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I Am In Politics To Do Justice

Women / July 27, 2014

Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu në Vesionin Shqip

Great people don’t always come in shining armour. They don’t have supernatural powers. They may walk among us, and still make a difference. These were my thoughts right after meeting Evjeni Kota. Evjeni was born in Gorica, a Greek minority village in the Dropull area. She grew up in a large family. She listened to the stories of her great-grandmother, she treasured them, and she remembered them very well. Evjeni is the Chair of the Tirana Branch of the Human Rights Union Party (HRUP), and the Deputy Chair of the “Omonia” organization. Evjeni is not one of those women who choose to pass unnoticed. On the contrary: she has chosen to put on display the best in her.

Why did you get involved in politics? What are your personal challenges? Who are your supporters, who are your opponents?

My family was persecuted under the Communist regime. Several family members were in prison. If you ask me about my opponents I would count that regime as one of them. I entered into the political scene to ask for justice. I want to be able to help people; I don’t want to use people as tools to serve the achievement of my own ends. To me, being a woman means being responsible. I consider myself as an engine; I want to put my energy to pull my wagons.
The more you dare to do things, the more things you achieve. I want to speak out; I want my voice to be heard, because I belong to a national minority. I never hid my origin. I always try to give to people as much as I take from them. My family was my greatest supporter in my political career, which started in 2005 as a MP candidate. I tried to do politics by doing things for the people. I didn’t manage to get elected, as women are not really favoured by the Electoral Code.
If you ask me who my supporters are, I can tell you that I was elected as the chair of the Tirana HRUP branch by the men. Most of the party members are men. I ran against men in the party elections, and I was voted by most of the men.

What is your take on Albania’s political developments?

I see will to move ahead, but I see everyone getting stuck somewhere. The issues at hand are the same, for the majority and for the opposition. This is reason enough to find a common ground. It is imperative to change the mindsets of the political parties.
The language they use in the parliament has to change. If you watch a parliamentary session on TV, the only thing you learn is how NOT to behave. We still have an opposition, which walks out of the parliament, even though everybody remembers the times when the present majority MPs, at that time in opposition, would walk out, thus leaving the parliament in a situation of collapse.
I expect from the ruling majority to be able to clearly read the living standards of the citizens. This can be done only if you study the people, if you survey them properly, by sending sociologists out in the field.
This can be achieved only if the politicians clearly know how much it costs a citizen to live decently, only if all costs are properly factored in starting from the toilet paper, and continuing with everything that it takes to ensure a normal living standard. I was against the abandonment of the parliament by the opposition.
If you want to oppose something, you should do it on the battlefield. You cannot stand up against something by simply walking away. Laws should apply equally on everyone, also to the MPs themselves. To conclude, as far as the political developments are concerned, I consider that there is will to change reality, but no one has found the way to do it, so far.

What will change in Albania in the next four years? What are Albania’s main advantages and challenges?

First of all, those in power have to keep their electoral promises. They shouldn’t be forgotten, they have to be recalled, analysed, addressed. This should be done by those who have made those promises, not just the opposition. I think media has a role to play in this aspect.
The media should be aware of the electoral programs; they should regularly scrutinize them so as to hold accountable those in power, to tell them they’re responsible for promises that have remained only on paper. This would help us reduce the abuse of power.
At first sight one might consider that things are changing at a fast pace, but this is certainly not the case. It is unacceptable that Albania still imports water, energy and a host of basic products. This is scary. Poverty brings corruption along. Just to give you a detail: in my neighbourhood, you can easily count fifteen thrift shops selling used clothes.
There weren’t so many before. Apparently people tend to run this sort of business, because used clothes don’t go bad, as vegetables do. I believe we should turn our attention to the local products. Albania can be built by the Albanians, not by our neighbours. Albania is full of water and energy resources, yet they’re poorly managed. Even God says: if you want to get enlightened, get a move on!!
It’s sad to see Albanians having trouble to get a shower in a country that is so rich in water resources. I think that reality in this country is not properly reported. I consider as successful those leaders who go out to meet people instead of accepting the praise of their close staff, who usually say how good they are. We are located in a very nice spot in the Balkans, yet our rules are absurd.
When I visit Greece I see that the see is full of vessels and all sorts of ships.
The sea in Albania is empty. I believe it would be good for the country to liberalize the navigation sector. I also favour collectivisation of the agriculture, it is impossible to be effective with those tiny farms, which at the end cause plenty of crime. You see people going at each other for just a fence between two tiny properties, or for some water supply.

What is your take on gender equality in Albania?

Women are 100% responsible for the in-the-house decision-making, but once they leave their home behind, their decision-making power goes down to a formal 30%. Our women are enchained upon getting married, they’re alienated, and they’re considered as their husband’s properties. What is worst, some women think of themselves that way. Most Albanian men don’t think of their women as of their friends. They consider a friend someone they can talk to over a coffee.

You have initiated the twinning of the town of Alexandropolis in Greece with Tirana Borough No. 5 (Central Tirana). How did you come to this idea?

I got to know Jeta Seitaj, the mayor of Tirana Borough No. 5 in one of the OSCE Presence events on women in decision-making. We became friends since then, and we cherished that friendship. I always told Jeta that we ought to come up with some joint project one day. I really appreciate her capacities as a manager and as an organiser. We represent different political parties, yet I believe everybody benefits from a friendship that lasts. I visited Greece on the occasion of the last local elections, and I happened to meet the person who later became the Mayor of Alexandropolis. He told me to come up with some concrete idea for co-operation. So I came up with the idea to twin the two local government units. We have a lot of things in common in the field of economic development, education and culture. I think this twinning will help us coordinate better with each-other also during the high tourist season, when seasonal employment can be an option. I think we are on the right track on this.

Who are the women and men who inspired you the most?

The woman who inspired me the most is Madeleine Albright. I read her biography, in which I noted striking similarities with my own life. She came from a Czech migrant family that moved to the United States. Everything she achieved in life she owed to herself. I don’t have a male idol though. I would like men to be a bit more like Angela Merkel, especially as far as perseverance is concerned. Good men have to show themselves as such through their actions, they’ve always got time to do that.
You know the saying according to which a successful man is always backed up by a clever woman, but I’m convinced that’s not his wife. In many cases, the speeches of male politicians are written by women, so I see much hypocrisy among men. I hope that women in politics will come together one day; they have much more to show. I don’t expect from women to wear men’s pants; a woman should never forget what she is.
As far as men are concerned, I cannot say that they are born to co-operate with women. Yet I will never forget those men who helped me become what I am. I am grateful to them for their support. If I wasn’t, I would just be like those ungrateful little men who surround us.

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Irena Shabani
Is an Albanian freelance journalist and human rights activist specialising in investigative journalism. She co-founded Panorama, the leading newspaper in Albania, where she served as managing editor from 2002 to 2003. Prior to Panorama she was a journalist at Shekulli and Gazeta Shqiptare and has been part of the Albanian Human Rights Group from its beginning. She has collaborated on programmes for the International Research and Exchanges Board, investigating topics involving crime and political corruption and continues to collaborates with foreign organisations and local media focused on social problems and minority rights.




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