Stories From Women
Nefise is 57 years old, she is married with Ahmet (63), she lives in a house with her husband and his second wife Melihate with whom he has a son Asdren (15). Nefise is a noble woman and great-hearted, but she has had a not-so-easy life. She was married for 20 years with Ahmet but she couldn’t have a baby, she had some problems because her babies couldn’t survive after birth, so her husband had decided to get married for the second time, to have children and to extend his family. Nefise agreed with him by telling him that she will accept his second wife, and the childrens that she will have I will love them as they were mine. So Ahmet got married with Melihate and after the short time she give birth to a son. Since than Nefise”s life begin to be more difficult. She had to go beyond different situations by being a housewife and not able to be a mother, in front of an educated woman and blessed with a son. This situation Nefise explain with only two words but with a big weight: “ Being husband’s second wife is like being a live in a grave.”
Melihate is a professor in secondary school in Vushtrri, son Asdren was born in time when serbian goverment in Kosova has excluded all students and teachers from school’s buildings, so Melihate was obligated to start working with students in private buildings after three weeks. So Nefise during whole time as she said, she has kept a promise, she has taken care of Asdren as he was her child, and she continues doing that until now.
For Nefise a year 2001 is a big turn on her life, she enrolled in WfWI-Kosova program and she attended handicraft training. While she was in program Nefise was very active and she had a very good results in different technics, due to this after she graduated in WfWI she was offered from WfWI-Kosova to be a trainer on weaving, so she has trained 4 women groups on weaving. She had meeting with women of Breznica village, she mobilised women to be enrolled in WfW program and she also encouraged graduated women to do handicrafts and to bring and sell them at WfWI-Kosova stores.
Nefise is a model for every kosovar Mothers, this year she has participated in some women meetings as a guest speaker, where she told to the participants about her life path and her development, from an isolated women between four walls, in an active women in family and community, with decisionmaking capacity and courage for her life.
Nefise said:” WfWI-Kosova has helped me on improving my economic situation and being an independent woman, this is my success.”
After 7 years being an active woman, in 2008 Nefise got price for the most successful women of WfWI-Kosova program out of around 20 000 women, and she was honoured with certificate, during the graduation ceremony of 200 women from three different WfWI-Kosova groups.
At her spech she sad, ” I was surprised, I was touched, I was very happy and I think I have deserved because it has been a long time being with WfWI- Kosova, always thinking how to generate incomes, how to help other women, also my family were very happy for me, my friends. I tell to my friends and women you should never surrounder, because your work will be rewarded one day.”
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 forany 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 organised 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 realised 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 startedto 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 organised 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 mobilised 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.
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 touching 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 asscociation “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.
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 to 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 Committee 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.”
Recently, I met Nazmije from the village of Cikatove. In a room lit by a single candle, I saw her eyes, so shiny and full of life. I heard a voice that was proud and a story that was sad. As we spoke into the cold night, I could feel in my heart that, yes, she is like me and I am like her. We spoke woman to woman. She told me her story:
"When I started the program, I was 41 years old and I thought to myself that I am out of life. War has left lot of pain in me. Running and hiding from place to place inside my own country was such horror. When I returned with my five children to my village after the war ended, I came back to nothing. I was heartbroken.
Homeless, jobless and sick, we still had to start a life. I took so many medicines to recover but found no relief from my pains. The best medicine for me was Women for Women International’s program. The classes woke me up. I could not believe that one day I will be able to earn money myself and I will be able to support my family.
The letters I received from my sponsor Shan, warmed my heart. I thought how a woman from far way who has never seen or met me has put her faith in me and made a commitment to change my life. If she was so committed to help me improve my life, why should I not do it for myself?
Each time I received a letter I read it many times, over and over again, especially when I felt low or had doubts about my future. I promised myself that I will not betray my sponsor but I will do everything I could so her investment in me is worthy and not lost. Now I see there no way back to a life half asleep.
Now I have joined a group of women in my village to work on looms. The loom work has become part of my life. Because we don’t have another space, I put the loom in the same room where my husband, five children and I sleep. I work there when I finish cleaning and cooking. The loom sounds to me like music, and it makes me feel good and calm."
Elhame Smaili is an inspiration. Although she is 60 years old, she continues to learn new skills and build hope for the future. She endured many hardships before joining the Women for Women International Kosovo Sponsorship and ReneWLS program with her daughter in-law in May 2003. During the war in Kosova that ended in 1999, her only son was killed, and her husband died of a heart attack shortly after the war. Her eight-year-old niece Arbresha, developed a physical handicap following complications with an illness during the war, and now walks with much difficulty. Elhame's house was burned down during the war, like many houses located in Cirez, her village in the Drenica area. Although an organization was slated to assist her family with reconstructing the house, they received only minimal aid and live in very poor conditions in this house. She lives with her daughter-in-law Mihrije, three grandsons between the ages of 7 and 15, and three nieces ranging from eight to 13 years old. With determination and an energetic spirit, Elhame and Mihrije opted for the beekeeping course as a way to develop skills to earn an income. Now recent graduates of the program, Elhame says that she and Mihrije have learned more about the world through their participation and now have a broader perspective. Both women are grateful to their sponsors Donna Wise and Sharon Gladden for bringing "new light to their home." Elhame and Mihrije have recently received three beehives through a project implemented by Women for Women International, and funded by a Swiss organization. They have begun their beekeeping activities, putting their Women for Women International training into action: "I am finally active and involved in the work," says Mihrije. "There are barriers such as poverty, but I have to challenge them, especially to support my children. I hope that Tahire, our cousin will help us to work with bees, since she was the best in the group of women beekeepers." Tahire, 26, who lives in the same village with Elhame and Mihrije agreed: "Of course I will help them, there is no question. I hope that one day honey from our village finds its way into the market and onto the tables of the best hotels."
Emine Gashi is a widow and mother of 7 children. Her husband died 10 years ago. Before joining the Women for Women International program Emine was obliged to ask her brothers-in-law's permission if she needed to leave the home because of her widowhood. Her brother-in-law made all the family decisions for Emine and her children. She has been simply a kind of "slave" to serve and raise her children - but she had no rights to them or their upbringing. Until she enrolled in our program, Emine believed she couldn't challenge the male-dominated mentality. "As a widow it was hard for me to challenge victimization. I couldn't go out alone and make decisions for my children and myself. I never dared to go out of the house alone. I lived 30 years near by Gadime's Cave, a tourist area, but I never dared to visit it before the program. After I graduated, I visited it with a group of women," she says. "Since attending the program, my life has changed. I am more self-confident, more courageous to speak and to manage my life and my family. Today I go out when I need to go, and I no longer ask for permission. I go to see the doctor, do shopping, and finish my work outside the house. I now ask for opinions, but I know that in the end the decisions are mine." Emine has become very active in her community. She meets regularly with fellow women graduates. "I help our community leader, because she has lot of work to do. The more independent I become, the more my family values me. Everyone respects my work and the direction that I am building my life. I did not know to read and write when I joined WfWI-Kosovo program. I took the opportunity to attend literacy courses organized by WfWI-Kosovo, and I have learned to read and write." "I now help support my daughter's medical treatment in Italy, where she had two heart surgeries. Because I didn't have any funds, I took a loan. I repaid it by selling milk and vegetables from my garden." "Today I am proud with my work. I am now able to meet more of my family's needs, and most importantly, I support my daughters' education."