The Broad Based Organising initiative in Shkodra.
In the framework of the Broad Based Organising initiative, on the 11th of April I met Alminda Memen, Executive Director, along with the Project Directors at the Aarhus Center in the Municipality of Shkoder, which allowed me to get oriented and informed me of the correct procedure for initiating this project.
I organized meetings with key people in the community, including the Municipal Administrator Mr. Vlach Peter, Prefect Mr. Leke Miri, as well as one of the journalists of Radio Marija in Shkodra’s Families, who was ready to help with this initiative. They have all promised to help move this initiative along. The next step was to complete a petition where I obtained the signature and ID of the eight women’s communities who agreed to this initiative— around 200 signatures in all. This petition was addressed to the Director of Environment Affairs of Shkoder, Mr. Alfred Luleta, who in the end promised us that he would record the petition in a timely fashion. I had two meetings in his office and telephoned you to keep you informed about how things are going so that you can understand our determination and seriousness in this matter. Today, on May 5, 2017, the first 17 community garbage bins were placed in the community, with the promise that in the short term all neighborhoods will be equipped with garbage bins. Garbage bin collection will be done 3 times a week; waste disposal will be done at the Bushat Shkoder Landfill. The next issue will be that of checking the drinking water, for which we have to prepare a request to the Public Health Department to establish drinking water quality control.
In the MWL Centre of Hot Ri the women are becoming more and more proactive, not only in the increase of quality and designs of the embroidered cards, but also in becoming more engaged in finding new markets to sell. They have already established a collaboration with the Shkodra Post Office who has agreed to help sell 100 cards each month. Finding new markets is the biggest challenge. Other businesses have been contacted, especially the big commercial centres in Tirana, and they will continue to network here till they have confirmation. But above all the most important is the change that this centre and particularly this activity, has brought into the women’s lives. This centre has become their place of comfort, stress relief and hope. Antoneta, is one of the women that frequently visits the centre. She works as a sales woman in a market in the village, has 4 children and the other women say that she is an excellent cook. She was feeling very lonely, so she started to come to the centre to learn to embroider cards. It was hard for her in the beginning as crafting was never her forte, as she would say, but she was determined to be part of the group. She took part in every activity developed at the centre, never missing one. The positivity of her interaction and her willingness to help other women in finding work, made her one of the best models that we have in our centre. I believe in role models to encourage successful actions in people’s lives and community approaches.
Broad Based Organizing training in Shkodra
In the light of empowering key actors in the community, Mary Ward Loreto Women has been developing trainings on Broad Based Organizing with various members of the local community in Shkodra. Those attending this training also shared the issues of the community they work with and the enthusiasm about working together according to this methodology. The group has decided to develop another meeting in September, to select an issue which will be the focus for their working together, in order to promote effective change in the local community.
Hard life of women in Hot i Ri
In rural Albanian tradition, women live with their families-in-law, and the expectations towards them are to do the house works and to take care about the children and the family in law. Many of the women in Hot I Ri live according to this tradition. Their role is expanding as a consequence of activities taken at MWLW Centre. Empowerment of the women is growing, and many of them broke the barriers to their social and economic empowerment. Going counter culture takes a lot of strength and bravery, and these women are challenging the tradition in order for a brighter future. The family in law is not always supporting the women’s efforts, because this affects the routine in which they are used to live in. Apart from the disputations with the husbands, the women face verbal attacks from the parents in low. One woman who achieved to engage on economic activities, explained about the reaction of her mother in law, who tried to stop her from working. This woman was facing psychological violence each day and rejection as well. Her children were suffering too. They have told most of the time that their mother was not newsworthy, and that they don’t deserve her. She explained that one of her daughters, who looks more like her, was being neglected by her grandparents because she reminded to them about her mother. Despite all the sufferings and obstacles she was facing, her strength is grown. Her big progress in life brought even some light changes to the family in law, who already started to be more open minded about changes and diversity.
Craft Centre in Hot I Ri
MWL Women in Hot I Ri are rejoicing because they have not only increased their output but the quality of the crafts and the standards are getting higher and higher. The number of girls and women working in the group has also increased. MWL is helping this group to achieve their goals. The works are traditional but new ideas are being developed by the women. Products made by the women are knitted, crocheted, embroidery postcards, bracelets, tailoring, candles, river stone design, paintings on stone, decoration clips, bracelets for the hair and children’s clothes. Products are adapted according to the market needs for different national holidays, customer requirements and taste. Our aim is to continue to increase our output and standards and to open new markets for the sales of our products. We all feel very hopeful.
Women’s empowerment is strongly related to economic development. Women’s groups have been encouraged to make use of their skills and talents. These consist mainly of handicraft work learnt when they were children as a way of providing clothes and ornaments for the house, not as a business opportunity. The lack of a working culture and difficulties in taking new responsibilities have been two of the biggest challenges. The women needed a lot of human empowerment training and emotional support. 25 women from the group of Hot i Ri have been trained and supervised by the MWL Women Social Animator to make stitched cards. A core group of 10 women meets constantly in the MWL Women centre and work in a group. The rest of the group meet rarely but are given instructions for the work and take the materials for stitching the cards to their houses. They prepare different groups of designs in order to fulfill the market requirements. To work ethically, patterns selected online from companies such as Form-a-lines, have been purchased. The social animator who is an artist, paints new card designs with different greetings, as well as traditional designs, birthday cards and cards for children. The women themselves have also been encourages to prepare new designs. Many women in the village showed an interest to be trained and to become part of the group. Visitors of MWL Foundation have visited the group of Hot i Ri and have been introduced to MWL Women groups activities and products. Hillary Cashman, and Sr. Anna Hawke CJ, saw opportunities to sell the cards in the UK, in churches communities, schools and fairs. The group frequently sends parcels of cards to enable this to occur.