Hope and friendship in Kosovo
Hope and friendship in Kosovo
"Participating in the progamme changed how I feel – I am more free and friendly."
My name is Paulina Stachnik - I am the Digital Marketing Officer at Women for Women International - UK. This week, I had the incredible privilege of meeting some of the women who participate in our one-year programme in Kosovo. Although the war in Kosovo was brought to a ceasefire in 1999, the small yet resilient nation continues to reel from the effects of the conflict. Kosovo struggles with the highest unemployment rate in Europe – over 45% – and women in particular have limited access to education (four times more women are illiterate compared to men), affordable healthcare and community networks. Many women still also bear the trauma of violence as an estimated 20,000 women and girls experienced sexual abuse during the war.
"I am very happy now because I have gone out and seen things - before I only knew where Albania was on a map."
However, while the reality of daily challenges is distinct, so is the sense of hope. I met so many incredible survivors who – against many odds – have managed to slowly rebuild their lives through resourcefulness, hard work and sheer determination. Women who cultivate crops to feed their families, women who make and sell the most beautifully intricate handicrafts, women who have started their own shops, hair salons, cooperatives and businesses. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends: women who are the role models for the future of Kosovo.
"I have educated my sons by selling milk, cheese and eggs."
I met Sylhane, pictured above in her greenhouse, who resolved to see her sons become educated and spoke to us about her life since graduating from the programme two years ago. "I have finished only primary school, " she shared, "My parents had ten children, so they only educated one son." Thanks in part to support from her husband, who also encouraged her to attend trainings, Sylhane has been able to not only develop her self-reliance but also become an example of progress in her home and community. "For me it is enough to have gotten rid of the shyness and that I can go out and be free. Participating in the programme changed how I feel – I am more free and friendly, not just with Albanians."
"The classes that I attended really made me brave – they pulled out the best from us."
I feel incredibly honoured to have heard the stories of these admirable women and to have the opportunity to contribute to an organisation which has positively impacted so many lives. It was amazing to continuously hear that one of the most meaningful benefits of participating in our programme are the friendships which have been formed as a result of learning together and leaning on one another.
To the women of Women for Women International - Kosova, who have opened their hearts and arms to us in the warmest embrace, and left us inspired beyond words, I can say simply say "Faleminderit."