Sweden helps make homes violence-free in Albania

Tone is 33 and a mother of three children. She used to live in a village in Puka, north Albania. During 10 years of marriage, she experienced daily violence from her husband, sometimes even in the presence of their children.
“It was an arranged marriage,” Tone says. “Every day I prayed that he would change. I endured years of physical, psychological and sexual violence because I wanted to cling to my dream of having a real family. But the violence never stopped, not even when I was pregnant.”
Tone says that she thought of leaving her abusive marriage many times but she had no one to turn to for help. She felt ashamed, abandoned, hopeless. Her family advised her to stay with her husband no matter what.
One day, after having been beaten almost to death, she decided to seek help from the police.
The police acted very fast. They advised her to report the case and follow the legal procedures for getting a protection order. She did so and found protection and support at the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse.
When Tone first arrived to the centre, she and her children were traumatized. The staff developed a support plan for them, which was discussed and agreed with Tone. Part of the plan included psychological counselling and life skills development for her and the children. Over time, the safe space at the centre helped the family get on the mend from a lifetime of trauma.
Unfortunately, Tone`s story is not unique. The centre, which has been operational since 2011, offers services to around 100 victims of domestic violence per year. Part of a network of state social services, the centre is a key component in the chain of actors included in the Coordinated Response Mechanism against domestic violence. Its qualified staff including social workers, a psychological counsellor, a medical doctor and a legal adviser work together to support women and girls return to normal life.
Highlights
• 1 in 2 women in Albania have experienced some form of violence.
• To date, 25 municipalities have established Coordinated Community Response (CCR) mechanisms that provide comprehensive services to domestic violence victims.
• In the last 2 years alone, UNDP supported 11 municipalities to establish CCRs.
• Until now, 541 domestic violence cases in Albania have been addressed using a coordinated approach.
Official statistics reveal that one in two women in Albania have experienced some form of violence. This situation is more severe in rural areas where women are also faced with stigma, isolation, lack of opportunities and social exclusion.
In response to this epidemic, the Government of Albania, in partnership with UNDP, has made rapid progress in criminalizing violence against women, expanding a multi-disciplinary response approach in several municipalities across the country, strengthening law enforcement and establishing shelter services.
As of today, 25 municipalities have established Coordinated Community Response mechanisms that extend multi-disciplinary services to domestic violence victims. With UNDP support, five more municipalities are expected to establish them soon. The mechanisms create a network between municipalities, the local police, courts and prosecutor offices, bailiff offices, medical centres, educational and employment centres, and civils society organisations in order to provide comprehensive services to survivors of domestic violence.
More than 4100 cases of domestic violence were reported to the police in 2016 compared to only 95 cases in 2005, which means awareness raising campaigns are working. To bolster such efforts, the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth worked closely with UNDP to set up an innovative online system that can track and collect statistics on domestic violence cases nationwide. A helpline that encourages survivors to report domestic violence cases is also in the works.
In addition, the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth in partnership with UNDP, UN Women and UNFPA have launched a nation-wide public awareness and advocacy campaign called “I choose to live without violence” which calls for coordinated action to bring an end to violence against women and girls.
These interventions are only one component of a UN programme on gender equality supported by the Government of Sweden. The programme is implemented by UNDP, UN Women, IOM, UNFPA and UNICEF as they assist the government to implement the national strategy on gender equality and women`s empowerment.
Tone and her children have started a new life, this time free from violence. Her children are now attending school in a nurturing environment where they feel they are valued and supported by the people surrounding them. Tone has a full time job as a housekeeper at a hotel. She has applied for a municipal social entrepreneurship funding scheme that supports domestic violence survivors. She feels her life has changed and can clearly see the first promising signs of that change.