Thursday, 11 October 2012

Elsa lost her Job!

The Reflect program in Fushë Kruja is running very well. Women come and find a very nice place were to talk, share their problems and feel welcomed. It is really important that the Roma women themselves have adopted such space and see it as a pause from their daily harsh life. The Reflect circle “Let’s work together” has gathered together more than 80 women in less then 10 months, and this is a very high number considering the nomadic life style this community has.

One of our best students, Elsa Rakipi, 18 years old, mother of 1 year old girl, lost her job this month.
Elsa has been following our classes for a year now and also has been integrated very well among Roma women. She is an Egyptian girl who married a Roma man, so for the Roma women, she is a foreigner who took one of the best men of the Roma community. It hasn’t been easy for Elsa to get along well with the women of such conservative community. For 4 years she has been struggling with discrimination situations learning the language and giving a child to her new family in order to be accepted as a real bride.
Elsa is from the Egyptian community of Fushë Kruja and she has had the chance to go to school for 7 years. She was a very good student and she promised to have a bright future. Her family took her out of school because they needed her to work in a shoe-factory and earn money for the family. It was really hard for Elsa to change her life and start working at such an early age but she was intelligent and even though she was brought to the factory against her wish, she learned as fast as she could and she became a really good shoe’s tailor.
It’s been two years now that Elsa doesn’t work anymore and she really expresses the wish to start working again and go out of the community, out of her routine life of cleaning and taking care of her new family. She had to give up to her job because she got pregnant with 16 years and needed to stay home with the baby. This decision conditioned her life not only because she had a child but also because in the Roma community of Fushë Kruja it is difficult for a young mother to get her life back and return to work.
Elsa has been trying for a year to get back to her job because she thinks it will help her to improve her living conditions. “I can help my husband to built our own house for the family” she says, desperate to have more space for her daughter and to live separated from her parents in law. “My mother in law controls whatever I do and I need to get permission even when I need to go to the market”.
During this year, while following the “let’s work together” circle, Elsa reflected on her opportunities and she decided to try again and start working by taking her child to the kindergarten but things didn’t go as she planned. She started working for only a month and her mother in law considered this was too much for her, that she needed to stay home and take care of her family, “Elsa needs to understand that she is not a girl anymore and she has obligations towards her family. She needs to ask my permission for everything and cannot do what she wants to do, I am the commander of this house and I decide.” Elsa’s mother in law has a very conservative mentality and is the one that feeds the family by selling second hand clothes at the market. She doesn’t permit anybody to decide in the house except her. She is so convinced of her opinion that she even asked one of our ADRAs staff: Don’t you ask your mother in law when you want to go out?

Elsa will continue coming to classes as she thinks this is the only way to get out of the house. It is a chance for her to continue learning and to get more information on how to change her life and mentality by collaborating with her mother in law. The Reflect staff will also continue to talk to, visit and invite Elsa’s mother in law to re-consider her position, as she respects what is being done in the community and she welcomes each of us in her house.

Monday, 16 April 2012

New young bride: new challenge for ADRA staff

Another more sad day for our staff : another of our students, a 13 years old Xhela got married. When she started attending ADRA’s school, she was very eager to study. At the beginning she didn’t know how to read or write but soon she became one of our most promissing student. There were new improvements every day. She managed to recognized all alphabet letters in two months and the third month she begun writing words and sentances. ADRA staff was very proud of her because she was doing very well. We tried to motivate her and to pay attention to her needs as Xhela doesn’t have a father and her mother is in jail for fraud for 13 years. Xhela is the oldest of three sisters. She used to live with her grand-mother; she had to cook for the whose family and clean the house every single day. A week ago she decided to escape from her house. She fell in love with a seventeen years old boy, who was her neighbor, and wanted to live live with him.
As soon as we learned the news, we went to her new husband’s house to see how she was  doing and to talk with her husband and father in law about the school. We knew we couldn’t do much about the marriage because it was her  own decision to get married. But we needed to do our maximum to keep her coming to school.
We tried to explain her father in law that it was very important for Xhela to come to school and that we would take care of her. Her father in law appreciated what we said to him but he didn’t want to let Xhela come to our classes “ She is a young bride now and she has to clean, wash, cook for us, she doesn’t have time for her self” would be his response. We were shocked and profoundly sad about this as we heard directly what kind of life Xhela will be living from now on. 
In the following days of the 4 days wedding ceremony, we went several time to her family in law’s house. We saw her with her wedding dress, shy, embarrassed and afraid to talk and to behave the same way she did in the reflect school. 
We know that Xhela will not have the same freedom and the same cheerful behavior she used to have but we want to stay by her side and convince her family to let her come to classes.  ADRA staff will continue to visit her house every day, to pay visits and talk to her father in law and husband. We strongly believe that we will convince them about the good opportunities the school can give to Xhela. 
Xhela is the second child bride we have had in our school and we need to work hard in this aspect because we know that they live as slaves, working all day, deprived of their rights, freedom and education. This is a very big challenge but we are determinate to continue working with young girls and women so they can understand that early marriage is a tradition that can be changed for the benefit of all young girls who are still children when they decide to get married: “let girls be girls and not brides”- Desmond Tutu
Concerning early marriages we advise you to watch “Girls not brides:  

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Winter time in Fushë Kruja

It has been 3 weeks that the community of Fushë Kruja is facing a new challenge: the cold winter. While walking down the street in the Roma community on the way to the school, we could see how the families suffer since most of the houses don’t have any heating and people lack warm clothes. Most children who accompany their mothers to schools are still barefooted and if it rains, well, they stay wet all day.

Even though, regardless of these harsh conditions, women keep coming to classes. Even sick, they attend the lessons, willing to learn, and they are always glad to have a few hours to spend together in a warm room.

But what especially motivates them, is the topic of this month. We decided to talk about health, illness prevention and hygiene. And all lessons have great success!

During the first lesson, we discussed how mental, physical and spiritual health are equally important. Each women received a paper with a flower on it, a symbol of health, and each of its petal, represented an important factor of well being.

The following lessons were dedicated to hygiene, which greatly interested the girls. We talked about hygiene related to food, breast feeding, water, house environment, etc. This course was based on Facts For Life manual that you can find on and that we will keep reading and discussing for the following weeks.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Celebrating Christmas in Fushë Kruja: Making holidays brighter!

This year in Fushe Kruja, ADRA Albania handed out the traditional Christmas packages to all the children. The faces of these kids were once again all smiles thanks to the donors of ADRA Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium.

In total we gave out 300 gift parcels and shared thousands of smiles! For this special day, we decided to organize, in collaboration with UNDP, an activity about human rights, followed by some music, drinks and fruits for all participants. The goals of the day were to show that they have the right to celebrate every special day of the year and to make it a beautiful day for their children. 
This Christmas we extended the gift giving to include not only the children but the girls and women of the reflect project! 
Since the beginning of December, we had been contacting many women around Tirana, creating a network, in order to collect some «girly» things for our young female students.  We gathered these items and made a package for each Roma woman filled of clothing, jewelry, beauty products, etc. Each package also contained a greeting card with a personal message to each student, which was the most important element of the package. It was a way to tell them again how precious each one of them is! 
We wanted to give these women something significant to help them embrace the Christmas spirit all together! This day was very special, everyone enjoyed the holiday spirit while dancing to some Roma music and sharing some memories from the past few months together!
As mentioned before we dedicated this day to Human Rights education. For an hour, the teacher, the project manager, and a UNDP officer made a brief description about human rights stimulating a very interesting discussion about them in the Roma community.  We used images to aid in the discussion of the right of education, the right to work, the right to have a name, to have a family, to have fun etc. Each image brought comments and discussion from the women as we tried to make sure that every aspect of the issue was mentioned. 
We modified some traditional Albanian songs to have a human rights twist. For example, inserting  “I am red, I am white, I am black, I am proud!” into one of the more lively numbers. We will use these songs for rest of the month and will have the children repeat these lines which have very serious meanings that we what them to understand.

We finished the day with a extensive round of goodbyes, and since the school was closed for the ensuing two weeks it was the perfect way to remember everyone in Fushe Krjua until we returned for the new year.  Our only hope is that the women and children took as much as we did from this.