The lack of sheltering and alternative support for victims of violence and human trafficking.
There is a fact that violence against women in all forms, is on the increase and cases are becoming public. Even though women are granted equal rights with men by law, they still remain exposed and submissive to men’s authority. There are many social and economic factors that lead to women remaining vulnerable. The greatest factor is the lack of shelters for women and girls at risk. This has been one of the biggest challenges faced while working with women/clients at MWL Women ACT who are at risk and need accommodation and protection.
Shelters in Albania host only victims of trafficking and domestic violence who already have the status of victim or have a protection order. This makes an issue to refer cases that do not yet obtain such status or when the protection order is not valid. Apart from this factor, even when women do have a protection order, these shelters are very often full to capacity and cannot host new cases. Therefore most of the support given by the shelters is long after the violence has happened and is proven through the courts with the police statement re the denunciation as a witness. Until then the case remains at a level of treatment and not for prevention of more harm.
Women and girls who are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, and need comprehensive support, have already received it at MWL Women ACT, such as awareness of the risk, advice on protection, referral to relevant services.
The economic situation enforces women and girls to remain dependent on the perpetrators. To help these women/clients at ACT, we have offered them referrals to service providers in order to gain benefits from social and economic aid, employment, psychological support, and emergency food packages in collaboration with Food Bank Albania.
Report on the work in women’s jail: The psychologist of MWL Women ACT, offering trainings and self-help group facilitation once a week.
Mary Ward Loreto has initiated a collaboration with Sole Centre who run a project in the women’s jail IEVP, Nr. 325 Ali Demi Tirane. The Sole project is for the reintegration into the community for imprisoned women. This is through developing employment skills and through human development programmes. MWL was invited to give its contribution and expertise in psychological empowerment with women inside the jail. The psychologist of MWL Women ACT is offering trainings and self-help group facilitation once a week.
Weekly training sessions and self-help groups or support groups, have started with 10 women. The main aim of these sessions is the rehabilitation of the women so they have a successful reintegration into society after their release and to enable them to live their lives in a more meaningful and a better adjusted way.
Life after a traumatic experience is never easy. For many of these women offenders, committing a crime has been a traumatic experience, and inprisonment confronts them even more with the consequences of their deeds. Furthermore prisons in Albania emphasise punishment to make up for the crime and has no sense of understanding the need for education for change. These women come from different areas of Albania with different cultures, different social issues and different approaches of facing life and problems. They have coped with different external and internal issues which led to their criminal activity and for which they were convicted. They have poor coping mechanisms therefore face them with frustration while interacting with each other.
In a two months period of time the sessions have been focused on providing an understanding of self-help groups, positive group dynamics and a sense of belonging to the group. The focus has also been on acceptance of differences and on building motivation for mutual support. These sessions offer the members a safe non-judgmental environment for self-disclosure where they can learn to explore themselves and share their stories, their feelings, and their issues. They are entering into e process of recovery and need to strengthen mutual support for each other leading to the mutual goal to help each other to cope with inprisonment during and after their sentence.
Mary Ward Loreto Women Advice Centre (ACT)
In December 2016, MWL established the MWL Women Advice Centre in Tirana (ACT). The main objective of MWLW ACT is to provide advice to the women in need for the problems they face and improve the policies and practices that affect people’s lives in the region and city of Tirana. The first step of setting up this service was conducting a needs assessment and creating a database of services offered by state institutions and NGO-s in Tirana. The outcome of this first stage is crucial to our work, since the strategy of Mary Ward Loreto is to gather preliminary information in order to better respond to the main needs for service and support. 50 women have visited the centre. They have been given information related to their issues and have been referred to relevant services. The main issues presented were: emergency sheltering or housing, health issues, employment advice, and psychological support. Different cases have attended free counselling sessions at the centre. MWLW ACT workers have been following up each case in order to make sure that they receive necessary services and to help them to become confident to ask for services and find solutions their problems. The biggest challenges have been poor public and non-public services for vulnerable communities and slow moving bureaucracy in the face of emergencies. Due to the collaboration with our partners, we were able to provide emergency help and ensure the safety of our clients at ACT.