Light at the end of the tunnel: Domestic violence in Albania

Tirana students during the 16 Days of Activism against domestic violence

When Drita, 22, recently arrived at the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse, near Tirana, she had already been head of household, a mother, a wife, a girl, and a dreamer. She had also endured violence at home.

Her husband had changed after the birth of their daughter. His broken promises were replaced by violence and abuse. The first time she ended up with bruises on her face, she confided in a colleague who responded, “All men are the same. Things will become easier as years go by. We women won’t be able to avoid the stick.”

Drita eventually decided to leave everything behind in search of a new life. She abandoned her violent home and sought protection at the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse. It was a place where she no longer felt alone in her hopelessness.
“This shelter is part of the state social service structures,” explains Fatbardha Hoxhalli, director of the Centre. “It constitutes an important service in the overall mechanism for the coordination of work and referral of domestic violence cases set up at several municipalities throughout the country, with the support of UNDP and other organisations. “

Through cooperation between the Albanian government and UNDP, the Centre offers comfortable services and, above all, a high level of security for the women and children sheltered there.

As many as 165 residents, together with their children, have found a safe haven and a home in the centre since 2011. It offers dedicated services of qualified staff including a psychological counsellor, social workers, a medical doctor, and a legal adviser, to help many of them return to normal life. The staff help develop a support plan together with the women themselves.

 “If someone shows signs of suffering from serious depression, she attends counselling sessions with the psychologist, or is invariably involved in therapeutic vocational activities, such as embroidery, gardening and landscaping, cooking, or tailoring,” says Ms. Hoxhalli. “If a woman is fit to work but does not have the required training or qualifications, then she is enrolled in vocational courses which generally lead to her employment with the help of employment offices or our partner business or other organisations,” she says.

Drita has managed to start a new life away from violence. She is now a trained designer and believes that is her future, after her legal problems are resolved. She is steadily approaching to the light at the end of her tunnel.

In Albania, domestic violence affects individuals, families and entire communities, but people are reluctant to talk about it or treat it openly, leaving survivors like Drita to suffer in silence.

To respond to the widespread violence, the Government with UNDP support, made rapid progress in criminalizing violence against women, expanding a multi-disciplinary response approach in several municipalities across the country, strengthening law enforcement and establishing shelter services.

To ensure better follow-up in all the cases, the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, supported by UNDP, has set up an innovative online system to track domestic violence cases nation-wide, In addition, a hotline encourage survivors to report their domestic violence cases.

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

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