Partners for Accessible Healthcare in Macedonia

Team Macedonia of seven women gathered around laptop
How do you describe a partnership that not only achieves its goals, but transforms the entire way in which each partner works? MIUSA's Empower Partnerships program simply calls it, “Team Macedonia.”

With support from the U.S. Department of State, MIUSA brought together organizations from around the world for a new style of collaborative program designed to advance disability rights.

From Macedonia, Mobility Challenge, a disability-led organization focused on improving the status of women with disabilities partnered with the Health Education and Research Association (HERA), a non-profit organization working to promote sexual and reproductive rights and health.  Their shared goals were a perfect match for their U.S. partner: the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD).

The impact of “Team Macedonia”'s partnership has been far-reaching, according to HERA's Vesna Matevska.

“With Empower, we started a never-ending project. Now, HERA makes accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities a priority in all of our activities and programs.”

HERA has been turning those thoughts into action.  They began by inviting people with disabilities to participate in planning new advocacy initiatives, and a commitment to make information on sexual and reproductive health and rights accessible for people with disabilities.

HERA made its Youth Friendly Center accessible to people with disabilities, and successfully advocated for a component on sexuality to be incorporated into the special education and rehabilitation studies curriculum at the Faculty of Philosophy of Skopje.

Even as it continues the partnership with Mobility Challenge, HERA is pursuing collaboration with other Disabled Person’s Organizations, including Handicap PLUS and the Association for Students with Disabilities.

HERA wasn’t the only organization impacted by the program, according to Margaret Nosek, Executive Director at CROWD.

“This project established a new partnership and a new direction for us. We knew nothing about the situation faced by women with disabilities in Macedonia prior to this project. Now we can say we are very familiar…we have learned quite a bit about disability rights and services in many different developing countries.”

CROWD is pursuing additional funding opportunities to expand the activities started in the Empower program, Margaret reported. “We would like to replicate our project in other developing countries.”

By reaching across sectors and national borders, each member of Team Macedonia strengthened the impact of their work, demonstrating the powerful potential of partnership for inclusion.

The Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities program is administered by MIUSA and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State.