Monday, 14 January 2013

Albania's 100 Years of Independence!

On 28 November 2012, Albania celebrated 100 years of independence. The country was covered by black and red flags, festive activities and many important events. In each city of the country there were organized many concerts, activities and celebrations in order to give this date the proper significance.

Even in Fushe Kruja city, where our REFLECT project is being implemented, were organized several activities, including a public school activity. Fatmira, our facilitator, had a brilliant idea: create a group of Roma youngsters and prepare a Roma dance for the public school concert. Our students were very excited for this opportunity, not only because they were going to promote their dance and music in front of everyone; but also because it was the first time they were participating in an event made especially for young people their age. It was very enthusiastic see Roma boys and girls gathered to (which is an exceptional case) to prepare the dance for such an important activity. They worked hard for a week; each day after class they gathered at the community center and practiced because they wanted to give the best they could. It was such a miracle to see these boys and girls playing and learning together for a common objective. It was one of those rarely occasions where Roma children feel their age and not forced adults.

As we have already written in our previous blogs, Roma community in Fushe Kruja is a very conservative and patriarchal community. Girls are forced to abandon school in early age because their parents don’t want them to go to school with boys and prefer marrying them in a very early age, even without the girl’s approval.  It was a very positive step seeing parents approving such initiative and allow their daughters to dance and stay in the same classroom with boys their age. The celebrating feeling was influencing everyone and strangely, Roma parents became more tolerant and allowed their daughters to participate to the event and dance in front of everyone. In a normal situation, there would be a big discussion about girls dancing in front of the public; Roma men consider it an unacceptable behavior for grown up girls of 12 years old. Girls at this age are considered as possible brides so they can not go to school, go out alone or participate in public activities. If they do so, they are considered women with doubtful reputation.

The day of the concert, on 27 November 2012, ADRA staff bought some nice shirts and hats with the Albanian flag because the Roma dancing group had asked to wear the Albanian flag for the occasion. They were very excited and couldn't wait to go on the stage and make their performance.
The concert was really well organized; young students from different classes sang and dance various Albanian traditional and modern songs. During the concert, our Roma participants were a little bit discouraged because they saw their peers, the Albanian children, the once who go to school, how free they were, how much they were enjoying the event. Instead of the Roma ones, who don’t go to school and are very marginalized. Being out of school, Roma youngsters are also out of the public life including sportive, artistic and cultural events.
Then their turn came, the Roma group went on stage and as soon as they began dancing, the hole public was standing applauding them. It was a memorable moment. It was one of those moments where there is absolutely no place for cultural and ethnic differences, discrimination and exclusion. People, for some minutes, were in total harmony with each other, sharing a beautiful song and accepting each other like there were no boundaries. Suddenly, some Albanian youngsters went on the stage and start dancing with the Roma group, creating a delightful atmosphere.

ADRA staff was on the same time astonished and proud to have supported such group because they really gave the best by making everyone feel united like never before. After the concert, ADRA staff and the Roma group went to the community center, celebrating such event and immediately planning the next one.
Everyone enjoyed the activity and we hope this will be the first of many others that will come in the future.