During the war, my family (my husband, five children and parents-in-law) and I were forced by the Serb police to leave our house. We had no choice but try to escape to Albania. On our way there the Serb forces maltreated us in different ways, by searching us, threatening to kill us etc. But fortunately we managed to cross the border and go to Albania.
We settled in a village near the city of Kukes where we stayed for three months. After the war ended and Kosovo was freed, my family and I returned to our village and we found our house burned down like most of the other houses in our village. After the war, different organizations offered help to rebuild people's houses, among them an Austrian Organization.
My family and I belong to the Ashkali community therefore the Austrian Organization wanted to rebuild only our house. However, my father in law refused the offer because he said he didn't want to be privileged for they lived together with the Albanian inhabitants for so many years now and that he would accept their help only if the organization helped others rebuild their houses too.
We started everything from the beginning. The factory where my husband used to work was closed so we started practicing agriculture only for the family consumption. We never tried to sell our products.
I often visited my sister who at that time was a "Women for Women" training participant. I was amazed by the change that women made in their lives after taking these training classes. I mentioned this to my family and told them that it would be great if the women of our village took these classes too, which I did. I took the Agriculture training classes. But since the Women for Women conducted the trainings in my home, I participated in the Gardening training as well.
After I finished the training I started my own association. Now I have a small farm of dairy cows and sell all kinds of dairy products. I live near the Prishtina Airport and luckily for us, the airport was expanding so they bought a piece of our land. I then used that money to buy the cows.
Hava with cows credit: Women for Women International
The differences are huge, not just for me but also for the other women of my community. The training has helped me and my family in many ways; we even changed our eating habits -we eat healthy and nutritious food now. Before the training we never grew lettuce or any other green salads. Now we grow them for our personal consumption and also manage to sell them. We have improved our living conditions and I am able to pay for my children's education.
Due to the training I also know my rights and feel better able to stick up for myself. For example I defended my rights the moment when my parents in law wouldn't support me by saying that it was not a good thing for a woman to go to people's houses and invite women to join the training, that people would start talking, etc.. But, I was determined to make a change in my village because it was almost forgotten by other organizations. I gathered the women who wanted to join the training and so the program started in my village.
I've become the leader of my group. After we finished the training we wanted to do something for the village. The garbage all over the place was something that really bothered us for a long time and so we decided to go to the Municipality Office and ask for containers. Dealing with this issue was not easy for us. We faced different hardships but nevertheless, we didn't quit. The men of our village were not supportive at all, they even mocked us for taking this initiative telling us that it was not something women should try solving.
The Municipality leader refused to meet us at first, but we were strongly determined and didn't give up until eventually, we achieved our goal; the Municipality placed the containers in our village. Now we have the full support of the major. He is supporting the women of my village with greenhouses, cattle etc.
The training helped me in so many ways -it helped me to understand the real importance of education therefore I work really hard so that my children can get an education and have a chance to live better lives.
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