2018 Fulbright Alumna-in-Residence: VIGJILENCA ABAZI



Dr Vigjilenca Abazi is an Emile Nöel Fellow at NYU School of Law and Assistant Professor of European Law at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. She obtained her PhD degree at University of Amsterdam and was a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia Law School (2014). Her research on issues of democratic accountability and official secrets resulted in a monograph (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018). Dr Abazi has extensive experience in community projects with Red Cross and non-profit work in interethnic dialogue in Western Balkans. She recently co-founded Stella – Education Mentorship Network focused on improving education and job access for girls and women. On issues of whistleblower and privacy protection, Dr Abazi has been an adviser to the European Union institutions and the Council of Europe. She is a Board member in many leading European academic journals and has more than twenty scientific publications.  Upon invitation, Dr Abazi has given numerous lectures including at Harvard Law School, Columbia University, University of Copenhagen, Sciences Po Paris, Durham University, Bocconi University. She has also been invited to present her research at the European Parliament and the Dutch Parliament. 


Project Title:
Stella: Connecting Global Change-makers for Gender Equality

Project Description:
Stella is a project initiated by a group of enthusiastic women working to contribute to improved education and job access for girls and women in Macedonia. The project aims to (1) connect women in general and in higher education, offer personal mentorship, and serve as a dissemination tool for educational and professional opportunities, and (2) through a number of town hall discussions around the country, initiate a nationwide dialogue on the societal and structural challenges we must collectively face in order to support girls and women in their future paths.

Gaps and gender inequality persist as major barriers to human development. Whilst a myriad of initiatives and projects focus on addressing this problem, we do not have sufficient platforms that bring change-makers together around the same table to exchange best practices and lessons toward gender equality. This is especially the case when change-makers operate in different parts of the world, each with their cultural and political specificities, some significantly less developed than others. Yet, fostering dialogue and exchange of knowledge are key to sustainable progress in reaching equality in global terms because: project mistakes can be avoided, creative solutions become locally feasible in more places around the world, new partnerships are formed and financial support is possible for projects that otherwise would not have been funded.

I proposed the Stella platform in collaboration with the Greater New York Chapter of the Fulbright Association to provide this connecting platform for change-makers. The project joins the fields of social entrepreneurship, technology, education and diplomacy with the aim to exchange the most innovative ideas from leading change-makers in how to increase women’s access to: education, jobs, politics. A particular strength of the Stella platform in NY is that it develops in parallel with a project by the Stella team focused on advancing higher education and job access for girls and women in Macedonia, which is financially supported by the US embassy. Stella connects women, offers personal mentorship, and serves as a dissemination tool for educational and professional opportunities. We have joined mentors from a wide range of fields who are successful women of diverse (professional) backgrounds. We also convene 'town hall' style meetings where we bring men into the discussion about structural and societal changes that are needed. As Macedonia still struggles with inter-ethnic dialogue and overcoming ethnic divisions, Stella also has a social/democratic component in that it brings women of different ethnic backgrounds during these meetings, to be inspired and overcome prejudice between the communities by working together. Hence, a key outcome in addition to education and job access is advancing the connections between people and overcoming prejudices and biases.

The Stella platform in NY will serve as a springboard to advance and expand the educational mentorship project in other countries. In doing so, the Stella platform puts into action the core Fulbright mission of fostering mutual understanding between the people of the US and other countries. It fosters a connection among change-makers based in the US and Europe, particularly in the Western Balkans. Stella’s output is expanding globally the support educational network, organising a series of panel discussions and workshops in NY, as well as providing guidelines that will be used in policy-making for gender equality in Macedonia. This output is in line with Stella’s goal to advance the dialogue and efforts on how social entrepreneurship driven initiatives and technology can help with increasing job opportunities and improving working conditions for women (such as creative start-ups, apps that link women for day-care, etc.) as well as motivational and practical tips for women’s increased participation in politics provided by leading female political /diplomatic figures. By supporting this project, the Greater NY Fulbright Chapter increases its own network and visibility, helps promoting local leaders and creative thinkers, and it increases its impact beyond the Fulbright community in New York. In addition to connecting change-makers, Stella creates a bridge between Fulbright alumni in many countries and hence increases the visibility of the NY Chapter activities well beyond the US.

STELLA website: http://stella.mk/