Albanian or Macedonian. This issue further divides ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians into separate groups, preventing dialogue in the classroom and inhibiting tolerance and multi-ethnic cooperation. Activities that bring ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian youth together in meaningful ways to address the ethnic divide are rare and usually limited to one-time events.
1.2. How it all started
As a reaction on the eruption of war in former Yugoslavia, in June 1991, the region around the village Megjashi was declared as “the First Children's Country in the World”. The village is situated on the border of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. With the creation of the First Children’s Country, the ideological father, Mr. Dushko Tomic, hoped that the flames of nationalistic and religious doctrines would stifle. The Megjashi project drew a remarkable amount of attention upon itself from ex-Yugoslav and European media alike, representing a world without violence in which childrens’ rights are respected.
In April 1992 a dramatic appeal was forwarded from Sarajevo for the temporary evacuation of thousands of children who needed to be saved from all-destructive shelling. In Skopje this appeal was heard, after which Gordana Pirovska-Zmijanac and her husband Dragi Zmijanac took the initiative to found the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi. What followed was the establishing of an airlift from Sarajevo to Skopje, through which around 6000 mothers and children found refuge in Macedonia. After the first immediate support for the children in the war in former Yugoslavia, Megjashi settled down and consolidated. Still, during the following years Megjashi continued to offer support to chidren affected by war and violence. At first only for the children and mothers from former Yugoslavia, later also refugees from Kosovo and Macedonia found their way to Megjashi. In the course of its existence, tens of thousands of mothers and children from all denominations and nationalities have found safety through the support of Megjashi.
Currently, Megjashi is recognized as the leading Macedonian NGO for advocating and promoting children’s’ rights. It brought down the wall of silence concerning children rights, especially related to physical, sexual and economic abuse of children, thereby exposing to the public numerous cases of abuse and directly supporting the establishment of more effective mechanisms for protection of children. As a confirmation of its work, Megjashi received the first award for civil society and democracy in 2001. The award was given in recognition of its lasting and sustainable contribution in developing civil awareness of children's rights, as well as because of the numerous campaigns and publications in this area.
1.3. Megjashi’s approach to work
Conflict resolution approach. The concept built on the basis of many years of experience of the Centre for Non-violent Action from Belgrade and Sarajevo is adapted to the local requirements. The concept is based on the principle of topics oriented interactions. Programme focus is the following: raising sensitiveness for violence, communication, building team work skills and strengthening. The approach in ethnically mixed groups requires gradually providing of safe space for dealing with the present tensions and fears in a very constructive way.
Training’s methods are characterized with participation and inter activity. High level of involvement of all the participants is required, although being on a safe space they are pushed into simulated situation, they get confronted and express their attitudes, they listen to what others need to say and have the opportunity to analyze them selves and the opportunity to change.
One of the main goals of the trainings is introduction to the basic concepts of non-violent resolutions of conflicts and its practical application in everyday life and work as well as the opportunity to have a different approach to the conflict situations. The idea is to layout responsibility in individuals, to emphasize the importance and power that they have as significant postulate for constructive action in society. Very important component of the training is the responsibility transfer moment for participants in the training while the team of trainers has the responsibility for process structuring. The process dynamics are in great deal set by the participants through their involvement while the team leaders are adjusting to the interests and requirements of the group. Under this principle, applying this approach and providing space for involving all participants the effect is attained for encouraging people to express their thoughts and feelings, to take initiative and responsibility. The methods used in the workshops are directed towards learning through experience, require profound intellectual and emotional involvement, integrated with body movements.
The training is consisted of workshops regarding various issues mutually complemented, following up the work group dynamics, the group energy and capability for working on the issues which are very sensitive and can cause strong emotions.
Most frequent topics on the trainings are the following: violence and non-violence, understanding the conflicts, analyses of the conflicts, team work, decision making, non-violent communication, perception, presumptions and stereotypes, gender role in society, identity/national identities, leadership, power, peace building, creative conflict resolution. The selection of training topics depends of the duration of training, the group and the trainers’ team.
Generally, the group of participants is consisted of 20 people.
Main goals of the training:
Raising the awareness and gaining knowledge of the concept and questions regarding violence (directive and structural), diversity, identity and national identity, civil society, power, human rights etc.
Skills development: team work, non-violent communication, understanding, analyses and creative conflict resolution, dealing with stress and fear, dealing and acceptance of power and diversity etc.
Empowering individuals to become active participants in the civil society.
(a) reasons for the proposed methodology
1. Social Mobilization provides possibilities for massive involvement of the public, directly or indirectly, the institutions working on the issues comprised in this project (Ministry for Education, the media, other high schools etc.)
2. CNA Methodology provides possibilities for confronting with sensitive issues (which takes courage) specifically responsibility, revising the attitudes, which helps developing communication skills, cooperation skills, facing with emotions, facing with presumptions, facing with diversity and personal power and all these are important skills required for constructive resolutions of conflict. Trainings are directed towards commencing review processes through active participation and interaction of participants, in which they revise their attitudes and search for behaviours that would be in compliance with their own feelings for responsibility and their own system of values, the trainings do not aim towards changing participants’ personalities to a certain defined models of behaviour. Training workshops have certain structure which provides and initiates the process of clarification and revising instead of bringing ready answers and solutions through the acknowledgments of the workshop leaders/trainers which would be accepted by participants with no critics. The training initiates and requires revising of self personalities of participants, initiates the process of accepting and giving constructive critics which are possible to be achieved in environment filled with confidence and responsibility during the work process. The training process would not be successful without active participants. The training effects are multiple: Establishing solid ground for reconciliation process, up surging the awareness for human rights, Revising of self presumptions, Understanding and accepting of emotions, Encouraging and building of personality, Sharing experience, Effect of multiplication through motivation of participants to practices their acknowledgments in the living environment.
Child abuse. One of the most significant roles of Megjashi is to enable children with effective prevention from child abuse and protection of their rights. Those aims are accomplished through organized forms of activities that offer direct services to children, such as: SOS telephone for children and youth, legal assistance, psycho-social counseling, children's workshops and the Daily Center for children on streets that will start working in two months. Its methodology is based on the core principles of respect, equality and inclusiveness using a non-violent conflict resolution approach to achieve meaningful and lasting change. In the implementation of its activities, Megjashi employs the support of several external actors to perform the activities. Volunteers are included in most of the activities, while Child Ambassadors are appointed for lobbing and advocating.
1.5. Megjashi’s participation in various networks
Megjashi is eager to work together with new emerging child rights NGOs sharing its experiences and resources. For this reason, Megjashi is a member of numerous domestic and international organizations, among others Civil Platform of the Replublic of Macedonia, Global March Against Child Labor, Defense for Children International, Child Rights Information Network, and Child Helpline International.
2. Direct services for children
On behalf of the children in Macedoniaand internationally, Megjashi is looking for support for our direct services for children, which promotes, uphold and advocates for the rights of children in Macedonia. Megjashi, supported by its volunteers, external experts, trainers and the honorary members of Megjashi, is implementing this programme. Protection of children's rights
Throughout the years, Megjashi has created and provided a range of creative, educational and counseling services for the most disadvantaged groups of children. It is important for the children if this work continues in the years to come, consisting of:
- Development of the capacity of SOS help line for Children and Youth-The help line exists for 15 years now and has received over 17000 calls. From 2005 the line is financed by Macedonia Telecommunications so the calls are free of charge. We have 15 volunteers working on the SOS line that are students on social work-studies, psychology and pedagogy. The volunteers are guided by a team of professionals (social worker, pedagogues, psychologist and defectologist). This way the Embassy has provided sustainability of the line.
- Development of the capacity of the legal and social service to children or families in need-We have an attorney that is voluntarily working on cases connected to protection of the rights of the children. Whenever we have acknowledged that the rights of the child have been broken we take matters in our hands and react according to the case. Sometimes we write request to the Social Services Centres, to the ombudsman, the police or the ministries in charge. We have acted in many cases, which resulted beneficiary for the children.
- Daily centre for children on streets will be established in two months. We will work with the children from the so-called “cardboard settlement” in the settlements Aerodrom and Novo Lisiche. But in order to provide better living condition for the children we will also work and cooperate with the parents.
Megjashi stands for respect of the child’s personality through protection of the children’s rights and living in peace, by strengthening the NGO movement for the rights of the children, encouraging and developing volunteerism and caring for implementation of the Convention for the rights of the child.
Year by year, the number of projects that Megjashi works on is bigger, therefore with the new strategic plan these projects are developed into programmes. The assigned working plan intends to reach the above mentioned aim as well as strengthening the capacity of the organization through realization of the activities. Enlarging the working capacity of the organisational staff means more efficient accomplishment of the program activities as well as more successful fundraising. For the coming years, Megjashi formulated the following aims in its work:
Megjashi is a professional organisation that provides direct services to children in need. Megjashi is recognised as expert organisation on the field of children’s issues and respected as negotiating partner by local and national governments and institutions, and is capable of:
a) continuously developing common vision, approaches and methods regarding the promotion of children’s rights in Macedonia and the Balkans
b) preparing annual action plans, with a description of the efficient use of all human resources in the organisation, as well as programme management development
c) advocating and lobbying on national and international level for ratification of the Convention of Children’s Rights and to create public support for its mission
d) facilitating the establishment and development of regional and national networks.
This year the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy has granted us financial support for the Daily Centre for children on streets. But the finances are only for seven months. That means that as soon as we start making progress with the children the project will end. If we don’t continue with the work those children will go back to the streets. We have provided the needed space and the equipment for the Daily Centre, which is near the settlements where the children live. We need financial support for transportation so we can have our own vehicle that will bring the children to the Daily Centre from their homes. This is really important part in the work with children on streets.
The Macedonian Telecommunication supports the SOS line, so we need to provide only human resources. In addition to this we have 15 volunteers (social workers, psychologist, pedagogues) but we need financial support for the expenses of the volunteers not only on the SOS line but also the volunteer in the legal service.
Our services are very important to be provided to the children in Macedonia. To do this we need constant support for our services for at least one year. That is why we are asking you for financial support for our direct services for children. From your web site we found out that you support programmes concerning children on street and street children. As you can see our goals are towards children inclusion in schools and improving their living conditions. Getting your support we will make a great difference to the children in Macedonia.
Annex 1. Detailed information
For further information, please contact us at the following telephones:
+ 389 (0)2 2465 316, + 389 (0)2 2463 900, or
In a UNICEF handbook, the author, Mrs. Sue Gilbert, wrote: "Macedonia is well known in relation to the children's rights, because the First Children's Embassy in the World Megjashi was founded there".