Women for Women International and DRC partner to support women's economic self-reliance in Roma Mahalla, Mitrovicë/a

In the beginning of September 2015, DRC invited experienced women NGOs from all over Kosovo to submit a proposal for a project aiming to enhance economic empowerment and design environmentally friendly activities for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian women in Roma Mahalla, Mitrovicë/a. 

Following the assessment of applicants and evaluation of proposals received, Women for Women International based in Prishtinë/a was selected to implement the project Fostering Self-Reliance among Roma, Ashkali & Egyptian Women in Mitrovicë/a".

On 29/10/2015, DRC signed a two-year contract with Women for Women International to provide targeted support and capacity-building for a Roma Mahalla-based women's NGO Gjuvljano Mangipe and to train 40 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian women from Roma Mahalla and 2 Korriku/Sitnicko Naselje neighbourhoods in Mitrovicë/a on how to identify opportunities for income generation and manage their income efficiently.

NGO Gjuvljano Mangipe (GjM) is supported by DRC under the Sida project: Support for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities in Mitrovicë/a. GjM is led by community members and is working towards establishing a social enterprise for handicrafts to support women's self-reliance. Work on expanding their online presence and establishing an online shop have already started and will continue with support from Women for Women International.

'Vullneti i Grave' continue their success at Handicrafts fairs in Prishtina and beyond

 

During the last 3 months, Roma Mahalla's women's group 'Vullneti i Grave' have gained valuable experience selling their hand-made creations at various fairs in Prishtina. They participated in a fair organized by the Ministry of Diaspora in June and just recently in the five-day 'Handicrafts and Cultural Heritage Fair 2013' organized by the NGO 'Open Door' which is held every year in September in Prishtina. 

With every fair, the women honed their skills in talking to customers and in displaying their products. Using that knowledge, Vullneti i Grave even organized their own fair with the support of DRC's implementing partner, NGO Lulebora. The Vullneti i Grave fair brought together five NGO's and women's groups from Mitrovicë/a and Fushë Kosova, giving them the opportunity to exhibit and sell their products on Mother Teresa Square in Prishtina.

If you are curious to see the products for yourself, Vullneti i Grave will be at the Handicrafts Fair in Gjilan from 30/9 to 1/10. For more information about the women, their stories and products, visit their website www.vullnetiigrave.com or follow them on facebook.

Vullneti i Grave are part of the community development component under the 'Stabilization of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Community Project' funded by Sida. 

Roma Mahalla Women's Group presents their work at Green Drinks Prishtina

 
Selvete Gashi-Director of NGO “Lulebora” making a brief presentation about the project

Selvete Gashi-Director of NGO “Lulebora” making a brief presentation about the project

On Thursday, 15/08/2013, NGO “Lulebora” and three women from the “Vullneti I Grave” group, have participated as the main guests of the Green Drinks event organized by The Ideas Partnership, at Shuala Bar, Pristina. Selvete Gashi-Director of NGO “Lulebora” made a brief presentation about the project. Beside project presentation, the Green Drinks event was a good opportunity for “Vullneti I Grave” to present and to sell their products. 

“Vullneti I Grave” is a group of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian women, skilled in handicrafts. “Vullneti I Grave” are part of the  Social Business Incubator established by the  Danish Refugee Council Kosovo under the ‘Stabilization of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities Project in Roma Mahalla, Mitrovicë/a’. The project integrates  economic development  and  community development  activities and is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and implemented by the Danish Refugee Council and NGO Lulebora.

“The Ideas Partnership” is a Kosovan NGO working on educational, cultural and environmental projects. “The Ideas Partnership” is working with partner organizations and local institutions, supporting the people of Kosovo to protect a unique cultural heritage, nurture the environment, and educate a new generation of citizens.

The “Green Drinks” event is an international concept, which takes place in hundred cities around the world. The idea of Green Drinks, is to bring people together once per month. People with professional involvement in the environment, people with personal interest, and people who are fancy of a drink of two (locally produced), are invited, for having good company and stimulating conversation. Lately, Pristina is one of those world cities. For each event, one or two guests are invited, to present their projects, and their products.

 

DRC supports literacy classes for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian women and youth

55 women and 20 youth from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities based in Roma Mahalla and 2 Korriku in Mitrovicë/a started literacy classes on July 15 ,2013. The initiative will be implemented by two RAE women LNGO’s (Roma Women for Roma Women and Women Group 2 Korriku). The project is supported by Caritas Kosovo and will be conducted by professional teachers appointed by the Department for Education in Mitrovicë/a.

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During the five months of working with the teachers, the women and youth will improve their reading and writing skills and be able to fill out official forms by themselves, write, read and sign letters. In addition, during the implementation of the project, DRC will work on capacity building of the two RAE women NGO’s.

In this way the RAE women and youth gain the ability to be more independent in society, find a job more easily and integrate more fully into society.

After completing the 5 months of classes they will be rewarded with certificates from the Department for Education which proves that they finished the course successfully.

 

The DRC Kosovo Stabilization of Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian Communities Project in Roma Mahalla Mitrovicë/Mitrovica is funded by SIDA.

When plastic is fantastic

Member of the Roma Mahalla women's group, Mitrovica

If you’ve been in Mitrovica recently you’ll have seen bright yellow cages in strategic locations in the city centre. You may also have seen women swinging classy crocheted handbags or tote bags in funky colours and made from a strangely familiar material.

It’s a new project being led by the NGO Lulebora with the Danish Refugee Council (and the support of the municipality for the placement of the cages) to recycle plastic bags by collecting, washing, drying, cutting and… crocheting them into new and gorgeous creations. The cages have been set out as collection points where the citizens of Mitrovica can leave the plastic bags they would otherwise throw away to landfill, choking Kosovo’s natural environment. Instead, the bags are now collected as valuable raw materials for a project set up in the Roma Mahalla in October last year.  Twenty one women have been trained in how to crochet, shown examples of products that can be made from crocheting plastic yarn, and have set up a small enterprise turning Kosovo’s ‘national flower’ - the plastic bags which bloom in every field and across every piece of waste ground – into something useful, and income-generating.

It requires a lot of plastic bags to be cut and knotted into these new uses, and a lot of work. The women say that they can get on with the crocheting at home in between other obligations with their households and family but working like this takes about three days to make just one of the bags. They produce a range of designs, some following patterns they’ve borrowed from abroad, and others using their own imagination to create shoulder bags, purses, baskets and floor mats (particularly useful for the bathroom because of course the feature which makes the cancer of plastic so toxic to the environment, where it takes 400 years to break down, is what makes it waterproof). They have been clever with the colours they use, sticking to single tone or two-tone designs, and – in the case of one particularly chic evening bag – using old black bin bags. They tell me they’ve even experimented with cassette tape and video tape for finer work. I love the idea of an iPod pouch made from old cassette tapes I can’t listen to any more.

As well as working individually at home, the women also come together three times a week for a few hours to talk and work together. In the UK such chances for women to work together on their handcrafts and have a gossip have been nicknamed ‘stitch and bitch’ sessions, but these women are serious, telling me about the psychosocial support and health education they’ve received through the project when they’ve come together each week.

The bags are reasonably priced, at four or five euros, depending on size and the complexity of the design. They’ve gone on sale at various handcraft fairs where the women have exhibited, and to visitors at the centre in Roma Mahalla. They’re also available in two shops in Mitrovica, and the women hope to expand the project, especially as the weather warms up later in the year and customers will want to have waterproof bags to take to the seaside with them. ‘We could go on a work trip to Durrës and sell along the beach,’ suggests Bukurije, the natural leader of the group, with a smile. She is from Roma Mahalla and has worked on the project as a volunteer to develop sales and marketing opportunities for them all. She says she doesn’t mind putting in the extra work because ‘the person who works most gains most’. Each woman only gets paid when a product she has made personally gets sold which encourages hard work and careful craftsmanship - and a moral dilemma for me trying to choose what to buy as I’m watched carefully by the group of jealous producers. I walk away with six different bags all knitted and knotted from a waste product that would otherwise be thrown away. Plastic has never been so beautiful.

Elizabeth Gowing is a founder of The Ideas Partnership, a Kosovan NGO working on educational, cultural and environmental projects. She is also the author of Travels in Blood and Honeybecoming a beekeeper in Kosovo (Signal Books, 2011). She can be reached at theideaspartnership@gmail.com

Originally published in Prishtina Insight.