Ljiljana Dražević is the Director of Inspiracija, one of the local NGOs DRC has been supporting in Kosovo through funds from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency represented by the Embassy of Sweden in Kosovo (Sida).
Ljiljana’s mission is for traditional weaving not to be forgotten. Her passion started when she was 13 years old, when she learned the first steps in this craft with the help of her grandmother. After acquiring basic skills this way, she moved onto attending formal trainings in Belgrade. She quickly understood the importance of keeping traditional techniques alive, and now utilises hand-made wooden looms for her activities.
In 2017, Ljiljana approached DRC as Inspiracija’s Director to offer her contribution to the women empowerment programme run in South Mitrovicë/a and targeting the members of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. As a result, cooperation has been ongoing through the implementation of several projects in Roma Mahalla/Mahala. The activities implemented by Inspiracija contribute to tackling the challenges faced by Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian women, who are typically confined to a background role in their community; this leads to lower education levels, almost no participation in the labour market and close to no decision-making power.
Over 2 years, 26 women acquired weaving skills in an environment based on team-work, tolerance and mutual respect. In Ljiljana’s words “learning a trade and gaining self-confidence will help women to be competitive on the labour market and it paves the way for continuous empowerment”. As a result, for instance, recently some trainees participated as models in a showcasing event where they presented their own products – which was unthinkable for a Roma or Ashkali woman until not long ago.
The focus of the activities run by Ljiljana is on producing items that have an added appeal based on the traditional techniques employed and, on the fact, that they are crafted by women belonging to marginalised groups. This has resulted in a significant number of items sold both at events organised by the NGO, as well as from the small shop she runs in the heart of North Mitrovica/ë.
Now, Ljiljana wishes to continue to play a role in women empowerment through her traditional weaving courses, as well as to focus on working with recycled materials so as to promote environmental protection in her community.