North Macedonia: Migrant women find support in each other

By Nora Peter, IFRC

Two women from Syria and Congo are living together with their children in a small apartment in Skopje. Their husbands are working abroad, and the women are both volunteering for the Red Cross while waiting for their families to be reunited.  

“My daughter hasn’t seen her father for four years. She doesn’t even remember what it’s like to have a father around, even though we talk to him on Viber every day. When we see a man with children and they call him ‘dad’, she does the same,” one of the women, Aofe, says.



Aofe was separated from her husband on their journey through Europe. The couple left Syria five years ago and headed to Greece where their daughter was born. After six months, the family moved on to North Macedonia. Aofe couldn’t continue the journey because she broke her leg, so she and her daughter stayed in the country while her husband went to The Netherlands to apply for asylum.

“I hope that I will be able to visit him in The Netherlands this year, with the help of the Red Cross,” she says.

At a safe house for mothers, she met Sandra, a Congolese refugee. They became friends. When both received subsidiary protection – a legal status that precedes being recognized as a refugee in North Macedonia – they decided to rent an apartment in Skopje. Now they live together as one family, helping each other out with every aspect of life.

Aofe is enrolled in Skopje Red Cross’ project for the social integration of asylum seekers and is volunteering at a Day Care Centre for people with mental disabilities. She enjoys the work but has a bigger dream. Since she was a little girl, she’s wanted to be a cook, and now with the support of the Red Cross, she is training to become one.



Sandra has a similar story. She left Congo with her husband and son, and passing through Senegal, Morocco, Turkey and Greece, ended up in North Macedonia. At that time, Sandra was nine months pregnant with her second child. After she gave birth, her husband has moved on to France to find a job to provide for the family, while Sandra, her son and the baby stayed at the safe house in Skopje.

“The support I receive from Red Cross gives me hope that everything will be all right. It has helped me cope with my feelings of fear and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. They showed me how to use masks and disinfectants and kept me informed about curfew and other developments in the country,” she says.

Sandra has completed a vocational course to become a hairdresser and is now working as a trainee at a hair salon. She also volunteers at a Red Cross second-hand store.

“I love hairdressing and hope to make a living from it. I want to be independent and make my own money like any other person in this country, and set a good example for my children,” she explains.