Tugjevc, one of biggest villages in the municipality of Kamenicë/a, sits between tall mountains at an altitude of 1100m and a rather difficult terrain. With approximately 150 residents, the village’s isolated location limits the reach and quality of local services and opportunities for community engagement and representation.

With limited access to transportation, lack of electricity in some parts of the village, and no constant medical care, locals experience difficult living conditions regarding their basic needs. One of the few opportunities where the voices of the community can be heard, and the needs discussed, are the Local Village Councils, which are highly respected and admired by the community. For 2 decades now, these type of councils has been formalized by the local governance, inheriting the tradition from the past.

Tugjevc’s Local Village Council gathers household representatives from four other surrounding villages who come together to discuss their challenges and needs in order to address them to the local service providers. Yet, it’s in communicating with the decision-making mechanisms where they continuously face challenges.

In this context, the NGO Network and Peace Movement (NOPM), a local civil society organization from the municipality, runs a project aiming to empower and integrate people from different backgrounds in the decision-making processes to further create an inclusive society for all. The project was awarded through a competitive grant programme under the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD), responding to the priorities of communities in Kamenicë/a.

NOPM helped the Local Council in Tugjevc shape their priorities for a more structured and better presentation in front of officials from the municipality and be stronger advocates for their needs. The CSO is also helping organize joint meetings between the Local Council representatives and the municipal officials, aiming to fulfill the priorities and needs of the community.

Mr. Haset Berisha, Head of the Local Council in Tugjevc, noted that ‘it is extremely important to our community that we have a voice, and the ReLOaD project has helped our needs be considered and prioritized in the local agenda”.

As Mr. Fisnik Kastrati, Head of Civil Service Center within the Municipality of Kamenicë/a, highlighted ‘Local Councils play an important role in the decision-making processes at the local governance, being the bridge between citizens and the municipal officials represented in the offices; and the meetings and trainings being organized by NOPM will further help our policies become better and more inclusive’.

The Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (RELOAD) is a regional programme funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP. The objective of ReLOaD is to strengthen partnerships between local governments and civil society and introduce and sustain a model of transparent and project-based funding of CSOs towards greater civic engagement in decision-making and improvement of local services. 

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