Featured Participant: Ilina Arsova

March 04, 2014

When I came back from Mt. Everest, I was a national hero. Everyone was taking pictures of me. The Prime Minister, the President, and so many other famous people – but the truth was, I was broke and my bank account was empty. One year later, no one asked me if I needed anything. I had debts to pay off and my mentor at Burton helped me a lot. But I had to find a way to start something on my own that was connected to my action plan – empowering young women through sports, arts, and education. I started the IKAR hut. Right away, I started with the hut, not only as a place to accommodate people, but a place to share my experiences, a place to motivate women, and to introduce the beauty of my country. At the IKAR hut, I started to really learn what diplomacy is all about. Diplomacy is about being friendly to support events and to be involved everywhere and to help people as long as I can. The IKAR hut allows me to live out my passion while providing me the funding to continue my action plan.

In May of 2013, Ilina became the first Macedonian woman to climb Mt. Everest. This amazing feat gave Ilina a tremendous stage to spread the message of empowering women and girls through sports internationally. She has starred on numerous television and radio talk shows and has been featured on a number of national and international newspapers and magazines. Ilina’s accomplishments have garnered her support from top government officials, including a meeting and endorsement from Macedonian president, Gjorge Ivanov. Most recently, Ilina’s notoriety earned her an appointment as the mayor of the small fishing village in which she currently resides.

Ilina is fully capitalizing on her role as a national celebrity, using her platform to promote female empowerment and social change through sport. As part of her campaign, she and fellow U.S. State Department alumna Slavica Nikolovska have teamed together to launch the Macedonian Mentoring Network, which celebrated its first successful mentoring conference in June of 2013. Ilina also continues to use her artistic talents to promote messages of environmentalism and women’s rights. Ilina’s work was recently displayed at a local gallery on V-Day, a national day dedicated to ending violence against women.

Lastly, Ilina has also launched a new business known as the IKAR hut, which serves as a physical base-camp for outdoor enthusiasts. The hut functions as a bed and breakfast and promotes outdoors sports and tourism in Macedonia. At IKAR, Ilina and her colleagues offer educational sessions as well as sport-based trainings that promote sport, health, environmentalism, and peace.