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“Gender E+Quality”. Training course in Spain that changed our lives.

It is a great honor for us to share with you the unforgettable experience we lived through between the 2nd and 8th of June in the heart of Andalusia, or more precisely, Jerez de la Frontera.

It all began when we arrived in the beautiful Seville, where we got to see some of the landmarks before we made our way to Jerez. There, we were warmly welcomed by the volunteers from A.J.C. Demeter (the host organisation), and we were accommodated in a hotel in the heart of the city. In a local pub, we met the participants from the other countries and tasted some local food. Then we also enjoyed a short walk around the city.

The next morning, the coaches from the organisation officially walked us through the program, and through the energizers before every activity we got to know each other better.

At the intercultural night, we had the opportunity and privilege to present our country through local delicacies (ajvar, of course), some snacks with which we grew up (and still enjoy to this day), as well as some traditional dances. In return we got to “travel” around Europe and taste the delicacies from the other participating countries in this project.

With every group walk from the hotel to the activity hall in Centro Social Blas de Infante, in a relatively short time we became close friends with the other participants of the project. We talked about gender equality, the history and the waves of feminism, gender prejudices and their influence on the individual and the society as a whole.

Eduardo from Jerelesgay successfully educated us about the meaning of every letter of the LGBTQIAP+ alphabet, as well as the background of sexual and gender minorities (SGM). We saw the progress of the LGBTQIAP+ flag and the history behind every one of them (often painful), and how the  current one came to be the official flag.

Jose Maria used the BasketBeat method to demonstrate the inclusion and the increase of confidence through a fun game with basketballs. Even though it was an unusual way of working and put questioning looks on most of us, we quickly understood the point of the game and we managed to see the whole situation through a new perspective.

Daniel focused on the role of men and men-presenting people both throughout history, and present-day feminism. With (according to us) an amazing game of line of consent, we saw our views on different statements, and after the presentations of the participants’ points of view and explanations of their thought process, we saw changes in the opinion of the other participants, but in our own, too.

Hande was in charge of introducing us to the waves of feminism, from the (exclusive) beginning when the fight was generally aimed at the progression of white and rich women, to the present-day fight which is more inclusive, and takes into consideration the background of every individual, and their individual struggles.

Although intensive, by sacrificing a few hours of sleep, we managed to find time to have fun, dance, sing (including karaoke), as well as connect with other participants during the lunch break.

At the very end, we sent messages by creating inclusive graffiti, with which we wanted to show what we stand behind, not only to the other participants, to the rest of the citizens, but to the entire world too.

During a special ceremony we revealed the secret friend and received the certificates of participation, with a lump in our throats, because we knew at which part of the project we were at the moment. Satisfied with all that we experienced together, but also heartbroken because the project was coming to an end, we said our goodbyes with the promise that we will see each other again somewhere in the world.

We believe that like this experience permanently changed our lives, it changed the other participants’ lives too – and it will forever remain a positive mark in our memories.

From the bottom of our hearts we thank VCS for giving us this opportunity. We hope that we managed to present not just Macedonia, but VCS in a positive light.

Ljupka Shalevska
Gorazd Kocev