In Albania, new horizons open for domestic violence survivors

AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGN IN SCHOOLs ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. (Photo: UNDP ALBANIA)
AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGN IN SCHOOLs ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. (Photo: UNDP ALBANIA)

Rina spent the last three months of her last pregnancy at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in Tirana. She and two of her younger children, aged 2 and 5, had fled their abusive home in Burrel, in the mountains of northern Albania. Rina's eyes fill with tears when she speaks of the eldest son she had to leave behind. But she never wants to go back to her previous life.

“It is a miracle that the baby is born healthy after the horrors that my body and mind experienced at the hands of my husband while pregnant,” she says, her voice trembling.

Highlights

  • 3 in 4 Albanian women on maternity leave experienced domestic violence in the past 12 months; about 59 percent reported experiencing some form of domestic violence during their lifetime.
  • More than two thirds of domestic violence cases are now handled through the Community Coordinated Response system.
  • The system allows for close cooperation between public entities such as police, court, health and education authorities on cases of domestic violence.

Through local TV, Rina heard about the Community Coordinated Response (CCR) system allowing for close cooperation between public entities such as police, court, health and education authorities to offer comprehensive solutions to victims of domestic violence, and turned to them for help. With the assistance of the domestic violence coordinator of her municipality and the police department, she requested a protection order and filed for divorce. Given that her life was in danger, the response team referred her to the shelter.

"When women and their families arrive here, not only do they find a calm and secure environment, but they receive a combination of services such as medical attention, psychological counselling, legal representation, child care and employment support,” said Juli Vokopola, Head of Social Services Unit at the shelter.

Adelina Farrici, Mayor of Burrel, says that since the system was established two years ago, it has received around 100 cases of domestic violence, with more than two thirds of them being handled by through the CCR model.

“Prior to establishment of CCR, we had typically five to six cases annually,” she says. “As the numbers indicate, domestic violence has been present in our community all along, but encouraged by the improved coordinated services, women are turning in larger numbers for help.”

A 2013 nation-wide domestic violence survey supported by UNDP revealed that 3 in 4 Albanian women on maternity leave had experienced domestic violence in the past 12 months; about 59 percent of surveyed women reported experiencing some form of domestic violence during their lifetime.

To respond to the widespread violence in Albanian homes, the Government, with UNDP support, made rapid progress in criminalizing violence against women; spreading the CCR model in several municipalities across the country; strengthening law implementation mechanisms; and establishing sheltering services.

With the Istanbul Convention taking effect in August 2014, the Government, with UNDP support, will launch an innovative online system to track domestic violence cases nation-wide, as well as make available a hotline to encourage survivors to report their domestic violence incidents.

These interventions are part of a joint UN programme on gender equality and against gender-based violence supported by the Government of Sweden.

Back at the shelter, Rina feels times are changing, and she is not alone. With the support of the shelter staff, she and her children are recovering. Rina looks positively to the future as she participates in vocational training programmes and  is advancing with legal proceedings to reunite with her older son.