#VendorWeek 2020: A presidential meeting in North Macedonia

It’s common for street papers across the world to leverage the annual celebration of #VendorWeek, and the more intense focus on #ourvendors it brings, to get their vendors face to face with some of their country’s most powerful people. For some, that means connecting them with business leaders or celebrities in order to show exactly what being a street paper vendor means. But for others, it means giving vendors the opportunity to appeal to actual politicians and policy thinkers who shape the way they live their lives and exist in society.

Last year, North Macedonian street paper Lice v Lice hosted a traditional #VendorWeek selling event alongside two of the country’s MPs sympathetic to its cause. This year – the third year running – Lice v Lice once again had vendors stand alongside some of its most powerful politicians. Namely, President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski.

North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski chats with Lice v Lice vendors and their coordinator Ema Todorovska North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski with Lice v Lice vendors

On Friday (7 February) a group of Lice v Lice vendors sat down with President Pendarovski to explain to him how the street paper had helped them take concrete steps to improve their lives, noting that their work selling the magazine, and integrating into working life generally, had strengthened their values, and helped them develop ones that had previously not existed.

Vendor Hasan Ametovski – known as Hari to his friends – was present at the meeting. He said: “Getting to know, and expanding my connections with, many human beings through this work has meant personally improving my qualities, like honesty and productivity. All this reflects on my life and the results I strive for. The fact that I also carry the message of Lice v Lice – promoting a message of environmental protection, sustainability and ecology – motivates me further.”

Valentin Rakip, another vendor in attendance, isn’t registered as a Macedonian citizen due to not possessing an official identity card number. Valentin made clear to Pendarovski that for as long as he hasn’t been granted this, he has felt like a “phantom kid”, unwelcome, always with the threat of not being able to stay in the country hanging over him. He added that the state should take care of all its citizens equally, regardless of where they were born or grew up.

Lice v Lice editor Maja Ravanska (back row, far left) with vendors, vendor coordinator Ema Todorovska (front row, third from right) and President Stevo Pendarovski (back row, centre)

As well as hearing the concerns and personal experiences of vendors, Pendarovski also took time to single out how much he admired Lice v Lice‘s work, welcoming the mission of the street paper, and the street paper network as a whole, of empowering vulnerable groups in society, while acting towards raising public awareness on the important issues they face. He stressed that those in power wholeheartedly support Lice v Lice and all projects which seek to “contribute to the field of sustainable development, social inclusion.”

These Presidential comments were the cherry on the cake of a day dedicated in the North Macedonian government to recognising the work and achievements of Lice v Lice getting socially excluded people into work, and all of its other parallel projects.

Lice v Lice editor Maja Ravanska addresses the Assembly of North Macedonia

Earlier in the day, staff and vendors took to the floor of the North Macedonian Assembly to hear members of parliament pass a motion making Lice v Lice an “official friend” of the government and to debate the good the magazine does.

At the pubic hearing, officials heard from assembly members Samka Ibraimoski and Maja Moracanin, who supported and participated in#VendorWeek 2019, and Lice v Lice editor Maja Ravanska, who emphasised, according to a report from the day, “the importance of these micro-entrepreneurs [the vendors], empowered people who seize the opportunity offered by work integration, and a way out of the circle of social exclusion, poverty, inequalities that they found themselves in due to a series of systemic failures.

Lice v Lice staff and vendors with members of the North Macedonian Assembly

Ema Todorovska, who works on a hands-on basis with vendors daily as Lice v Lice‘s vendor coordinator, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to address the Assembly and the public. She noted: “When a person sells [the street paper], it means working hard, earning their fair share, and much more besides. It changes old behaviours and replaces old ones with new ones. Through everyday growth, a vulnerable person can transform.”

Lice v Lice has 35 registered vendors in cities across its home of North Macedonia, including Skopje, Bitola, Struga, Negotino and Kumanovo.

Read more coverage of #VendorWeek 2020 here