Northern Albania: guesthouse, women and emancipation
January 28, 2020 || 614 views
In Koman, northern Albania, Ermira runs a small guesthouse. With other women she has created a group that values local productions in restaurants and accommodation facilities in the village
The interview was originally published on Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa, by Francesco Martino
She runs a guest house in Koman. What are the tourist opportunities in this area of Albania?
In recent years in Koman there has been an increase in the number of tourists, especially tourists looking for an unusual experience. We have an offer that looks at agritourism, traditions, but also historical and cultural tourism, given that here is the so-called Dalmaca castle, the epicenter of the ‘Koman culture’ developed in the area between the 550 and the 700 dc We noticed the lack of adequate facilities to receive guests and offer them a slightly longer stay, with a more dense program. So – with a group of women and with the help of the Women program – we had the idea of creating structures able to offer more services, including a guest house.
How hard is it to cooperate between women in a reality like Koman?
There is a very good cooperation. Around here we women work for the family all day, it is often not possible to have hobbies and economic activities – if managed directly by a woman – take place within the family. In this reality, collaborating among women is therefore an important opportunity, which I think we have been able to grasp.
What does it mean to be emancipated for a woman in today’s Albania?
For me emancipation starts with education, or at least that’s what I wanted for myself. Being educated gives you very important possibilities of emancipation. A second most important element is that it is also occupied, that is, that a woman’s work is valued through remuneration. In general, this is lacking for Albanian women.
Based on my personal experience, women in Albania, and certainly also in Koman, work a lot but are not paid. I think that women’s emancipation here, as elsewhere in the country, therefore passes through the achievement of economic independence. This is also why we have created a project that envisages that every woman in our group takes care of certain structures (eg guest house, small dairy, restaurant). In this way the work of every woman guarantees an economic retribution, which can also be recognized in the family.
So creating economic opportunities for women is the first step, perhaps the main one, to change the situation?
I think so. By creating economic independence, women understand their value. In Albania, in general, women have a very low self-esteem, and the worst situation is found in rural and mountain areas. Economic independence is therefore important first of all for the women themselves, so that they understand through an economic counterpart how great the contribution they give to their families. Moreover, being able to count on an economic income, they have the possibility to do something more for themselves or for their children. I believe that all this can lead to greater social well-being, both for women and for families.
Are Albanian men ready to accept a more independent, freer role for women?
In general, the mentality of men has changed, is more open and many are more willing to accept a different role for women. Perhaps they do not yet promote the idea that a woman should aim for independence, but they do not deny it once it is obtained. It is a good starting point.
Is there a real possibility that a country like Koman will remain alive in the next ten, twenty years? Is there economic life, development, future, children?
There are several aspects that are able to promote improvements in Koman. Also thanks to the presence of a hydroelectric power station, I believe there are excellent chances that people will not leave here. Then Scutari is not far away and many young people can study there and then come back and do some things here, like I did too. And they do it already. From this point of view I think there is a lot of difference compared to the past years. I, for example, would never have thought of being here today and doing this interview, that a guest house would have been built or that someone else would have made investments in this area.
If we have a vision of the future, if we effectively communicate what our village or area can offer, I think there are good opportunities for future development. Also because Koman is in a strategic point on the road to Valbona, which in recent years has attracted more and more tourists. Our goal is that Koman not only represents a place of passage between cities, but that tourists can stay for one or two days.
Here we certainly cannot offer luxury stays, but all the advantages of the agriturismo. Whoever visits us asks for good food, local food, which has the flavors of our land. And then they want to see traditional clothes, how to plant seeds, how the land is grown. All things you can’t find in the city.
Can we imagine that in a few years a developed Koman, full of life and with a female mayor?
It’s flying too high. Arriving here, along the road, you see, unlike other villages, that there are places where you invest and work for a future, including tourism. I hope there will be. Regarding a woman mayor, it seems a little difficult to imagine.
You are a person full of initiative, educated, maybe you will be the first woman mayor …
I don’t care about politics.
Why would it be so difficult to have a woman mayor?
We live in a society where there are still many barriers.
If you should briefly explain to a tourist who has never seen Koman why come here …
I often try to advertise Koman, even within my circle of friends. I don’t know if I’ve ever found the right words. Koman is a place that offers natural beauty. We did not contribute to all this, it was given to us by God and we are grateful. Then, of course, there’s the aforementioned Dalmaca Castle: it’s worth getting to Koman just for the latter.
Then here you can find out how to plant potatoes, how to make wine. We know that Italy is very well known for wine, but here there is a different method to produce it, and it may interest someone. Plus we can offer good food. Of course, Albania remains a difficult place from the social point of view, due to the mentality and political transition we have experienced: but we are very hospitable people. Who will come to visit us, will immediately realize it.
The Alliance for the development and enhancement of family agriculture in northern Albania ” is a program promoted by Reggio Volontari nel Mondo and Development Cooperation Emerging Countries with the support of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. It intends to favor the economic development of northern Albania starting from its landscape and agro-pastoral resources.
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