Last week, July 14, Mary Ward Loreto Women organized a “Day Out” with the group of Tropoja, in the most beautiful part of the area, called “Ujevara e Valbones”. This socializing activity was to build a bond and deeper cooperation in the group. The group visited the “Albania Souvenir Shop” where their colleague explained about its operation and the sales of their products. They shared the challenges and prospects for the future. At lunchtime the women and girls followed the rhythm of dance expressing their love for the beauty of the area. After lunch they climbed to the areas most beautiful landmark called “Ujevara Valbona”. “This was like a “mountaineering “, and unforgettable experience,” they expressed after they had returned home.
Tropoja preserves a good name for the production of delicious honey which is also used as a cure for various diseases. With the support of Mary Ward Loreto Women and as part of the economic empowerment of women, they are pushing ahead with the bee business, providing income for their families. This work, which requires much time and dedication throughout the year and needs a good knowledge of beekeeping, has now produced 80 kg of honey. A good part of this honey has already been sold in the local market.
“…And who said that my hand only goes to the needles?”
The development of this initiative has been Mary Ward Loreto Women Project in collaboration with the rural women from Tropoje. The shop was opened on May 12th and the impact has been immediate in the area, where there have been no such services in the past. Our customers are local residents, city residents of the surrounding villages of Bajram Curri who come to spend weekends with their families. Other buyers come as tourists from around the world and groups from different cities of Albania. This year we have in the store many new handcrafts made by the women of the MWLW group. It is more than a craft: It is a story of women’s empowerment. Come and see this beautiful work! Thank you for being a part of this venture.
MWLW project in Tropoje, has implemented 8 mini-businesses this year to support the empowerment of women. These mini-businesses are: opening the shop in Valbona for the sale of handicrafts made by 20 women, the implementation of 2 businesses for breeding bees, 2 mini-businesses to raise goats and produce milk, a business with cows, an economic activity with sewing and mini-business to produce postcards. Businesses with artisan characteristics have been successful so far, such as tailoring, and postcards. These were sold in the Valbona shop. For the first year (July – September 2016), the value of craft products sold was 331,320 ALL. New livestock activities showed progress in the rearing of cows and goats, and the opening the beehive business, but income takes time since they are not in the production period until later next year.
When Violeta was still a young girl she had a dream – tailoring. She married very young in her native village in Rajc, Tropoja in northern Albania. In her village there were some nuns who taught girls and women the tailoring course in which Violeta enrolled. Soon, however, she was pregnant and left Tropoja to be placed in another village in southern Albania in Fier, leaving her dream unfulfilled. Hard living, and economic problems and the bringing up of children, forced Violetta to lose her dream of nearly 20 years. MWL Women’s center in Fier offered a tailoring course to women and girls with the desire to learn and benefit from professional skills. Violeta enrolled at the center and started the tailoring course. She learned and is learning to cut and sew clothes with supervision from a very talented trainer Elsa. Little by little Violeta began the repairing of clothes, gaining incomes. By saving these incomes she bought herself a sewing machine to work in her home. She is still learning tailoring at the MWL center, and continues to work in her home repairing clothes and increasing the income little by little for her family. A dream extracted from the drawer for 20 years has become a reality. She did not believe she could ever realize this dream. Her words were: “Watching my own sewing machine in my house is incredible and I could not believe that I managed to come to this day, I am very happy”.
Women’s Craft from Tropoja
Mary Ward Loreto Foundation, launched a very important initiative: the opening of a kiosk for craft products. The development of the initiative has been the project MWLW with rural women in Tropoje. The shop was open in June and the impact has been immediate in the area, where there have been no such services in the past. Our customers are local residents, city residents of the surrounding villages of Bajram Curri who come to spend weekends with their families Other buyers come as tourists and groups from different cities of Albania, and also from around the world.
“Women’s Craft from Tropoja” is located in Valbona. It is a store that offers various products crafts such as beaded jewelry, greeting cards embroidered by hand and customized products made in wool with cloth weaved by hand in a loom. Many other hand made products are sold such as: Hand made clothing and accessories for children and adults, kitchen accessories, traditional folk dress of Tropoja, products such as local honey, and mountain tea. There are a total of 15 women who produce various crafts and they have already made good sales although it has only opened just a month ago.
Unfortunately, in Tropoja, many young girls left school due to discriminatory gender norms, poverty, and lack of infrastructure to protect the girls from threat of violence on the way to school and back. In collaboration with the municipality of Tropoja, and the community, transport to school has been provided for these young girls.
We noticed an increase in awareness about the importance of girls education in Tropoja. They showed an interest in social and psychological assistance to their daughters. One woman referred to the social worker, the case of her daughter who is going through early adolescence and seems to have learning disability. She has been supported by a specialist psychologist, with a treatment programme which includes the training of her parents and the school teacher. This was a successful case of good cooperation between school – family – psycho-social service, for a better education for the young girl.
The women of Tropoja
Mary Ward Loreto Women project in Tropoje operates in three areas; Raja, Dushaj and Cernicë. These areas account for a total of 90 women, whose participation varies by activity. The dynamics of these groups are different, and so are the interests, perceptions, and situations in which they find themselves. As a group the women’s strengths are:
1. An ability to adapt and to function as a group.
2. A desire for active participation and engagement at work.
3. Being open. These women are strong and ready to change and become empowered for their own sake and for their family.
With all the problems in the area of Tropoje, the major ones are social, these constitute the vital roots in a painful history. The force of tradition and mentality wants the boy to be given all the privileges as it is the boy who will inherit the family name, while the girl child is “crushed” until she has found a husband chosen by her parents. For generations this has been the fate of many girls and women who do not choose, but are resolved, and have to “live only for honor’’. She is the eldest child of the family and as such did not ever have attention and affection, just for the fact that she was not born as a son. At an early age, the family found the “ideal partner” and unwillingly she was betrothed to him. The Psycho-social situation was very difficult for the girl, which itself held all the drama of an unwanted election. In these patriarchal families the roles are incontrovertible. The contacts are scarce and cold, with the partner who has been selected. The girl is forced to live a relationship that exists solely for the spirit of our customs and traditions. The lack of attachment to the person, the lack of communication and ignorance brings other troubles, and this is maintained throughout her life. This relationship can be terminated as finality. It can happen without explanation, in silence. For the first time the mentality of being “silent” can seem like being forever happy. But can she claim her own freedom back, to breathe, to elect and not be elected…?
Explain the situation of water and the local culture
The problem of irrigation water: In one of the rural areas (Cernicë), residents have suffered from a lack of irrigation water in the area which obstructs their progress in developing the land for agriculture. This impacts their living standards as there is no income from the land. The MWL Women social worker took this issue to the national authorities and undertook several meetings with the mayor. A project has now been prepared by the municipality to tackle the problem of water irrigation, however progress has been limited because of the lack of funding from the state, meaning, the project remains only on paper. A small amount of progress has been made however by the opening of the channel by the residents (initiated by a mayoral candidate in Bajram Curri before the June 21 elections). Meanwhile, with the new territorial division and the stabilization of the local government, the MWL Women social worker will re-address this issue to the new municipality.
New MWL centre opens in Tropoje
MWL Women’s project working in Tropoje is not only working at grassroots with beneficiary groups in the outlying villages, but it also has a center in the city called Bajram Curri. This MWL centre began operating in July, 2015. The center opened in order to provide services to women in the areas where MWLW operates in the north and to combat trafficking in persons. There is now an opportunity for all women to receive services or to be oriented to receive them.
The MWL centre offers the following services:
– Psychological support for women to deal with the trauma of abuse and domestic violence, to empower them emotionally and to overcome distress;
– Orients and accompanies the women to the service providers and follows up their cases till the solution is achieve;
– Socializing and economic activities and training workshops for the economic empowerment of the women’s group;
– This center also holds meetings with associates of MWL, in the area;
– It also provides information for the community in the fight against anti-trafficking;
– Training of leaders;
The functioning and effective provision of services in the MWL centre is the priority for our work. The aim is to achieve a free and healthy society.