Mary Ward Loreto Women Project
Every day women and girls in Albania face discrimination, poverty and violence just because they are female. We believe that if we empower women, we empower a nation.
With more than 4 years of experience working in rural and isolated areas of Albania, MWL understands that a comprehensive programme addressing the social and economic empowerment of women and girls is the most effective approach. Women and girls in Albania struggle for economic and social equality in a patriarchal society that offers limited job opportunities and are a continuous potential risk of being trafficked.
The core of Mary Ward Loreto Women project is the prevention against trafficking in persons through providing another alternative: Empowerment for social transformation. The work is developed at the grass roots level with the poorest of the poor, and at the same time working at systemic change through networking, advocacy and lobbying. This work is to make sure that the women have the necessary resources, rights and opportunities to ensure their development and that of the communities around them.
Our methodology of work is based on the values of Mary Ward’s spirituality, Freedom, Justice and Sincerity. Within this context is the added value of social transformation for change. Through the MWL Women Centres in 6 regions of Albania, we bring women together in a safe space in order that they can learn about themselves, life in general, business skills, and other opportunities which seed hope for a brighter future.
The impact for the women is that they:
- Reduce their vulnerability through increased access to statutory and non-statutory services;
- Women, as key community members are active and involved in problem solving;
- The community, the school and NGOs are working together to create a sustainable approach for youth empowerment;
- Improvement of health information for women related to their health issues and reduction of cases of women in risk of their lives;
- Improve women’s self esteem;
- To ensure the employment and self employment opportunities of women and reduce their vulnerability;
- The women living in vulnerable areas are able to generate incomes to reduce their poverty and to provide for their children. This will lead to a protected future without the risk of human trafficking;
- Through working in networks in different aspects of anti -trafficking work: prevention, against demand, direct support for the victims, there is a reduction of human trafficking in Europe and within Albania.
Changing the social and cultural norms which deny a woman the right to become whom they are meant to be, is a challenge and a mission for all of us. Once the system begins to shift, the chain reaction will be unstoppable. It will affect every aspect of their lives: education, economic opportunities, health and representation in society. The result: stronger women, stronger families, stronger communities and finally, a stronger nation.
LOCATIONS OF THE PROJECTS
WE ARE CURRENTLY INVOLVED
“Mary Ward’s Hope for Women”
SEE PICTURES OF THE PROJECTS WE ARE CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN
Areas Where MWL Women Operate
Mary Ward Loreto Women project, has as its inspiration the charism of Mary Ward, founder of IBVM Loreto, whose fundamental values are: FREEDOM, JUSTICE and SINCERITY. Inspired by the life of Mary Ward and her charism, MWL Women Project is operating in 8 areas of Albania (north, centre and south) supporting 27 women’s groups to effect change in their lives and communities. The multidisciplinary staff and trainers make it possible to offer services in social, health and economic empowerment, even in other areas of Albania, respecting the needs identified by the women.
Events and Action
Collaboration with local partners in the city of Bajram Cyrri is one of the key ways of helping develop community services.
Mary Ward Loreto attended a meeting with local partners: representatives from the Municipality of Bajram Cyrri, the Education Directorate, The Community School “Ali Podrimja”, representatives from the Police, the Directorate of Public Health and local NGO-s.
The aim of the meeting was to identify the key problems facing the city of Bajram Cyrri and to strengthen the cooperation between all the key stakeholders. The participants discussed the up-coming anti-trafficking month and the coordination of activities during this time.
The summer camp organized was called “Girls Empowerment”
The camp lasted three days which included information about girls health, where girls had the chance to discuss openly about the health concerns of their age group which doesn’t happen very often. A major part of the summer camp’s agenda included awareness against human trafficking and safe migration, since the age-group present was 5-17 and most of them plan to study abroad. They were reminded about being careful as to who they trust and befriend in everyday life. Anyone can be a possible trafficker.
The camp was organized so that the girls could have fun, play, swim but as well have the opportunity to learn self-defense techniques explained by Peace Corps Volunteers. This was also a fun time. Twelve young girls attended the camp which was organized jointly by Mary Ward Loreto and Peace Corps Volunteers.
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.
Broad Based Organizing initiative was undertaken by a women’s group from Lezha where the issue of Client Service in the resorts of Shengjin was the priority.
Broad Based Organizing initiative was undertaken by a women’s group from Lezha where the issue of Client Service in the resorts of Shengjin was the priority. As a follow up of this issue continued meetings and forums will take place with interested groups and local authorities of the Tourism development sector. The addressing of Client service in Shengjin resorts started with a two days training with various staff working in the receptions, kitchen & bar services and housekeeping. The infrastructure is very good but the standards of services have many improvements to make in order to entice the tourists visiting Lezha and Shengjin to come back again.
Recommendations came out from the training and were presented to the managers of Rafaelo and some other resorts and to the staff present in these places. There is a lot to be done in this regard but this initiative helped to raise the awareness for the staff and managers that without continuous training it would not be easy to improve the Client Service standards. A thank you goes to Rafaelo resort owners who welcomed this initiative and to the very professional trainers of Hotel-&Tourism school of Tirana. Tourism is a big opportunity for the women of Lezha region therefore Mary Ward Loreto Women would like to continue to support this sector.
The women of Fier had a training with Vincent, specialized artisan in the making of many crafts.
In Fier there has been a five-day training with Vincent, specialized artisan in the making of many crafts. Eight young girls were present for this training in handmade mosaics. This was their first training. The girls group learned new techniques for these mosaics, releasing new products.
Following this training a weekly program will be developed with the girls who will work twice a week at the MWL offices in Fier, to continue making new products.
With more than 4 years of experience working in rural and isolated areas of Albania, Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is implementing The MWL Women Project, enabling the social and economic empowerment of women and girls. The project is implemented in 6 regions in Albania and helps women to get the necessary resources, rights and opportunities to ensure their escape from vulnerability, in its aim to prevent the risk against trafficking in persons. The documentary, together with an exhibition of Women’s handmade crafts and souvenir, was available to the public on Tuesday, March 28th 2017, from 09.30 – 13.00, at Tirana International Hotel, in an event that MWL has prepared on behalf of its Women’s Project, for celebrating the women in Albania. The struggles, efforts and results of the work undertaken by these women to get out of their vulnerable situation, are remarkable. In their efforts to escape their poor status, women make continuously, handmade crafts and souvenirs, with the hope to make some profit. MWL has made an appealing documentary to tell their story; the story of 4 incredibly courageous women who are making the change and is a model for their friends to follow. The event’s programme was outlined in a way that provided the participants with a holistic experience leaving a lasting impact. It was impressive to hear this side of the Albanian women’s story from the disadvantaged areas and their efforts to become empowered. They spoke about their concerns, their gratitude for the support given to them, and their hopes and wishes for the future. They expressed these changes whilst trembling with emotion. It was very
inspiring. Please click here for more…
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.
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. http://www.albaniahope.com/mwl-women-in-tropoja/
On Oct 18, 2016 Mary Ward Loreto in joint collaboration with Municipality of Lezhe, the Directory of Social Services and Education Department organized an awareness activity with women, youngsters and local institutions. The Deputy Mayor emphasized the fact that we should pay more attention to fight human trafficking and not only fight against the cultivation and smuggling of narcotics, which although a serious concern, should not detract from this other serious organised crime in the country. The Referring system is functioning well in Lezha region but sometimes the cases of Roma trafficked people are very complex to be addressed. The key MWL women’s worker in Lezhe is the main person to focus on awareness activities as well as providing concrete support to the women in need. This is through vocational training and economic independence initiatives as a means of preventing human trafficking. About two hundred people joined the march in the main road of Lezha where the youngsters distributed leaflets and talked to the pedestrians about human trafficking. Tropoja: The activity in Lezhe was duplicated in the area of Tropoja (North East Albania) on the 24th of October. In this activity the children of the secondary school “Ali Podrimja” presented an art exposition in the city hall based on the topic of combating human trafficking.
The ‘Law Enforcement Conference’ in Slovenia
Mary Ward Loreto was invited on July 18th – 21st 2016, to the ‘Law Enforcement Conference’ in Slovenia, organized by our partners from the UK, The Medaille Trust. 20 delegates from UK, Albania, Slovenia, and Poland attended the conference. The aim was to train actors combating human trafficking on Ending Modern Day Slavery through successful collaborations with partners that have a key role on the process. It also had the focus of encouraging mutual support between Police forces and other structures which help in the rescue of victims of trafficking and the process for their the rehabilitation. This conference resulted in intense learning from excellent training sessions, exchange of experiences, learning from best practices, and a strengthening of partnerships. We are grateful to The Medaille Trust and in particular Mike Emberson, the manager of the shelters of the Medaille Trust, for organising this important event.
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.
“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.
Leaders training on Broad Based Organizing
Mary Ward Loreto Women project aims to empower the women to take community actions and become active stakeholders in their communities, in order to provide hope, help, and change. Leaders from the women’s groups in 5 areas of Albania, attended a training on Broad Based Organizing, developed in Durres. At the end of the training, leaders from each area came out with specific issues to be addressed in order to promote self-sufficiency, to strengthen communities and to advocate for public policies. The next step is to organize the women’s groups and the community to assess the needs and issues and to find a solution.
Micro business planning and budgeting
We believe that women’s economic empowerment is a great step towards eradication of poverty, eradication of domestic violence, gender equality, human development. MWL is investing in women’s economic empowerment, through financing micro businesses, proposals sent by the women, motivating them towards entrepreneurship. The women who have already presented their business proposals, have been trained in planning the budgeting. This process faced them with the challenge of, “Change” in their working style, since it used to be a men’s domain. The women kept in touch with suppliers and clients for their proposed business, turning out to be great dealers. This process helped in reconsidering the role of the women, from submissive housekeeping workers, to micro businesswomen and employees.
Vocational trainings in Tropoja
One of the main needs of the women in Tropoja, is gaining a profession. In the light of developing women’s micro businesses and opportunities for employment, the MWL Women project is implementing a programme of vocational trainings with the women.
Five women in Raja have been trained in handmade jewelleries and had a session on inventing new patterns and developing creativity. The women’s group of Cernice are engaged in card embroidery and have attended the third phase of training, aiming to improve the quality of products and learning new techniques of work. Twelve other women and young girls from Raja have started a cooking course where they will learn new recipes for cooking. Women see these trainings as first steps towards economic empowerment and independence. It is giving them a good chance to socialize and have fun with each other.
Hot i Ri: Marketing the handmade products
In Hot i Ri the field staff is paying a special attention to the expansion of marketing opportunities in the area and through other various partners. The women’s group, who produce handmade cards and handmade decorative candles, have become an important supplier for “Piaca Market” in Shkodra, marking the initiation of a good collaboration.
Occasional meetings turn out to be excellent opportunities for expanding the market too. During a field trip, the Social Animator of Hot i Ri got in touch with a Sister from the Church of Saint Basilica in Rome, who also works in India. She was impressed by the handmade cards that the MWL Women’s worker showed to her and committed herself to promoting this product and in finding a market in Italy and India. She already bought the first parcel of cards. Finding new partners where women can sell their products is very encouraging to the women to keep up their handmade products. It also brings satisfaction to them because they are improving their financial incomes for themselves and their families.
Health care training programme in Fier
A collaboration process has been initiated between Mary Ward Loreto Foundation, “Mother and Child Foundation” and the Public Health Department of Fier. The main focus of this collaboration is the maternal health care of women and young girls.
This commune programme intends to:
-Offer a series of training sessions on maternal health for mother and young women in Fier
-Reproductive health care information
-Conduction of pap-test and mammography at Geraldine maternity for MWL women’s group.
These sessions will be spread in a defined period of time suitable for the mothers and young girls. By this collaboration women and mostly young girls (future moms), will be prepared before they begin their pregnancy and will have the main information on a baby’s development and will get the best practices of how to raise healthy children.
Training women as leaders and role models
MWL Women is following up the mission of empowering the women from marginalised communities. Women’s empowerment can change the community and improve the quality of life. For each group in the outreach areas, identified women leaders have been supported in the role of leadership. The aim is to empower them to be main key actors for change. The empowerment consists of implementing programmes for developing leadership skills for reduction of domestic violence, reduction of poverty, developing talents, gain women’s rights, play active role in the society. The leaders can be role models and inspiration for other women. They come from the same areas, same cultural background, and the same economic situation. Part of the training programme for the leaders, is to connect women from different areas as well in order to learn from each other. Empowering the leaders creates sustainability of the project in the outreach areas.
The womens Christmas fair
Like other years, MWL will participate in the annual fairs organized on the occasion of the national holidays. Given the atmosphere created during the holidays all the MWL women’s groups will prepare hand made products, with the aim of promoting the work of the women and also to sell them for economic benefit for the individual women who made the products. All products will be suitable for holiday sand season an winter times. Now is the time to make the selection and purchase the base materials for the realization of these products. Each group is becoming famous for the particular products which they create. Continue Reading…
Blue heart campaigns
The Blue Heart campaign took place in July 30, 2015, as a follow up to the campaign undertaken by the UN. This was the first time that UNDOCS had assigned a world day in support of the world phenomena of “Human Trafficking in Persons”. Youth groups led this campaign in order to increase the people’s awareness of this phenomena. The Blue Heart campaign became a priority issue for the MWL women project in every part of the country, from the south to the North of Albania. Out of doors activities were organized to increase the awareness in areas frequented by many people. The campaigns took place on the beaches and in the city squares. It’s worth emphasizing that this time the women and young people were not just an audience about this phenomena but they went out into the streets talking to the people about this and in solidarity with trafficked victims around the world. The objective of the activities was to increase awareness to stop the traffickers stealing the hope of many people. It was a call to say that we can all do something; we can report cases and contribute to this fight against modern day slavery.
Professional development for staff, leadership and empowerment
Mary Ward Loreto Women has a staff of 8 employees, consisted of Project Manager, Assistant Manager, 5 Social Workers and 1 Social Animator. The focus of the project is work against human trafficking and implementing programmes for empowerment of women in rural areas of Albania. The staff has been motivated to work according to the Mary Ward charism based on values such as “Justice, Freedom, Sincerity”. One very important aim is the empowerment of the staff, to help them with their professional and career development, in order to be productive and successful at their work, and at the same time to enjoy what they do. Formal and informal meetings take place for planning, mentoring, sharing, providing feedback and suggestions, removing obstacles, encouraging and motivation of the workers, discussions on ethics at work. Continue Reading…
Stories of Women
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”.
Story from Hot i Ri
Women’s empowerment, which is every woman’s right, is not always welcomed by the society. Sometimes it is considered as a threat to the tradition and lifestyle. Since the women are seen only as housekeeper, employment would change the routine. The women change not only her own lifestyle, but the family as well, since the housekeeping becomes a shared responsibility for all members of the family. One woman from Hot i Ri, who used to be a great housekeeper, started a job and also stayed committed to MWL Women’s group. She feels happy for her new initiatives, but immediately faced resistance from her family in law who can hardly accept her new development of being strong and independent. She is constantly under pressure to stop working, but decided not to give up. She explained that her hard work has been depreciated and that she has been blamed many times for neglecting house work. She bravely shared her situation with the women’s group and found great emotional support from the group who motivated her to stay strong and go ahead with her plans. She has become a role model for others.
A story from women of Tropoja
In Tropoja, family relationships and the social position of men and women is ruled by gender inequality. Patriarchal tradition is still very strong, and many of them want to have sons. If they have a son, then they would be happy to have daughters. That’s the reality of many families in Tropoja. One of the women brought her painful story. Her son died at his 14s 3 years ago. She says that her life is destroyed after her loss. Despite her pain, the conomic situation, her struggle to deal with medications for her eldest daughter, she is facing psychological violence. She is being blamed for the death of her son, by her husband. He strongly wants to have another son, to substitute his loss, but on the other hand he needs to show to the others that he is still able to have a son, and that his family will be strong and a traditional one again. Being under the pressure of the relatives, he decided to marry again, to become bigamy, which is common in these areas, hoping that the new wife will give birth to a baby boy, and will inherit his surname. This woman is facing the most difficult time in her life. MWLW workers, the sisters and the parish priest, are trying to support her and her husband too, who seem desperate about their future.
The journey of freedom
Never felt before the need to think about herself, until she found out that her husband has captured her freedom. Never before felt the need of a decision-making dignity till the moment her 2 little boys kept feeling neglected by their father, kept facing shame hearing stories of “Don Juan “ from their father and seeing her how she loses her light in her eyes from the lack of freedom in her life. She was just 17 when her family arranged her marriage and in short time her husband decided to emigrate and work with her in Greece. She was a little girl without knowing anything about herself. She just wanted to be happy and to make her husband happy. She never argued with him about anything. She used to work in Greece 16 hours per day and he never worked a day in his life. Beside this, all the money goes to his needs and especially in gamble games. After 10 years of working intensively he decided to turn back home and as a start in Shendelli village. They had 2 beautiful little boys that never felt same loved from their father. After 3 years of starting new life in Shendelli, one day she found out that her husband from three years was living with another woman in Saranda that pretended to be his wife. She thought that her brothers in law could help her solve the problem and maybe help their brother to rethink and not to destroy his family. But, what do you think it happened? Continue Reading…
She was just 4 years old when her family brought her to Shendelli village. All that she remembers about her childhood is poverty and misery. She grew up in a large family, in which the father knew everything and ran the family without considering anybody else’s opinion. This young lady, with a love of knowledge, was only allowed to go to primary school, when she was 9 years old she left her books forever. She grew up without doubting any of the family rules, such as the priority”that a good girl stays at home in the village the bad ones go out “. She fell in love with the last but one child of a family of eight boys, two of whom were killed by blood feud, one of them is convicted for life because of this deed. All the rest hide themselves in Shendelli village. The youngest of this family is one of the drug dealers most wanted by the police. She was too young to understand all the problems that in a minute would become hers, leaving herself in the arms of this love. The family knew everything, yet she find herself engaged at just 17 years old. How can a lovely girl such as her deal with problems she is about to face and educate her husband to a better way of life. She describes her husband not as a problem like his brothers, at least he respects his family and her health needs, her needs regarding intimacy, on decision-making. However he has no understanding of her right to freedom which he takes from her, not allowing her to become empowered, to continue her learning. It is a mutually closed relationship, which preserves family harmony in their lack of freedoms. Continue Reading…
Women in Albania face challenges most people never will. In a society where by law women have equal rights to men, it often doesn’t seem that way. Women and young girls can face unchecked discrimination and violence which will fall unnoticed due to the so-called normality of it, especially in rural areas.
MWL Women is pursuing the mission of empowering women in marginalized communities by improving the quality of life not only for the women but also their families. This has proven to be a necessary intervention in the trafficking of the victims of human slavery in countries such as Albania. Please click here to download the report…
More trafficked women come from Albania than any other country in southeastern Europe. Of those trafficked, almost 60% were tricked into prostitution, and 35% were abducted[i].
The strongest factors relating to the trafficking of women and girls are the harsh economic conditions in Albania and life within dysfunctional families. Another important factor that increases the risk of trafficking and exploitation of women is the limited awareness of the existence of this phenomenon. The consequence of this is that women romanticize life abroad and perceive any marriage opportunity, offered by immigrants, as a way out of their daily misery. Often this is how so many women become a prey to the lure of the traffickers. The Project, MWL Women, focuses on many of these issues in their work of prevention against the trafficking of human persons. 2218 women are supported in Human development trainings and 163 women have started their economic activities. MWL WOMEN project aims to increase awareness and encourage women and girls in poor communities to engage and participate in the creation of income generation activities for poverty eradication. For more information please read the report…
[i] Source UNHCR
“Women in time to come will do much” Mary Ward