My handcrafts in a fair: this is a dream!

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One of the women who participated in the fair happily showing one of her crafts

 

“For the first time, I sold [something] I have made. My work has value and I feel so happy,” says Liza, 50. “With the money [I made], I am going to buy something for my children.” She adds.

Liza is one of the 100 women who participated in the handcraft fair in Tirana recently. She was overwhelmed by the support she received. “People here like very much my handcrafts,” she says. “One of them told me she had never seen such beautiful handcrafts before. I have never felt so good in my life. I am proud of myself and my friends,”she said.

This wasn’t the first fair to be held in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, but it was the first that gathered so many women from Bathore all together in one mission: “To sell their products and earn money for their handcrafts for the first time.” The women from this area are accustomed to working without receiving anything in return, even a “thank you” or a “well done”.

“When I told my husband I was going to participate in this event, he laughed,” she remembers. ‘You think people will buy your things’, he asked. But, I believed people would like and buy my things, and they did,” beams Liza.

“I am very grateful to World Vision who gave me and my sister the opportunity to sell our works,” said Albana 38.

“[Albana] was one of the first women who wanted to participate in this fair and she was very enthusiast about it since the beginning,” remembers Ana Zani, World Vision’s Child Protection Coordinator  for Tirana Area Development Programme (ADP).

“We had no more hope that someone could come and help us to show our works in public,” says Vitore, one of the women who participated in the fair. “[But], finally this really happened. We are wonderful woman and mothers and it was wonderful that people came, saw and bought our works,” she adds, noting that they had the chance to present and sell their works in a handcraft fair that took place in Tirana for two days. Vitore is also part of the Group of Interest of Child Protection and Gender Balance in her community.  

These woman and girls were supported, in this initiative, by World Vision, which has been working in their area for the last six years. “They liked this initiative very much and didn’t hesitate for any moment to be part of it, believing it was a great opportunity to present their works in public,” said Blerina Lako, Tirana ADP Manager, explaining how the initiative brought together business members, teachers and women in a four-month process that included a training on how to sell their products and how to establish reasonable prices for their products. “We organized them with each other and for us it was a pleasure to give them some of the raw materials, such as hooks, string and fabric,” says Blerina.

To help the women in their business endeavours, World Vision staff prepared and gave each of the women who participated in the fair a personalized business card with their name and contact information. The women then had the chance to distribute their business cards to people who visited the fair, to people who bought something and wanted to buy again in the future, and to people who didn’t buy but showed inters. “I could imagine everything,” says Nilke, 35. “But, it never crossed to my mind to have a business card. This is really unbelievable. Now I can give them to everyone and they can contact me if they are interested on my work,” she says, her eyes shining.

Albanians woman are not accustomed to earning money from their work. Their work is mostly restricted to the home; they cook, do the dishes, the housework, the laundry, and take care for their children and husbands. Most of girls in Albania don’t even go to school because they had to take care of their family and after that they got married, they take care of their husband’s family. Albanians women are used to sacrificing their education and careers because they have been told that good women should serve their children and husband in any way they can.

 

Handcrafting - Albanian women earn the living through it

Many women have learned how to do handcrafts from their mothers, who have learned it from their grandmothers. Handcrafts are one of the biggest heritages that Albanian women give to each other through generations. In the absence of formal education and with few possibilities to have a profession, many women earn their living through handcrafts. One of them is Xhevahire, 42, a mother of five children—4 daughters: Vjola, 21; Marsilda, 17; Fetije, 16, and a boy, Fatjon, 10. Her husband died 10 years ago and she found herself hopeless. She thought her children would go hungry as none of the family was working at that time. Being in a situation without solution, Xhevahire was forced to find asolution for herself.

After looking in different places, she found that she had the solution at her hands. She started sewing and earning money. Day after day the works of her hands become the work of her life and now the work of her family. She has now a small shop in her village. “I am not rich, but my children do not suffer for a living,” she says. “I dreamt for a long time to have the chance to show and sell my works in Tirana. People at my area are poor, they do not have money to buy things that I sell. But, here in Tirana people are more interested in handcrafts and they buy more. I just sold one of my works, it was a beautiful one and the couple who bought it, didn’t hesitate when I told the price. In my area people always ask for discount and often I sell my works without any profit,” she continues. During the first day of the fair, she sold a piece for $50 USD and was very happy because she would have had a hard time selling it for even $30 in her village.

“I dream that my daughters will inherit Albanian handcrafts,” said Xhevahire, looking proudly at her daughter, Fetije, 16. She welcomed us in the fair with a traditional vest and hat prepared by her mother and she was in the first line, proudly presenting her mother’s handcrafts. “This is a tradition of my family,” she explained. “My mom learned it from my grandmother and I am leaning it from my mother. I like handcrafts very much and I have my own handcrafts. They aren’t as beautiful as my mom’s works, but they are mine and I hope that one day I can be as talented as my mom is,” she continues.

“I am really surprised, I knew Albanian woman are talented and handcrafting is an old tradition for them, but I never thought they could do such beautiful works with their hands,” said Vjollca, one visitor to the fair. “I never had the chance to buy something because I didn’t know where,” she added.

“Thank you everyone for the chance given and please don’t let this fair be the last one for us. We have so many handcrafts to show and we want people to buy them,” said all those who participated in the fair in one voice.

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