Making women’s voices heard in local decision making in North Macedonia


For the first time, women in Centar Zhupa, a municipality in the western part of North Macedonia, have a space to discuss their needs and challenges.

Lejla Asanovska, a young woman from Mal Papradnik, a village consisting of a Turkish minority in Centar Zhupa, was among the first activists who identified the importance of women's mobilization and networking as an approach to make women's voices heard and influence decision making at local level. 

She was supported by the local grassroots organization Radika De and civil society organization (CSO) Akcija Zdruzenska, dedicated to strengthening the advocacy and networking capacities of local women. 

The opening of the Women's Center was one of the priorities voiced by women to local authorities, which enabled them to further strengthen their active participation in the municipal decision-making processes.

“In the beginning, only three to five women took part in our meetings. But during the next few gatherings, we saw that other women started joining us and sharing their challenges. We proved that we could walk this path together by being pro-active in voicing our priorities,” says Asanovska. 

With support from UN Women, under the project “Promoting Gender-responsive Policies and Budgets: Towards Transparent, Inclusive and Accountable Governance in the Republic of North Macedonia,” CSO Akcija Zdruzenska managed to reach over 2,000 women from 25 villages through educational and networking activities. Moreover, 321 women were directly involved in the outreach and empowerment actions, leading to a total of 14 supported field initiatives of 9 local women's organizations. 

“Since we started participating in these activities, we have acquired the knowledge to solve problems more easily and efficiently, by conveying and sharing our complaints and appeals to the person in charge in the municipality,” says Asanovska, who is very proud that the Municipality allocated funds for the establishment of the Women's Center. 

For Marija Savovska, Director of Akcija Zdruzenska, says: “This is a truly important achievement, as it further encourages women to become active agents in shaping their everyday life”. 

Empowering women to become active in improving the quality of life in their communities is a very challenging process, especially when it comes to women in rural areas. However, the efforts aimed at increasing women’s public engagement have also contributed to transforming awareness in local governments, which became more open to women’s demands and proposals.

"Through this project, local women are empowered to voice their needs and act as agents of change in planning and budgeting processes," says Ivona Paunovich Bishevac, Gender Responsive Budgeting Programme Analyst at UN Women in North Macedonia.