Luli Feri 45 comes from the Egyptian community. Throughout all her life, she faced discrimination and according to her this was due to the color of her skin.
“I felt it from my first day at school. Nobody wanted to sit next to me. I left school soon after. My parents were happy with my decision. Today, I still feel the consequences of this. Without skills and education, finding a job is difficult. For years, I have been registered at the employment office as unemployed job seeker. Nobody has ever offered me a job”-she says.
Luli further recalls: “Every morning I would watch well-dressed people going to work, while I was trying hard to earn pennies through exhausting, informal work of collecting recycling materials in the trash bins of Tirana. For years, I have had to stand the terrible looks of people while I have been emptying trash bins to find what I was looking for. My family could hardly survive with the little money I earned. One day, I met an employment mediator who was coordinating an employment Programme for Roma and Egyptians. She asked me if I was interested to have a regular job with an international recycling company which has partnered with Tirana Municipality to formalize the recycling business. When I heard of the benefits, immediately I said yes.”
“The company trained me on job ethics, methods to collect and transport waste and other job-related issues. Today I work at Eco Tirana. It's the first regular and full-time job I have ever had. The company pays my social insurance. I have a uniform. I go to work at 6 am and go home at 4 pm. I get a salary every month. I never dared dream of this.”
“In the beginning it was very difficult to get used to the idea that I had to get my salary once a month since, I was used to earning little very day. Still, the salary I get now is much better than what I earned on my own. I work hard to meet employers’ expectations. Last month I received a bonus for a job well done. Most importantly I feel respected at the work place. Although I have not had an easy life, I'm proud of myself because I have lived with dignity. I have raised and taught my five children to be honest. This is how I challenge discriminatory attitudes. This is my answer to people who look down on us.”
UNDP, Tirana Municipality and ECO Tirana have signed an agreement to integrate socially and economically Roma and Egyptian recyclers within Tirana territory by developing and implementing a pilot transitory programme for recyclers.
At least 50 Roma and Egyptians who previously based their living on the informal waste collection have benefitted from this pilot programme which aims to ensure a smooth transition into the labor market through the regulated collection of recyclable materials “door to door”. The programme lasts for 8-months, but it will focus on the long run on the social integration of these individuals and their families.
This initiative is supported by the EU funded project “Economic and Social Empowerment for Roma and Egyptians in Albania- a booster for social inclusion. The project relies on Roma and Egyptian community led development and close cooperation with central and local authorities in the targeted areas. It supports the Government of Albania in its efforts to achieve the objectives set forth in the National Action Plan for the Integration of Roma and Egyptians, 2016-2020, while promoting respect for human rights, gender mainstreaming and intercultural dialogue, as prerequisites for the country’s EU integration.