Isabelle Marchi-Barbaux: La Francophonie Unites People of All Ages Worldwide
Equality, complementarity, and solidarity - a deliberate allusion to France's motto. Started as a small club of northern French-speaking countries, the Francophonie has since evolved into a global organization whose numerous branches cooperate with its member states in the fields of culture, science, economy, justice, and peace.
March is being observed worldwide as a Month of La Francophonie. This year, various events, including exhibitions, ateliers, theater plays, French cuisine tasting, were organized to honor multiculturalism, solidarity and freedom of expression.
The Director of the French Institute in Skopje, Isabelle Marchi-Barbaux says that this year, series of events have been organized in the vague of Francophonie celebration.
The focus was mainly put on sports, the French cinema, theater and freedom of expression debates that took place in Skopje and several other cities throughout Macedonia.
"La Francophonie unites young people from different places, of various ages and horizons. This was a great opportunity and a great success. As a member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Macedonia has taken its righteous place among countries that have French as a common foreign language. We will further continue organizing sport events, hence there are many Macedonians who play in French sports clubs." Mrs Marchi-Barbaux says.
That way we are trying to encourage young Macedonians to enroll in French sports universities, hoping relations between sport organizations will reach a higher level. Also, there are French citizens who are members of Macedonian clubs, actually, there is a French player in Vardar team.
Moreover, the Month of La Francophonie is a moment in the year which serves as a reminder of the common values and objectives unified through French language.
Several theater plays were also organized by the Skopje-based French Institute, in Gevgelija, Prilep, and Kumanovo, aimed at promoting French studies.
According to Marchi-Barbaux, competition is huge, whereas parents have dilemmas about which language classes their children should take. All these activities are organized with the aim to demonstrate that French is the language of the future.
"We organize a theater festival for young people which provides them with an opportunity to express themselves in French. Thus, the theater is perfect, due to the fact that on stage one can say whatever he wants. French language is associated with freedom of expression, certain way of thinking.", Marchi-Barbaux explains.
Many ateliers were also launched, aimed at tackling various topics.
"The French language does not only encompass the act of speaking, but a certain way of expression, of thinking, reasoning", Marchi-Barbaux says.
An evening of French cuisine and gastronomy also took place in a Skopje restaurant, where young people could taste traditional French recipes, as Tarte Tatin, Foie Gras, French duck and many other specialties.
Students from Anne Sophie Pic High School from Toulon have also visited the Lazar Tanev High School to present several French traditional recipes, as Creme Brioche and French croissants.
Mrs Marchi-Barbaux also underscored that travels are essential to the enhancement of cultural exchange between both countries.
"Travelling is the best way to share experiences, to share culture, to connect", Marchi-Barbaux further adds.
The Institute allocates funds for Macedonian high-school students, so they can travel more effectively.
Regarding the artists and their involvement in the process, Mrs Marchi-Barbaux says that comedian Gjorgi Jolevski along with a theater director were part of the jury at the theater festival this year. They were engaged in the selection of the best performance and best group, and also in the process of creation.
Facebook is also used in promotion purposes. The institute has about 4,500 followers on Facebook thus, only by publishing a photo on social media, artists are being promoted worldwide.
Another project aimed at providing better education and facilitating exchange between Macedonian and French universities and contemporary artists has also been launched in cooperation with the Macedonian Ministry of Culture.
Business and educational exchange
"One of my goals is to send Macedonian students to prestigious French universities, since tuition fees are very high.", the Director of the French Institute underlines.
Moreover, within the new strategy, Macedonian students will have the opportunity to apply for internships in French companies.
"Within the new programme which will be launched in Autumn 2015/2016, named "Future Talents", Macedonian students will have the opportunity to apply for internships in French enterprises, here in Macedonia or in France. Macedonian students are highly qualified. By partaking, they will be able to expand their field of expertise and acquire knowledge in various areas".
"One of the goals of this initiative is to attract more French investments and to increase export as well", Mrs Marchi-Barbaux says.