Website Link Includes News 24 TV Albania Segment on Tragedies of Poor
Women in Albania, Especially Single Mothers and Rural Women.
ALBANIA - POOR WOMEN CONTINUE TO SUFFER LEGAL
ADVOCACY EXCLUSION & COMPOUNDED DISCRIMINATION
Aida Dervishi – Women News Network – WNN
Tirana (WNN): As poverty remains a serious plague throughout South Eastern Europe and the Balkans, especially Albania, rural women who have migrated to urban areas are one of the most vulnerable groups facing hardship and abuse. This is especially true in regions where advocacy programs for women who live at the very bottom of society are few as social services and legal programs are in short supply.
As a rural mother in
Fleeing with her children from Northern Albania to
Sukth, a town 17.07 km (approximately 10.5 miles) east of Tirana, the capital of
Thrown quickly into being a new ‘single-head-of-household’ after divorcing her husband, Xheka left her home facing little access to career training, housing or financial support. Without money from her husband Zana was left with dwindling resources, no home and a mounting desperation with the responsibility of raising her four children alone.
Her options were low. She was working as a singer in a bar, one of two jobs, when she came home on a cold night in November 2010 discovering her four children had died in a fire; a fire that was caused by the flame from one burning candle. It is not known exactly why the candle was burning, but it is guessed it may have been to give the children some form of heat.
“According to a national sample survey on gender based violence produced by the National Statistics Agency, with UN support, of 2,590 families surveyed, it was found that: 50.6 percent of women have suffered emotional abuse; 39.1 percent of women have suffered psychological abuse; 31.2 percent of women have suffered physical abuse and 12.7 percent of women have suffered sexual abuse,” said a March 2010 report from United Nations Albania.
In fleeing from her husband Xheka had to face many obstacles. It wasn’t the first time she faced hardship.
“I was an orphan,” she said. Growing up as an orphan, and later as a woman who suffered under severe abuse from her husband, Zana knew how poverty and abuse causes isolation and how isolation keeps women from seeking help.
Even with divorce laws that strive to bring
equality to both spouses,
In spite of this, a show of public support of
women during election voting can be seen in a March 2009 survey by United
The loss of Zana’s children Robert, Vilson,
Kasandra and Nertila, in November 2010, aged thirteen, eleven, nine and six
years old respectively, provoked a bitter reaction and debate among the public
Because her income was so low, Zana could only afford to live with her children in a one room hut. “Despite the economy’s growth in recent years, almost 24 per cent of the population lives below the poverty level of USD 2 a day,” says the IFRC – International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The rented home had deplorable conditions; conditions that eventually led to the death of her children.
Asphyxiated during a fire from poisonous gases, the sleeping children died quickly. The small one room structure had no heat and no electricity as the night air temperature began to drop in November on the night of the children’s death.
Since Zana had gotten behind in the payment of her utility bills, the heat and electricity for her hut in Sukth had been completely turned off.
But the most important question remains: As the bills piled up who could Zana Xheka go to for help?
“Gender-based discrimination is prevalent in
The deaths of the Xheka children brought an
immediate reaction by the Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania. “The death
of Robert, Wilson, Kassandra and Nertila in Sukth of Durres rings the bell for
the inadequate social protection system of children in
Before the death of her children, Zana had tried to get economic assistance from local authorities as a single ‘mother-in-need’ raising four children alone, but her search for assistance fell through the cracks. It was only after her childrens’ deaths that local authorities mobilized to cover the costs to bury her children.
“The case in question raises serious doubts on local authorities endeavor to protect and ensure the welfare of children, and at the same time they should be more concerned about the shortcomings of the social institutions in the country,” continued Hazizaj.
As one of the poorest countries in Europe,
“The poorest of the poor, who comprise about 5 per cent of the population, struggle to put adequate food on the table each day,” says the IFRC.
Over the past few years though the government of
In spite of gains much more legal protection and
justice for women is still needed in
“The Ministry of Justice, for example, has failed to secure lawyers trained in domestic violence issues to provide free legal aid; in 2009 no victims were defended by a court appointed lawyer, and the 2008 law on legal aid is not yet in force.” said Amnesty International in March 2010.
According to the annual Mother’s Index report on women’s and children’s well being,
Over the last few years, statistics point to the
fact that conditions for women and children in
The problem lies in identifying families who should benefit from social assistance programs. Those in the greatest need are often also those who isolate the most and are hardest to access.
“Isolation is an incredible problem for the
advancement or empowerment of rural women,” says Julie Vullnetari from
Tracking internal migration is part of the challenge. Numerous rural women migrating into urban regions go uncounted and without aide while others simultaneously, and wrongfully, benefit in two different regions. Lengthy procedures with numerous documents and certificates that need to be filled out to receive aid also contributes to problems.
In March 2010, Amnesty International formally asked the Albanian government to “provide adequate resources to programmes to ensure the economic independence of victims of domestic violence, including access to training and employment.” They also asked authorities to “ensure their eligibility for social assistance and social housing.”
Because many women in need do not receive free government sponsored legal-aid or adequate housing from any state sponsored program, Zana Xheka, and countless other women, have been left out of legal rights protections under the law. Many women are still reluctant to challenge their husbands in court. Other women cannot pay for even the basic fees involving their court process.
“Women who want to escape violence cannot afford the tax payable to the court to dissolve the marriage,” said the Counseling Centre at the Women’s Forum Elbasan, a counseling, shelter and legal advocacy center for women suffering from domestic violence.
“They even have to pay out of their own pockets for the psychologist who asks the children which parent they want to stay with,” continued the Women’s Counseling Centre at Elbasan. “Most of the time men do not pay the alimony set by the court.”
In spite of ongoing needs and challenges for rural
women, like Zana Xheka, who have migrated for work to suburbs outside the