Women for Women International

In countries affected by conflict and war, Women for Women International supports the most marginalized women to earn and save money, improve health and well-being, influence decisions in their home and community, and connect to networks for support. By utilizing skills, knowledge, and resources, she is able to create sustainable change for herself, her family, and community.
Jul 1, 2015

My Name is Kadire

Kadire Tahiraj is a mother of three, and lives with her husband and children in a small two room house.

“My sons are 16 and 22, and my daughter is 19. They are enrolled in school, but I worry that we may not be able to pay for their education much longer due to my husband’s small income as a factory worker. I graduated from secondary school where I received training to be a laboratory technician, and attended High Pedagogic School, but because of the political and economic turmoil in Kosovo, I could not complete my studies. Education is my unfulfilled dream, and I don’t want the same to be true for my children,” says Kadire.

At the beginning of the war, Kadire and her first husband were expecting a baby. When she began to have problems during the pregnancy however, she was hospitalized in Peja. There, along with three other Kosovar women, she was tortured by Serbian members of the medical staff. “One morning, a nurse came to us with injections. The only thing I remember her saying was, ‘It is time for delivery.’ But it wasn’t time for delivery. It was too early for all of us. In the twelve hours following that injection, we all had miscarriages. It was one of the hardest moments of my life.

The staff did this because they were told to leave the hospital and execute all of the patients present. That evening the four of us got organized and escaped from that hell. At midnight, we took a taxi and traveled to Montenegro, because the entire city of Peja was empty. I still cannot believe we escaped.” She found her family, but they told her that her husband had been killed, while she was in the hospital.

She badly needed medical care, and was rushed to a refugee camp in Albania. There, she received heartbreaking news: the injection she had been given prevented her from ever being able to have children. Kadire stayed in the camp while she recuperated.

“While I was in the camp there were three children and no one was taking care of them. I thought to myself, ‘God, what happened to those kids?’ Every day, I became more and more friendly with them, and tried to take care of them as much as I could. The youngest was only six years old. It was the only thing that gave me happiness after what I had endured. My husband had died, I had lost my child, and I would never be able to have a baby of my own. The least I could do was take care of these children who were all alone. Their mother had died during the war, and their father had taken them to relatives who were supposed to take care of them. Their relatives traveled to Albania with them, but in the refugee camp they were left on their own. It made me cry to think of them all alone,” says Kadire.

After three months, Kadire returned to Kosovo. She kept in touch with the children, as they missed her and wanted to stay close to her. Kadire eventually married their father, so the children could have a mother in their lives. “We have been together a long time. I have a blessed life with my husband. I consider the kids my own, and I have never told anyone that they are not my children. I always try to buy them nice things, because I don’t want them to think that I don’t care for them just because I am not their natural mother.”

Since enrolling with Women for Women, Kadire has been a powerful example for other women in the group. She is very active and talkative during training sessions, and she initiated and organized trips around Kosovo for 90 women. “For many women, this was the first time they had visited many of the places we went. They were very thankful for the chance to see a good side of our country. I have achieved this because of Women for Women. The program has helped me realize that we can achieve things for ourselves, we just need to work for what we want.”

Kadire attended customer service and sales training classes through Women for Women, and used her sponsorship funds to buy her children clothing. “I liked every part of the Women for Women training, but my favorite part was the ‘Economical Value of Housework.’ I am very thankful to both my sponsor and the organization for making the program possible.”

Kadire also took a family health education course through the Red Cross. “After completing my training, I taught other women about women’s health, and assisted in performing their physical exams. I also organized wellness and domestic violence trainings for Women for Women participants, as well as students from a local secondary school. In the process, my colleague and I helped to identify and report several cases of domestic violence.”

Kadire has encouraged more than 120 women to enroll in Women for Women in Drenas and Novoberda. She is a valuable ambassador for Women for Women’s work in Kosovo.

Oct 1, 2014

Meet Valbona

Valbona in her field
Valbona in her field

For Valbona, the war in Kosovo destroyed everything she and her family had. “We tried to stay in Kosovo for as long as we could. My husband and I fled our village to escape the violence. In April 1999, things became too unstable and dangerous, so we left for Albania.

When we came back, everything had changed. Most of the houses in our village were empty shells that had been abandoned, looted and burned. Everything that we had was destroyed. Everything that we owned was stolen. We were lucky that they didn’t burn our house,” recalls Valbona.

“Learning how to grow food – and how to make an income through horticulture – were the most important lessons I learned from joining Women for Women International’s program. We traveled together around Kosovo to see different fields and greenhouses that could be used to grow vegetables all year long. I learned how to create a garden and grow seedlings. This inspired me and took my breath away. I saw that I could do it myself.”

Today, Valbona employs six of her family members and sells the cucumbers and peppers they grow in the local markets in and around Pristina. Inspired by her success, four other women in her community have started gardens of their own. “Horticulture gave me an escape and a sense of pride,” says Valbona.

Reinvesting her business profits in her family’s future, Valbona began to save money regularly. “Before, we didn’t have enough money, and we didn’t know how to save up money. Now, I am never without money. Even if we do not have much, we have something. Now, I have a personal bank account.”

Valbona and the other women in their village have found a new sense of independence. “Before, we didn’t really go out of the house because we were housewives, and we didn’t have a reason. And without a reason, we couldn’t go out of the house. There was always someone to go out and run errands for me, and I would only leave the house to visit family members. Now, I am connected with my neighbors and we formed a community. We can go wherever we want, and it’s not such a big deal anymore.”

Inspired by her success so far, Valbona has set new goals for herself. “I want to have a new greenhouse, and I want to keep getting more women involved with building an irrigation system,” she says. Tapping her new network, Valbona is confident that together she and the other women in her community will be able to achieve any challenging goal they set for themselves.

Valbona
Valbona

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Aug 29, 2014

Meet Zarghuna

Decades of violence in Afghanistan have left millions of women and girls displaced or widowed. Common discriminatory practices, amplified by extremist groups, often make it dangerous for women to seek education, healthcare services, employment, or, in some cases, even to leave their homes.

Women like Zarghuna have not lost hope. With your help, the Women for Women International – Afghanistan team provides our yearlong training programs for women, as well as programs to engage men.

One of my friends told me about Women for Women International and how it provided training for women. When I joined, I found myself in a group of 25 women. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. There are other women, who have the same pain and the same hardships. To realize that was amazing. I went to the organization for a year until I graduated. After that I succeeded in finding a job in embroidery and handicraft. And I was always thinking about how I could build my own business. Eventually I decided to take a micro-loan of $500. From there I started selling my embroidered products and my business grew quickly. I am so proud to be able to tell you that I have $30,000 in the bank. And just a month ago, I was able to purchase machinery for $18,000 to improve my business. One day I know I will have a huge business in Afghanistan. I only wish to see peace in my country and expand my business more and more. For now, I am so happy that I am providing employment to 120 women, women who once suffered a lot. It’s not only women that I hire. I also have men as employees and helping us with the sales.

I am always talking with the women. I wanted to share all my experiences and I tell them to be strong, as I became strong. I explain to them how I transformed from victim to active citizen. “So you have it. This is a lesson learned for each of you. You have to take that step to move forward.” And as for my daughter—this year she is graduating from high school and I have a dream to see her in a university. On her graduation day from university, I will be relaxed.

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