It is a fact that violence against women, in all forms, is on the increase and cases are becoming public in Albania. Even though women are granted equal rights 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 shelter for women and girls at risk. This has been one of the biggest challenges faced while working with women/clients at MWL Women ACT. Many women who come to the centre are at risk and need accommodation and protection. Shelters in Albania host only victims of trafficking and domestic violence when they already have the status of victim or have a protection order. This makes it difficult to refer cases who 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. It is long after the case has been proven through the courts with a witnessed denunciation confirmed by a police statement. 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, need comprehensive support. The economic situation enforces them to remain dependent on the perpetrators. Many have already received help at MWL Women ACT centre. Women are made aware of the risk and are given advice on how to protect themselves. To help these women 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 the Food Bank Albania.
Tirana seems to be the big dream of many women and girls from outside the city. However the shock comes when they face a different reality. Despite the challenges they have in front of them, most of them refuse to turn back and struggle to find ways to survive in Tirana.
This is the case of one of our clients at MWL Women ACT. D comes from a small town in North Albania. She divorced her husband with whom she has a little daughter. Even though she couldn’t afford the living, she did not turn back to her small town. Here she felt she would be prejudiced by the patriarchal mentality. She stayed at her ex-husband’s flat for one year and then was asked to leave. The day she approached the MWL ACT centre she was expelled from her ex-husband’s house. She was hopeless, psychologically burdened because no one supported her since she had been divorced. Throughout her life, she had only worked for a few months because she did the housework and cared for her daughter. She was not familiar with the streets of Tirana and the possible services. She has been supported by ACT with referral to the services and she has been accompanied to relevant service providers, with counseling, job seeking, housing and emergency packages.