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15 May 2013

Albania: Medica Tirana 1999-2013

A generation after the fall of the communist dictatorship, Albanian women still suffer severely due to patriarchal structures. Poverty, high unemployment and violence char-acterise their daily lives. Beginning in 1999, Medica Tirana provided support for thousands of women and helped to foster public discourse on the issues of forced marriage, domestic violence and blood feuds. Medica Tirana ceased its activities in April 2013.

1999: A therapy centre is established.

As thousands of Kosovans flee to Albania in 1999 because of the Kosovo War, medica mondiale joined forces with Albanian experts to found an aid project to help the refugees. It soon became clear that these joint operations would also need to continue after the war. The situation for women in the host country at that time is disastrous. Many had been raped in the communist regime’s prison camps or forced into prostitution. Others were oppressed within their families because of the traditional Albanian “Kanun” laws.

An integrated aid approach

In Albania’s capital Tirana, medica mondiale set up the therapy and counselling centre Medica Tirana. As well as medical and psychosocial advice, the staff at the centre offered open dialogue sessions to female survivors of violence during which they can speak about their experiences. Rape is a taboo subject in Albania so most of the women affected have to deal with their trauma alone. Its integrated approach, considering both the physical and psychological needs of the women, soon led to Medica Tirana becoming an important point of contact.

2004: Creating hope for the future

In 2004, Medica Tirana officially became independent as a registered Albanian women’s rights organisation. Staff visited outlying areas of the capital several times a week since these had particularly high numbers of women and girls living in surroundings characterised by poverty and violence. Medica Tirana offered the women counselling, health education, legal support and the chance to participate in social activities. Three-month vocational courses also offered them the chance to learn a trade and begin to earn their own living.

2013: Going separate ways

More than 15,000 Albanian women can vouch for the success of operations at Medica Tirana, which helped them to process their experiences of violence and regain their will to live. However, persistently high levels of corruption and poverty and a bleak outlook for the future led many committed staff members to leave the country. Their understandable and justifiable desire to seek more promising prospects abroad unfortunately made it impossible to establish sustainable structures in Albania. For this reason, Medica Tirana ceased its activities in April 2013.