In the words of Maja Balsha: “The ratification of the Istanbul Convention has been crucial for our work on ending violence against women”

Date: Monday, July 23, 2018

Maja Balsha is a social worker specializing in psychosocial work. She is currently working as project coordinator at the NGO, HERA, a partner of the EU–UN Women regional programme, ‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds’, which aims to end violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

Maja Balsha
Maja Balsha, social worker and project manager at the NGO, HERA. Photo: Courtesy of HERA.
Quote  I started working on ending violence against women  as a social worker in a family centre managed by the NGO Health Education and Research Association (HERA), and supported by the city of Skopje. The centre provides separate services for survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence, as well as for children and families dealing with domestic violence.

As a woman growing up in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where traditional stereotypes of the role of women in the family and society still prevail, I related strongly to these issues. This inspired me to try and make a difference in our society.

HERA has been working on ending violence against women for more than 10 years, as a fundamental component of its work on women’s sexual and reproductive health, and human rights. So far, through implementing the activities of the regional programme, we have managed to widen our network of collaborators and supporters. The number of beneficiaries of our violence against women services has also grown. In addition, we collaborate more closely with state institutions and have broadened cooperation with new organizations.

The ratification of the Istanbul Convention has been crucial for our work on ending violence against women. I think the next challenge will be to implement the laws accordingly. But we’re working on it. At the request of the Minister of Labour and Social Work, the project team provided technical support to the Ministry throughout the process of preparing the Action Plan for implementation of the Convention. The document was developed through a consultative process that involved various government institutions and civil society organizations.

With the new government, we have seen some positive developments, but work can be slow at times. At the local level, establishing services will be challenging, and at the national level, the biggest obstacle will be – as it currently is – the lack of skilled service providers. However, we are optimistic; before the ratification, we couldn’t agree with the government on any violence against women related issues but now we have this legal instrument to guide our work."