Partnerë për Fëmijët, a small Albanian non-governmental organisation work to improve the lives of children and youth. Our work is accomplished through working in partnership with others including children, youth, parents, communities, professionals, civil society organisations and governmental institutions. As part of our work, we are working to raise awareness on the consequences and impact of gender based violence on children, women and families.
With four other countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia we are implementing a four-year regional Balkan project funded by the European Union to foster the networking of CSOs in order to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills. This is while simultaneously increasing their campaigning and advocacy skills in relation to gender based violence, human trafficking and child protection.
Within this project, Partnerë për Fëmijët has conducted research into the understanding and behaviour of the public through focus groups and public opinion research, engaging with 160 respondents from five main cities of Albania on gender based violence.
Below is an example of one woman’s experience of gender based violence and the societal norms that kept her in her violent marriage for twelve years.
Surviving an Abusive Marriage
“I am 38 years old and was married for 12 years before divorcing my husband. Before I was married, I had an active life socially and professionally, but as soon as we were married, everything changed. Our relationship before we got married and started to live together was wonderful; he was very caring and supportive towards me but everything changed after we married.
“The violence started at the beginning of our marriage. I cannot say that it was because we suffered economically because he had his own business. I think his temperament was violent and possessive and that transformed him into the worst man possible. He used to check my phone, my bag and everything that he could check, he would use every reason to beat me or to call me names and often he would do this in the presence of our son. Sometimes he used to hide my passport and this happened when he had brutally beaten me and he was afraid that I would leave him.
You can ask why I didn’t divorce him earlier, but it’s not easy. I really loved him and I thought he would change. I thought if we had a child his behaviour would improve, but this didn’t happen. He became more violent because I could not dedicate all my attention to him anymore.
You know… in my city if you divorce your husband, people will say that you are not a good wife or woman because I was not able to manage my husband nor my marriage, and my family would be ashamed of and disgraced by me. We don’t accept divorce in our community. My mother said: “All the men are the same and you need to resist and work to keep your marriage as all of us do!”
When I started to think about divorcing him, I wasn’t thinking about myself and how was I going to re-start my life with my son or where I was going to live, but I was thinking how I am going to tell my family this news. Would the judge give me custody of my son? I have heard many cases similar to mine when the ex-husbands have paid the judges to obtain custody of the child and I did not want to be separated from my son. Finally, I decided to divorce him and to save my son and me from this abusive situation.
I have now lived with my son for 2 years, I go to work every day and I have reconnected with my friends and relatives, which I was not allowed to do for a long period. I’m not saying my life is beautiful know; I have many flashbacks and reminders that remind me what I have been through, but at least my home now is peaceful and a place where I can share wonderful moments with my son and my loved ones. It’s not the hell where I used to live for 12 years!”
Findings from the research have shown that many respondents will tolerate some form of violence, for example a slap or a husband yelling at his wife in the presence of other people. The protection services are not always supportive and where cases of gender based violence or domestic violence are reported, the police reaction to calls for assistance are neither quick and frequently they are not dealt with in a professional manner. The police will try to convince the couple to resolve the problems with each other or with the help of their respective families – not the responsibility of the police officers. Many examples can be found of these types of situations where the husband has killed his wife!
According to the National Strategy and Action Plan on Gender Equality 2016 – 2020, ‘in recent years Albania has improved the status of women and has promoted gender equality through national campaigns often organised and lead by civil society organisations. As regards the prevention of gender based violence and domestic violence, despite improvements especially in the legal framework, Albania has to take a series of other actions to meet the requirements of ratified international conventions and to show zero tolerance to violence.’
To address the issues of a lack of legislation implementation, lack of awareness of the general public, likewise the limited services for women seeking support or information and the country in general maintaining an old fashioned mindset, Partnerë për Fëmijët will work to raise the capacities of civil society organisations and public officials across the country. We at Partnerë për Fëmijët intend to increase the level of understanding on gender based violence through an awareness raising campaign, public debates, television documentaries and other training. Additionally, we will improve the monitoring and accountability of public institutions towards women and girls and to reduce the level of gender based violence and acceptance of this phenomena.
Gonxhe Kandri, Programmes Manager, Partnerë për Fëmijët