The high mountains of Tropoja, municipality in Kukës county, northern Albania, near the border with Kosovo[i]* is hiding astonishing sceneries, but also people affected by COVID-19 pandemic. The total population is 20,517 in an area of 1058.04 km2, but only 19 people live across one square kilometre.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all, but mostly elderly people, isolated citizens, women, vulnerable groups such as children, Roma people. Restricted movement, isolation, and absence of basic food supplies, constant worry and the inability to continue life normally. Issues people in this area are faced with every day.
“In this state of isolation and closure of many businesses, many families with low incomes find themselves in more difficulties daily. The hope lies in each of our abilities to help in assuring them that they are not alone in this battle”, this was the main worry of the good people of the Civil Society organisation ‘Women in Public Services’ (WPS), Albania.
The action was of utmost importance, so in cooperation with Institute of Romani Culture in Albania the organization delivered food and hygienic packages for all Roma families, one of the most marginalized groups in Tropoja, the Northeast and poorest place of Albania.
The humanitarian action hasn’t stopped there. Women in rural areas are the highly disadvantaged target group. Having them in the main focus, WPS Albania supported women and girls in need of Tropoja, which are a part of the ongoing or already implemented projects financially supported by United National Development Programme (UNDP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with food packages at least for a week.
The problem, however continues. Especially for single mothers who are raising children alone, unemployed women, those living in rural and remote areas. The COVID-19 virus discriminates additionally. Those people have lost even the tiny opportunities they have had so far – informal work such as artisan work or women housekeeping at the guesthouses. What is most worrying – nobody knows how long the pandemic will last.
The work of WPS Albania in helping communities affected by COVID – 19 doesn’t stop with assisting the people in Tropoja. Following the entry into force of the government’s quarantine measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, WPS Albania started actions on social media, distributing valuable information, from official sources about the measures to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID -19. Information on available services being provided online such as legal or medical advice, mental health care.
Together with the volunteers they organized live Facebook mentoring sessions with lawyers or doctors, as well as reading online books in order to enrich the activities that can be done in times of isolation.
WPS Albania also joined forces with a group of other CSOs and professionals in Tirana and other cities, to create a virtual platform on Facebook, named “Better Together”, with the intention to give opportunity to different people to engage in helping those who are most in need and unable to cope with the economic, social, and psychological difficulties created by the pandemic.
The virtual platform “Better Together” was created by a board of directors from members CSOs including Genatiana Susaj from AIKIDO Albania, Mimoza Hajdarmataj from the organization Women in Public Service (WPS) Albania, Irena Shtraza from the AWEN, Marjana Meshi from Different and Equal and human rights activists Deni Sandxhaku, Aida Yzeiri, Aurora Birbilaj, Vasilika Laci.
The “Better Together” Platform, has already become a bridge between several donors, individuals, public institutions and actors such as Municipalities, child protection activists and ordinary citizens who need help now more than ever.
Women in Public Service (WPS) Albania, is a relatively new organization established in 2018 with the following intentions: (1) Encouraging, promoting and empowering Albanian women and young girls to become a part of leadership in all areas of public life, such as public administration, politics, economy, business, agriculture, media, military, civil society etc. as well as empowering through educational and vocational training; (2) Encouraging and collaborating with other organizations within and outside Albania, focused on gender issues, the role of women and young girls in development, European integration, peace and security, by supporting and encouraging cross-border cooperation, regional and international co-operation to strengthen the role of women in the European Integration, politics, business, civil society, education, media, military, art, culture, sport, rural development, environment, local government, prevention and fight against gender-based violence and discrimination for a stabilized and sustainable region.
[i] *This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.