The afternoon breeze is hot as we arrive in Kamza area in the outskirts of Tirana. I am in Albania together with Kvinna till Kvinna colleagues to participate in the annual International Human Rights Film Festival. This event brings together human rights activists, students, cineastes, as well as public officials from Albania and abroad. We are here to discuss and reflect on the theme of “violence against women” throughout a few intense days.
We enter a tall, but surprisingly empty building, where our panel discussion on “Violence against women – a men’s issue?” is soon to begin. I see a few men hanging around by the entrance and I invite them to join us. As the panelists start talking I notice that there are both men and women in the audience. A sigh of relief runs through me. The worst case scenario would be that we are here to talk about the role of men – without any men in the audience.
One of the panelists, Besnik Leka, working with CARE International’s “Young men initiative”, tells the story of how they work to reach out to young men and women in Kosovo. An important lesson learned is to make use of social media and popular musicians, such as rap artists, to trigger interest on issues of gender equality among young people. Besnik continues to talk about CARE’s efforts to prevent violence against women by challenging traditional views on masculinity and what it means to be a man. Moving away from the ideal that young men need to “Man up” – meaning be strong, self sufficient and non emotional.
I immediately sense unrest in the room. Several people in the audience start making noise and comments are thrown around. Since my skills in Albanian are non-existing, I can’t really tell what they are saying, but there is no doubt that people are reacting to what’s being said among the panelists.
Suddenly, a man in the audience asks for the floor. He wants to convince the rest of us that violence against women is not a problem in Kamza. In reaction to this someone else points to the fact that 24 women are killed every year in Albania as a result of violence afflicted by someone close to them. Then another man, a public official in Kamza, enters the discussion. He underlines that perhaps this is a problem in Albania at large, but not here in Kamza. Time is up, we need to close the discussion despite the feeling that there is much, much more to be said.
When we leave the tall building in Kamza the air is cooler and the sun has set. The words of one of the panelists, John Crownover from CARE International, come back to me: “Violence against women is everybody’s business!” This message is clear as crystal. But, after the reality check I just experienced, I feel that there is a long way to go before these words will not provoke those who are not yet on our side for women’s human rights.
Anna Sundén, Coordinator Kosovo and Albania, Kvinna till Kvinna