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.