Help Empower 300 Women in Kosovo through Education

 
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The foundation has been laid for the next step in Women for Women, International’s (WfWI) mission to empower women in conflict and post conflict areas. The groundbreaking for a new Women’s Opportunity Center (WOC), took place in the urban city of Pristina in Kosovo. Said the Country Director for WfWI, Hamide Latifi, “In America where new buildings seem to pop up over night, the idea of a groundbreaking may not seem worthy of so much fanfare, but in a country such as Kosovo, whose independence is younger than 2 years, and where women are completely isolated from the outside world, having a Women’s Opportunity Center is a dream few of us can even imagine.” With over 20,000 Kosovo program graduates and hundreds more added every year, the WOC will serve as a training location for the core WfWI program, as well as a center for continued education and assistance for program graduates. Currently the Women for Women, International- Kosovo core program serves 9 municipalities and 33 communities across the country. The core training consists of twelve months of vocational and life skills training, financial and emotional support and an opportunity to meet regularly in supportive Women’s Groups. WfWI has developed programming and infrastructure that teaches women survivors of war the skills to become economically self-sufficient and active in their communities. The curriculum is specifically designed to address political activism, social empowerment, economic self-sufficiency and psychological and physical health.

Besides housing the core curriculum, the WOC will serve as a community center for current participants and graduates alike. For a small membership fee, graduates will have access to a variety of business advisory services, including business development, loan application assistance, job placement, and continued microfinance education. In addition the WOC will provide leadership and other opportunities to continue to help program graduates become economically self sufficient and active citizens within their communities. Now these innovative programs will have a permanent home.

Working pro bono, architect Sharon Davis, of the Sharon Davis Design Studio, is utilizing her extensive experience in sustainable design and urban renewal to create the new home for WfWI-Kosovo. Construction began in the summer of 2009, and a grand opening is expected in early 2010. The design uses passive airflow to keep cool in the summer, and heavy insulation and southern exposure windows to keep warm in the brutal winters. Natural gas, a far more environmentally sound fuel than common traditional wood and coal burning, will be used to heat the building. An internet café will be housed within the WOC for participants use.

Ultimately, the Women for Women, International’s Women’s Opportunity Center in Kosovo will serve as a permanent safe haven for women to gather. It will provide a center of steady activity, learning, and commerce in the community, and a source of support for the women of Kosovo.

Hamide Latifi thanks the crowd for their support
Hamide Latifi thanks the crowd for their support

September 11th, 2009 Prishtina, Kosovo- The foundation has been laid for the next step in Women for Women, International’s (WfWI) mission to empower women in conflict and post conflict areas. The groundbreaking for a new Women’s Opportunity Center (WOC), took place in the urban city of Pristina in Kosovo. Said the Country Director for WfWI, Hamide Latifi, “In America where new buildings seem to pop up over night, the idea of a groundbreaking may not seem worthy of so much fanfare, but in a country such as Kosovo, whose independence is younger than 2 years, and where women are completely isolated from the outside world, having a Women’s Opportunity Center is a dream few of us can even imagine.” With over 20,000 Kosovo program graduates and hundreds more added every year, the WOC will serve as a training location for the core WfWI program, as well as a center for continued education and assistance for program graduates. Currently the Women for Women, International- Kosovo core program serves 9 municipalities and 33 communities across the country. The core training consists of twelve months of vocational and life skills training, financial and emotional support and an opportunity to meet regularly in supportive Women’s Groups. WfWI has developed programming and infrastructure that teaches women survivors of war the skills to become economically self-sufficient and active in their communities. The curriculum is specifically designed to address political activism, social empowerment, economic self-sufficiency and psychological and physical health.

Besides housing the core curriculum, the WOC will serve as a community center for current participants and graduates alike. For a small membership fee, graduates will have access to a variety of business advisory services, including business development, loan application assistance, job placement, and continued microfinance education. In addition the WOC will provide leadership and other opportunities to continue to help program graduates become economically self sufficient and active citizens within their communities. Now these innovative programs will have a permanent home.

Working pro bono, architect Sharon Davis, of the Sharon Davis Design Studio, is utilizing her extensive experience in sustainable design and urban renewal to create the new home for WfWI-Kosovo. Construction began in the summer of 2009, and a grand opening is expected in early 2010. The design uses passive airflow to keep cool in the summer, and heavy insulation and southern exposure windows to keep warm in the brutal winters. Natural gas, a far more environmentally sound fuel than common traditional wood and coal burning, will be used to heat the building. An internet café will be housed within the WOC for participants use.

Ultimately, the Women for Women, International’s Women’s Opportunity Center in Kosovo will serve as a permanent safe haven for women to gather. It will provide a center of steady activity, learning, and commerce in the community, and a source of support for the women of Kosovo.

The foundation for the Kosovo Women
The foundation for the Kosovo Women's Opportunity Center

Minirja is 40 years old, she lives with her husband Sadik, 48 years old, and three kids: son Milot 12 years old, and two daughters Mirsija 7 years old and Djellza 1 and a half years old.

Minirja is a quite noble woman, that can be seen by her face, and from the first meeting that I had with Minire I have noticed an open hearted in her face, and by talking she began to tell me that she has an adopted daughter and that for many others she provides temporary accommodation. This five member family lives with incomes that are earned by Minire’s husband working as taxi driver even though he is an economist by its profession. This is her story, in her words, of the children she has adopted (in Kosova we have many orphans due to the campaign of ethnic cleansing, so we need good mothers like Minirja to take good care of the kids).

“One day I was sitting near by television, when an program dedicated to abandoned children has started and I looked it with many attention and I could not remove those kids from my mind in any moment as they were not guilty for their destiny. I was praying for those kids that faith should smile to them someday by providing them new parents.

I have thought so much about those kids, wondering whether I as a mum could provide to anyone of those kids an opportunity to grow up in an family environment, and I was impatient waiting for arrival of my husband to discuss with him an opportunity of adopting a girl, husband accepted my proposal and we have decided to go to Gynaecology hospital in Prishtina to do so. We have talked with Dr. Lusha and she has directed us to the Center for Social Affairs in Drenas, where we have made an request for adoption of a two-year-old girl. The Center for Social Affairs established an Committee and they came into our house to inspect whether we can meet conditions for adoption of a child, after a while we gained the right on adoption, and we were able to adopt a foster child from Prishtina. Prior adopting that girl we had a couple of visits in order to introduce with a girl that will be a part of our family. After this adoption, I wanted to do more still. I have expressed a wish to provide foster care to other kids, since I and husband were too interested to help out those kids and we have decided so. The Committeee from Center for Social Affairs came again to see whether we meet conditions for accommodation. We have provided temporary accommodation to those kids to this day, seven of them. The foster children remain until they are adopted by new families. We have frequent visits with adopting parents. I am very happy when adopting parents come and want to adopt kids. Dhurata is a girl I cared for since she was 4 months old up to two and a half years old and I miss too much that girl. For Flora from the Skenderaj municipality I took care two years, and this girl was adopted by a French couple that are very happy with Flora. We contact them by postal letters. Her parents write to say that she makes a very good life and when she grow up she will learn Albanian language. To be honest, fact that she will learn Albanian makes me very happy by growing up since she is an Albanian from Kosova. To Diellza I am providing temporary care until her adoption by adopting parents and it is a satisfaction to see these kids smiling and playing with my kids. I often pray for abandoned kids to adopt in good families, and sometimes I am afraid even to think that I will be separated from Diellza, with her my kids are very happy. I am glad that my son and my daughter accepts these kids very well, and also mostly I am touched be being divided from these kids since it is not easy to separate from them. I am very happy when adopting parents accepts us to visit kids that we have taken care of them.

I believe that program from the WfWI Organization is a wonderful opportunity for women of my village, as a program that I have heard earlier but I waited for some time to become a member of this program.”

Fatime is a 37 years old woman. Her parents were divorced since her childhood and her aunt was taking care after her since she was two months old. She never ever met with her mother.

Fatime says: “I have always dreamed to meet with my mother but I have heard that her husband is a very tough guy by not allowing her to seek after me and I had no courage to seek after her. I was born with a lame leg, for which I had surgery at five years of age, but the operation failed, and now every time I walk I feel pain. Later on my eyes got weak and I have a very high dioptre for distance. Later on I got married when I was 19 years old in a village of Baje, and my husband is also disabled. Now we have three kids that are 17, 15 and 8 years old. We have a small house, and my husband works sometimes. I have enrolled in the Women for Women International--Kosova program, by choosing gardening training but when a possibility was opened to me to make handicrafts from the Organization and that I will be paid for that work, even though I can hardly see out, I have taken some crafts to work and I am ready anytime to work. I think that in the women’s groups we can discuss many things that concern us every day and we have a possibility to change many things in our lives”.

All the words for her mother Fatimja said them with a lot of pain and tears in the eyes, without being aware that she will meet her very soon. In village of Terpeze, our program is conducted and there lives the mother of Fatime and this was a very good opportunity for Fatime to meet with her mother. Even though her mother was not part of our program, she lives very near to the house where our program took place. Fatime met with her mother after so many years in a very touchy moment but she was welcomed very well by her mother and her brothers that she met them now.

After the reunion, Fatime said: “I never had the strength to discuss my life with anyone—I never said what a huge wish that I had to meet and embrace my mum. The women’s group in the program enabled me to share these sorts of things with my peers. On the day that I talked about it in the program, I remember I was not being able to sleep well. Now that this dream has been realized, I will be grateful to the WfWI-Kosova Organization for as long as I am alive”.

Even after graduation, Fatime has become a truly active citizen. She has organized women of her village Baja to enroll in our program. She is a member of a farmer’s association “Prodhimi Drenas” and also she participates in different fairs by selling produce she has cultivated in the greenhouse—a project from her vocational skills curriculum at Women for Women-Kosova--such tomato, different pickles, etc. She is also active in meetings for disabled people held in Hendikos in which the participants create handicrafts together and sell them in different fairs.

Kadire is 40 years old, she lives with her husband and three children: two sons Osman (22), Shpetim (16) and a daughter Ardita(19), they all are attending school but the chances to fulfil their school needs are very small because they live only with husband’s salary who works as a guard in Feronikel Factory in Drenas. She lives in a small house with five family members in two rooms.

She finished secondary school for laboratory technician and one year of High School, but she interrupted her studies because of the overall political and economical situation in Kosova. Education is unfulfilled Kadire’s dream.

Kadire’s life has been marked by tragedy like every Kosovar woman. Before the war she was married to another man, who was murdered during the war. At the time of his death, she was hospitalised in Peja, because she had problems during her pregnancy. This was during the Serbian campaign of ethnic cleansing, of which she was made victim when the Serbian medical staff at the hospital tortured rather than helped her (along with three other Kosovar women in her wing).

Kadire recounts this experience: “In one morning a nurse came with an injection and the only thing that I remember what she said was It is time for delivery. It was not yet delivery time for any of us but the nurse administered that injection anyway, and within 12 hours we had all aborted. It was one of my hardest moments in my life. The hospital staff had been told to leave the hospital and to execute all Kosovar patients who were present in the hospital.

“In that evening we got organized and four of us escaped from that hell. I still can not believe how we managed, I only know that it was midnight and we took a taxi and we traveled to Montenegro, because the whole city was empty. While I was in hospital I was informed that my husband was killed.”

In Montenegro she found her family and she was transferred as an urgent case for cure in Asllan Rusi-Don Bosko camp in Albania. She received medical treatments and the worst thing was that she realized that she can never get pregnant anymore due to consequences of the torture in Peja Hospital.

Kadire tells the story of her experience in the camp: “While I was in camp there were also three orphans. I thought by myself God what happened with those kids. I started to get to know them every day more and more and to take care of them as much as I could. Shpetim was only 6 years old. It was the only heart-warming thing compared to what I suffered, I knew that my husband died, I lost my child and I knew that I couldn’t have a baby anymore, so at least I could do something for those kids who were alone. Their mother was killed during the war while father took them to their relatives for taking care of them. They had fled as refugees to Albania together with their relatives, but I couldn’t understand why they were still alone”. Kadire said with tears in the eyes.

After three months all returned to Kosova and Kadire was still communicating with the children. They had developed an attachment to her—they constantly wanted to be close to her, and due to their desire. They were reunited with their father, and he and Kadire fell in love and have decided to get married.

Kadire speaks on this new chapter of hope: “It is a long time being together, we have blessed life with my husband, I also consider his kids as mine, I had never in my life told anyone that they aren’t my children, I always try to by them good things because I don’t want to let them think that I don’t care for them just because I am not their natural mother.”

Our Country Director for Women for Women International—Kosovo, Hamide Latifi, says the following of Kadire: “I can say that Kadire is very special woman, she was very active during manual sessions, she debated with other women in group. She was a good example for the group, she initiated and organised an excursion for a group of 90 participants.

Kadire talks about the experience: “This trip was incredibly exciting and satisfying for them, as for many women it was the first time touring their country Kosova and visiting those places and they were thankful to me for organizing and giving them a chance to see a god side of our living country. I have achieved this by being WfWI-Kosova participant because this program has helped me to be more aware on realizing that we can do something for ourselves, we just need to work on what we want.”

Kadire attended customer service & sales training, she wrote 4 letters to her sponsor. She used sponsorship funds for kids’ clothes, she liked every part of WfWI program, the topic which she most-liked was “ Economical Value of Housework”, in which she learned the value of women’s contributions in the home, even though this is not customarily counted as ‘work’ in formal sector economics. She thanks her sponsor and the organization for enabling this program.

While Kadire was in WfW program she also has attended training in “Family Health Education” supported by “Kryqi I Kuq” (Red Cross). After she finished training she has started to make different activities as a trainer and by helping women with women’s health, including breast exams for cancer. During June, July and August of 2008 she has organized trainings with 3 women groups of different ages in Drenas, where were present also WfWI-Kosova participants, and with 3 students groups of secondary school, where were held different topics such as wellness, family violence and they also had identified some domestic violence cases and together with her colleague they have transmitted this concern to local authorities in meeting that they had with President of Drenas Municipality and Director of Women Accommodation House Naime Sherifi. Kadire has also mobilized a group of 120 women from Drenas to get enrolled in WfWI-Kosova program and also she met some women from Novoberda and she informed and encouraged them to be enrolled in WfWI-Kosova program.

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