Giving silence a voice - WFD North Macedonia

man looking at a woman speaking
29 March 2021

Giving silence a voice - WFD North Macedonia

The ability to speak your mind in a public or social matter should not be a privilege. We like to think that getting involved in local or even national politics is an option for those willing to contribute and help improve life in their community. Until recently, however, this was not a possibility within reach for Ljubisha Saveski, a 40-year-old father and fashion designer from Tetovo, North Macedonia.  

Born deaf, Ljubisha faced an educational system adjusted to kids with no disabilities. The obstacles of a flawed system could have prevented him from fulfilling his dream. But Ljubisha was determined to persevere: 

“I went on to study fashion design in Romania and stayed there for 6 years, but finally decided to come back to my homeland. I started my own fashion business ‘LS’ more than 15 years ago in the capital city of Skopje.” 

Eye-to-eye communication  

Upon returning home, Ljubisha began noticing accessibility issues for persons with disabilities caused by, in his opinion, the lack of communication with government representatives. He struggled to find the opportunity to express his ideas on how to improve living conditions for persons with disabilities in his local community and wider.

“The primary issue is that the most basic everyday tasks, such as going to the bank, grocery shopping, picking my kids up from school, are sometimes nearly impossible for a deaf person, since nothing is available in sign language. This has got even more difficult with the pandemic 
outbreak since masks prevent us from reading lips. Our communication has become eye-to-eye.”  

Political Academy for Equal Participation

An opportunity for growth and empowerment, but also for getting his message across, opened for Ljubisha through WFD’s Political Academy for Equal Participation, conducted in collaboration with - Movement Against Disability from North Macedonia. “The Academy allowed us, people with disabilities, to look in the mirror and see all our public speaking and political engagement potentials.”      

The participants had a special chance to learn from renowned speakers about the political and electoral system, as well as political party constellations. Participants met and discussed with three MPs about the needs of persons with disabilities and how public arrangements should be improved to fit all North Macedonian citizens. 

Election observation by PWDs in 2020

The knowledge and experience gained at the Academy enabled Ljubisha to participate in an election observation mission during the elections in North Macedonia in 2020. „It was not easy. We received a lot of odd looks from citizens surprised by our presence at the polling station. But, with time, we demonstrated our competence and knowledge, and proved to have rightfully earned our spot in the monitoring mission.”  

Future opportunities for PWDs

Ljubisha believes that WFD’s Academy must be continued in the years to follow. “It is an amazing opportunity to learn, in a friendly environment, how to step up for your community and change things for the better.” The sole reason he decided not to engage in politics yet was the lack of activation conditions for persons with disabilities in North Macedonian political parties. “Politicians must be educated and open to programme adaptations” said Ljubisha, stressing that the COVID-19 situation is discouraging for him at the moment, but in the future he hopes to become more active. “The Political Academy gave me great confidence. It reminded me that even though I am deaf, I have great potential to share!”

However, Ljubisha  stresses that representation of persons with disabilities in the Parliament and other state institutions is key to improvements in the inclusion: “Laws regarding persons with disabilities cannot be adopted without their true representatives’ voice in the matter.” Ljubisha went on to say that there is no better way to prepare persons with disabilities for such political engagements than by participating in WFD’s Political Academy for Equal Representation. He can also see himself running for election in his local community someday.

“North Macedonia is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Hearing representatives ought not to play deaf but put into action all its norms and create a better system for all of us!”  says Ljubisha.