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Montenegro, like many other countries, faces challenges in achieving gender equality and protecting vulnerable groups of girls and women. In rural areas, these issues are often exacerbated by limited access to information. Informal education has proven to be an important tool for their support and empowerment.

Informal education, based on experience, allows for a flexible and individualized approach to the needs of vulnerable groups, promotes active participation, and acquisition of practical skills, contributing to better integration into society and the job market. It also enhances the development of critical thinking, self-confidence, and a sense of self-worth, aiding in overcoming barriers and realizing the potential of participants. Additionally, it provides access to information and knowledge that vulnerable groups of women and girls may not acquire through formal channels, thus reducing inequality in access to education. Informal education can serve as a bridge between vulnerable groups and support resources, such as local NGOs, government institutions, and other partners, enabling access to various programs and incentives to improve their position in society.

Project EKOS supports the provision of better informal education on multiple levels. This includes additional training for members of the EKOS network, which actively connects 10 NGOs in northern Montenegro. In 2023, 16 volunteers completed training at the EKOS Academy on gender equality rights, violence prevention, and promoting economic independence for vulnerable groups of women and girls, gaining skills necessary for proper counseling and assistance to these groups.

Additional training for Academy participants is provided through online counseling on women's and girls' rights and human rights in general. In January 2024, a 6-month online coaching program began, focusing on communication skills and positive psychology, which are crucial for working with vulnerable groups. By fostering trusting relationships and encouraging the inner strength and confidence of vulnerable individuals, volunteers can contribute to their success and long-term well-being.

In 2024, trained volunteers will transfer their acquired knowledge to the target group by conducting sixteen interactive rural workshops. Participants will include both women and men, and workshops will be co-facilitated by two trainers. The transfer of knowledge to vulnerable groups enables access to practical skills, information, and support essential for their development and empowerment. At the same time, volunteers enhance their sense of belonging and usefulness in the community, increasing their satisfaction, confidence, personal growth, and development as they face various challenges that foster empathy, understanding, and tolerance. Overall, the transfer of informal knowledge is a crucial factor in raising awareness among vulnerable groups of women and girls, enabling flexibility, local adaptation, active participation, and the preservation of cultural identity.

The project EKOS "Education and Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups of Women and Girls in Montenegro," implemented by the  Zavod Krog/Institute CircleNVU Impuls and NVO Ikre, is financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia within the framework of international development cooperation.



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