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22 March 2011

Medica Tirana: The Therapy Centre in Tirana

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, almost forgotten is its long history of conflict. As a result of the Balkan wars, the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and the wars in Yugoslavia, Albania still suffers from a fragile state, corruption, crime, unemployment and rural exodus. Despite its increasing orientation towards the European Union, the situation of many women and girls continues to be precarious. While the country has economic progress, patriarchal traditions and blood vengeance just return back to the slums, the rural areas and the suburbs. The everyday life of many Albanian women is not only marked by poverty and high unemployment, but also by trafficking in women, violence and domination by male family members.

Since 1999, Medica Tirana has been providing support and assistance to girls and women suffering from violence in the familiy and oppression. The women’s organisation fights against the increasing impoverishment and social isolation of women in Albania and acts against the atrocious trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

Along with the support of Kosovan refugees by medica mondiale Köln, Medica Tirana was founded towards the end of the 1990s. In 2004, the small Albanian women’s organisation became independent – the third project of medica mondiale in the Balkans to do so. Since then, medica mondiale Köln provides guidance and advice and supports parts of the work of Medica Tirana through donated funds.

The Therapy Centre in Tirana

The therapy and counselling centre of Medica Tirana has turned into an important place to turn to for girls and women in the capital Tirana and its surroundings. Support is provided to Albanian women who have experienced various types of violence. Members of Medica Tirana take care of every single woman, applying a holistic approach that combines medical care and therapeutic counselling. All female physicians, psycologists and social workers of the centre have received special training in trauma sensitive treatment and counselling methods and psychodrama.

In 2010, about 270 women were counseled in trauma counseling groups. About 200 women received individual counseling sessions. Approximately 450 women were medically advised and educated on topics such as family planning, pregnancy, health screenings, psychosomatic problems, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Raising Awareness in the Slums of Tirana

The social workers and doctors of Medica Tirana visit the slums around the capital Tirana several times a week. Many families from the north of Albania, a region where the patricharchale tradition of the Kanun and blood feuds are still very much alive, “get stranded“ in the slums. In these areas, women and girls live in extreme poverty and often encounter violence in their immediate surroundings. The team of Medica Tirana offers support through counselling and health education and encourages women to participate in trauma therapy groups. In 2010, about 400 women and girls were achieved in 30 groups of health education, gender and human rights.

On the Way to a Self-determined Life

The vocational training courses in sewing and cooking are an important pillar of the work of Medica Tirana. The three month courses mainly aim at enhancing women’s opportunities in the labour market. In 2010, almost 60 from a total of 120 women who took part in cooking and sewing classes found a job or initiated a small tailoring business.

At the same time, counsellors of Medica Tirana regulraly encourage women to take part in social activities such as excursions and tours or visits to a museum to draw women out of their isolation.

Since 2007, Medica Tirana organises theater workshops with girls in Bathore and Kinostudio in order to strengthen their self-confidence. In 2010, 20 girls and some boys dealt in separate theater groups with social issues and gender roles.

Further Training in Schools, Police Stations and Hospitals

In addition to the counselling offers for victims of sexualised violence, the team of Medica Tirana also raises public awareness among different occupational groups in society. These groups include teachers, police officers, hospital personnel and pupils and students. During seminars and workshops, the counsellors impart knowledge on sexualised violence, trauma and the risks involved in trafficking in women. In 2010, approximately 700 persons participated in these workshops.