Thursday, 24 January 2013

Meeting young brides in Fushe Kruja

December in Fushe Kruja is a very cold month for the Roma community. The city is situated right next to a mountain so there are no hills, trees or something else that can stop the cold wind coming from the Adriatic Sea. Even though this area is not particularly characterized by low temperatures, the strong cold wind gives another perception. Roma families start collecting wood and prepare the old stoves for colder days. Many of them are not so lucky to have a stove, thus they get often ill and try to go and visit parents within the community, maybe the ones that own a stove. Some of them can’t find wood so they go searching in the rubbish, everywhere in the city, the important thing is to find something which can get burned. Little boys go searching for hours and sometimes they come home with pieces of plywood which can hold fire just for a couple of hours.
 When you enter within the community, little children, wearing only slippers come running. Their cheeks are read and noses cold, their skin is harsh and their hands are cold. Most of them do not have shoes or coats so they go around in light clothes and slippers. Many of them get ill during winter, but their parents don’t know how to take care of them. Even when they have fever, flu and they are cold, they go out and get even sicker. Parents do not have enough information on how to prevent or tackle fever, flu or any other disease. What happens next is that the child gets really sick, ends up in the hospital and takes a lot of medicines because his condition has deteriorated.

This presentation was necessary because it is important to understand how roma parents still are not conscious about the lack of information regarding health, education, children caring. All these situations have a main cause: Early marriages.

Young girls, 12 years old, get married with young boys who aren't more than 16 years old. These new couples are still children, they don’t live their adolescence, they don’t play enough, don’t go to school, don’t know how to take care for themselves. The ironic fact is that they get married at a very early age and become parents when they are still in their adult childhood. On the other hand their parents don’t know what to teach them because it has been the same for them, and the history repeats itself, perpetuating negative consequences.
Girls become mothers at 13 years old and they are afraid, they don’t know what to do with these new creatures. They tie them up as little dolls, so they are easier to carry up and feed them with what they can. There have been cases when they don’t have breast milk or other kind of food and give babies boiled beans, thinking it is nutritive. These babies grow up not only without vaccination but also without any medical control, and the most important  is that they don’t exist formally . As early marriages are not allowed in Albania by law, young mothers can not register their babies to the public institutions, hospital or health centers.

Ada Mexhiri, Zeqine Gatali and Adela Misha, three young students of Reflect school got married in the last three months. They were all 13 years old and were all frequenting the ADRA community centre in Fushe Kruja. These three young students had just started to read and write, to get involved in activities, to enjoy some free time far from hard work. From now on, they can not come to school anymore; they can’t even go out of their new houses. Now that they are married, they have to stay in their new house, cooking, washing, working more than all family members, just because they are the new brides.

When ADRA staff goes to visit them, they hide because they are shy, they don’t know what to say, they don’t even know to give an explanation about the decision they have made.
After a year working in Fushe Kruja, you understand that this decision is not taken by them; they don’t even think to take such important decisions. Their parents see them as burdens; most of the time, when a young bride comes in the house, the oldest daughter should leave in order to give space to the new arrival. This was the fate of our three students. In their families, a new bride came and, since they live in small rooms where there is not enough space for everyone, they have to go; marriage is the only escape. The same logic works also for the food. When a new member comes home, one of the girls should leave, because these families are very poor and can’t afford to feed everyone.Young girls are the once that sacrifice more than any other member of the community. They are considered as a mouth more to feed so the solution is to force them getting married. Parents put pressure on them, make them feel as burdens, treat them badly so they are forced to leave and to find a new house. 
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