In Montenegro, people with disabilities often face challenges when it comes to participating in social processes within their local community. This can be due to a lack of infrastructure that accommodates their needs, financial difficulties, or a lack of motivation. This is particularly true in Niksic, which is the country’s second largest town with a population of around 60,000. A new non-governmental organization (NGO) called Mozaik was founded in this city to address this issue. According to the organization, there was a clear lack of social inclusion for people with disabilities in Niksic, with many of them being isolated and lacking access to social activities or support to improve their quality of life.
In 2019, Blagoje Šturanović 23-year student of sociology at that time, with two other friends, who are also people with disabilities, founded Mozaik to take action and address these issues. Blagoje explains that there were no other organizations in Niksic that specifically addressed the needs of people with disabilities, and that he and the other founding members of Mozaik were in need of support. While there were other organizations providing some support, their focus was not fully dedicated to people with disabilities.
“Unfortunately, in Niksic and the Western Balkans in general, accessibility is a serious problem for people with disabilities when it comes to accessing buildings. Most cafes, restaurants, and other places are not wheelchair accessible, and during the summer, the group was only able to gather on terraces.” Blagoje Šturanović, NGO Mozaik
From the beginning, the founding partners of Mozaik had the idea of creating a social club where people with disabilities could gather, socialize, and participate in various cultural and social activities. “Unfortunately, in Niksic and the Western Balkans in general, accessibility is a serious problem for people with disabilities when it comes to accessing buildings. Most cafes, restaurants, and other places are not wheelchair accessible, and during the summer, the group was only able to gather on terraces,”says Blagoje
The pandemic made these accessibility issues even more challenging. In order to facilitate the socialization and integration of people with disabilities in Niksic, Mozaik established the first social club for people with different types of disabilities with the support of the EU-funded ReLOaD2 program which is implemented by UNDP.
The social club, located in a space provided by the Municipality of Niksic, offered 15 motivational workshops for psychological assistance and 15 occupation-based workshops. Additionally, Mozaik founded a small painting atelier and offered creative courses in painting for people with disabilities. Blagoje notes that the painting atelier and course were the most popular activities of the Club, with the highest participation from members.
“For example, a woman in her 60s who previously never left her house but is now out and about in the city almost every day, participating in workshops or engaging in other activities.” Blagoje Šturanović, NGO Mozaik
The impact of the project on the lives of people with disabilities in Niksic was significant. “For example, a woman in her 60s, who previously never left her house but is now out and about in the city almost every day, participating in workshops or engaging in other activities,” says Blagoje.
Mozaik’s future plans include more projects that will further improve the lives of people with disabilities in Niksic. Blagoje hopes that all of the Club’s members, who he believes have high potential, will have more opportunities to integrate and contribute to the community, and through cooperation with the municipality the club will be sustainable also in the future.
The Regional Programme for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) is a continuation of EU-supported initiatives – Local Democracy Strengthening Project (LOD, 2009-2016) and the subsequently expanded Regional Program for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD, 2017-2020). The overall objective of the project is to strengthen participatory democracies and EU integration in the Western Balkans by empowering civil society and encouraging young people to actively take part in the decision-making process, and by improving a supportive legal and financial environment for civil society.