Friday, 16 December 2011

Marcela interviewed on albanian television

A month ago we had the opportunity to talk on a morning show on ALSAT about the Reflect project in Fushë Kruja. Marsela, one of our facilitators and best students, was invited as a special witness of the Reflect school and shared her wonderful experience live on TV!

At the beginning Marsela hesitated because it is not so easy for Roma women in general to go out of their neighborhood, especially when they have to go alone and not accompanied by a male member of the family. She was excited about the idea of going to Tirana and to live such a special day, but she was afraid her husband and father wouldn’t allow her to go. After a week of negotiations, explanations and ADRA Albania's intervention, Marsela got the permission from her father and her husband and she began preparing a speech that will honor her family and her community on albanian television.

The day of the transmission Marsela surprised us all! She was wearing a suit, brand new shoes and she went to the hairdresser. She looked amazing and it made us all happy to see her being so confident and so eager to give her speech on television!

The transmission went very well, everybody was happy and we congratulated Marsela for her presentation of the project. But then, she confessed us that it had not been easy at all to come that day to Tirana. She had the permission of her family to go, but when she mentioned that she had to spend all her money on boots, because she didn't have any pair of shoes, the reality of Roma communities in Albania catches you up ... It is just shoes. This girl was so proud to have this chance of representing the other women of her community, to speak about the progress they make in class and the importance of this literacy project... that she decided to spend all her money, the rest of it on shoes! If this is not strong will, what is it then? These women amaze us every day with such stories and for their strong belief in the opportunities this project will bring them. And we hope to fulfill their expectations!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A story of a 12 year old bride: exclusion from education in favor of domestic work

To illustrate the reality of child marriage in Roma communities in Albania, we would like you to read about one of the young girls who attends the Reflect circle : last weekend, in the evening after one of our regular reflect classes in Fushe Kruja, this assumed child of only 12 years was married.
She has been dating her husband for 2 years, so she was around 10 years old when they met.
At the beginning of our Reflect classes, she was very happy to have this opportunity to learn how to read and write, giving her new perspectives for her future life. She is a very fragile young girl and she has been coming to our meetings since we opened the project. She is one of the best students we have and that is why we really want to encourage her to continue her studies. During discussions in class we have talked about marrying young and the negative effects of such decisions and she has always participated and listened carefully.
The wedding was celebrated anyway. After that, she could not come to our reflect classes anymore as she has now a full range of new responsibilities as a wife. Deprived of this chance to learn to read and write diminishes her employment opportunities that she was hoping to have and now her only perspectives left are as a domestic worker or selling second hand clothing in the streets.
Many of the other girls and young women attending the Reflect circle discussed this marriage, and they realized that their friend has lost her chance to attend classes after the wedding. It shows that the Working Together group, and education in general, are key in changing deep-seated cultural traditions such as child marriage. Working towards the elimination of such a practice is not easy in a community like the one in Fushe Krujë because it is so widely accepted, the girls entering into marriage are not always pressured to do so. They simply fall in love.
However, the perpetuation of this cultural practice is an obstacle for the empowerment of women and therefore to the emancipation of the community because access to education is limited for married girls as they have to take care of their house first.
This story vividly highlights the most immediate negative effect of young girls getting married: exclusion from education in favor of domestic work.
But we decided not to give up on her. We were lucky enough to find her mother-in-law, who was also a student of our school, and talk to about how important it is for this girl to return to our courses even though she is a new bride. Her mother-in-law listened to us and as she trusts us because she sees the opportunity that this school provides these girls and young women. Thus she allowed this new bride to return to classes.
The n
ext day the newly wed, well dressed and with some make up on her young face, was sitting among her friends waiting for class to start. We welcomed her and started class normally.
The young Roma women from Fushe Kruja will probably keep getting married at a young age, even though we managed to bring this 12 year old bride back to classes. But we want them to understand and remember for their kids that it is important to "let children be children". We need to keep addressing women's needs and focus on children's and women's rights.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Lubjana, 23, fulfilling her lifelong dream of learning to read

Lubjana is 23 years old. Before moving to Fushe Kruja in 2002, she lived in Greece with her parents. She never had the opportunity to go to school. Instead, she had to collect plastics and metals in trash cans in order to have money to pay for food. She recalls that it was very hard living and providing sufficient food for all family members was almost mission impossible.

Lubjana was a smart child : tried to learn how to write and read by herself at home. She knows how to read but she have problems with writing and she is desperate to learn it.

Lubjana got married when she was 14 years old, left home and came to Fushe Kruja. Today Lubjana has three children, age 7, 4 and 2. She lives with her husband and with her three brothers who are married and have children. They sell second hand clothes in the villages nearby Fushe Kruja and manage to earn 15 euros per day all together.

Lubjana works a lot at home. Every day she has to wash a lot of clothes by hand because her family cannot afford to by a laundry machine.Her day starts waking up at 6am and she begins cleaning the house. After that she has to wash clothes with cold water outside the house and then prepare lunch for her family. In the afternoon she continues with her house work and in the evening she feels very tired.

She would like to learn how to write and read in order to understand all TV programs and her children’s books. Her dream for the future is to become a hairdresser.

Lubjana is one of our best participants, she is very active and helps us with the other Roma women during meetings. She has become a natural facilitator and we are very happy to work with her !

Two steps forward, one step back

Our second week together started well with many women willing to attend the classes. Some of them even asked the teacher to give them homework.

On the second day, we had to take a few steps back because the teacher realized that the progress on reading made by the women was due to their memorization of words instead of a real understanding of sounds and syllables. Even if we understand that the method we are applying for this literacy program has to focus first on discussions rather than acquisition of alphabet and reading, we think it is important to take this step back to reach more of our initial goals later.

It was not neccessary to begin from the start with the basic presentation of the alphabet. Every woman began writing her name, taking as much time as they needed. Then they wrote their husband's names and their children's names and started recognizing the letters, not simply copying them from examples on the board. At the end, each woman created her own family tree and they were proud to hang it in the class room and show each other something that was a representation of their family. They seemed very satisfied as they created something so important on their own.

This was a good way to start discussions with the family topic because women were very interested and were open to talk about their personal experiences. Each day of this second week ended with all the women sitting close together and sharing experiences.What came out of these discussions is that some women regret they got married so young and discussed the reasons for such feelings. All of them began taking confidence and telling their experiences with their husbands and about their relationship : how they communicate, what are the roles in the family, etc.

The family topic is very important to Roma women and they need to talk about their family problems because it is the most important thing in their lives.

This is why we decided to continue with the family issues the third week.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Marcela, 21, Facilitator for the Reflect circle in Fushe Krujë

For those who are familiar with the Reflect method already know that in order to make these adult literacy projects successful, we need facilitators (and if you are not familiar with it, please don't hesitate to visit!). So during the first week (see previous blogpost), a young lady started helping us and we are beginning training her to become a facilitator for our Reflect program.

Her name is Marcela, she's 21 and she has a 4 years old daughter, Rozalinda. Marcela became a mother at 17, just after her marriage, and she never got the opportunity to go to school and learn reading and writing. She can't write her name, surname or even sign for herself. She understands this is a very big gap she has to fill and that is why she is very motivated in helping us with the other participants and also take care of the school. Every day she waits for us at the front door of the school together with her friends, ready to begin the lesson. Marsela and her husband are both very young and they have the will to change their lives, buy a house, find a job and have another child.

We would like to take here the opportunity to thank Marcela!

So... how did it all start? A resume of our first week in Fushe Krujë!

The classes began on October 3rd, with 25 women attending the Reflect circle. During the firstweek, we introduced the Albanian alphabet and started with personal presentation and learning some Roma names and surnames. The teacher had to identify which women could read or write and which couldn't at all. The women were sceptic at the beginning of class and even tended to demoralized the other women telling the others that learn reading and writing is a long and hard process. The teacher, the social worker and the local facilitators kept on explaining theproject and managed to convince women to attend at least some lessons and see for themselves if it's worth or not. This was a challenge for the project staff but we managed the situation and this first week together was a great success: some women even refused to have a coffee break because they wanted to finish an exercise!

And to give you an idea of what we did this first week, here are some examples of activities :
1- the teacher made the participants talk about their feelings. The participants worked in groups of 2 and had to tell each other one thing they are happy about, and one thing they are sad about. The teacher was the one to start the game as many women are a bit shy, so she tried to show that during the class the group can share anything and speak freely, which boosted their confidence! This was also a way to give an exapmle of how to express one's feelings as many women don't know how to talk in public and clearly express their point of view. The second objective of this exercise was for the teacher to invovle herself in the group since during the first class the women tended to talk only among themselves.

2- another version of this presentation game is using a ball and whenever a woman got the ball in her hands, she had to say something about herself.

At the beginning of these games, women found it hard to talk because they are not used to get so much attention and interest in public, but little by little, they opened up and shared the most interesting moments of their lives with us.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Women Literacy Circle in Fushe Krujë's Roma Community

REFLECT, or Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques, is an original approach to literacy that ADRA Albania is applying with a roma women’s group in Fushe Krujë. We meet three times a week and every participant discusses issues that are relevant to their lives. The discussion provides the basis for teaching literacy, numeracy and general communication skills. However, these are not simply classroom activities but also group gatherings used to foster ways for roma women to express their perceived needs and doubts. This first project, started in September 2011, is a pilot program and this blog will provide you with day-to-day information on this Reflect Literacy program and its effectiveness with the women of Fushe Krujë.

Our first goal is to strengthen these women's ability to efficiently communicate while learning various life skills. We focus on the participants’ past experiences and what they already know. Then we discuss each topic they raise and learn together how to describe, express and analyze them. For more information on the Refect method, please see the website where you can download many useful documents.
Our second goal is to encourage women to send their children to schools. We strongly believe that by helping these women we can make a big difference in their children’s lives. First, because by improving these women’s situations, the situation of their children will improve and second, because as a mother's educational level increases, the rate of school attendance of these children will increase as well.

Our desire to begin a project such as this is based on the belief that "The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world" C. Malik