Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu në Vesionin Shqip
Etleva is a member of the Egyptian community and a leader of her people. She graduated in catering and logistics administration in 1989. Her family didn’t have an easy life after the fall of communism, yet they never gave up hope. Etleva was quick to integrate in the civil society sector. In 2005, she was a local coordinator for Terre des Hommes. In the meantime she established an NGO called “The knitters”, with the mission to help women in need. The idea behind the NGO was to fight discrimination, as the attempts of many Egyptian and Roma women to get jobs in the knitting business were unrightfully ignored. She continues to consider politics as a worthy challenge, even though the barriers are considerable, and obstacles are at times simply absurd.
My political career started in 2009. The reason behind it was my effort to stand up against a tough reality. After the year 1997 my family faced severe economic distress. I felt sad; I had no hope. I thought we were really at the bottom of the ladder. Yet, when I started to work with the NGO sector, I got to see with my own eyes that that wasn’t true.
My own standard of living was absolutely not comparable to the extreme shortages I saw in many Egyptian families.
First, I started to participate in the meetings of the OSCE Presence-supported National Platform for Women. The task-force of the Platform was established in the year 2010. The aim of the Platform was to work towards enforcing the 30% gender quota with women from across the political spectrum.
I was the first Egyptian woman to join the task force. In the year 2011, with the support of two friends of mine and of the OSCE Presence, I ran as an independent candidate in the municipal elections. I belong to a numerous community in Korça. Out of a total of 68,000 inhabitants, 27,000 are Egyptians and 3,000 are Roma. I had problems to register as an independent candidate.
I was asked to present 700 signed declarations of support for my candidacy.
Because of the short notice, it was almost impossible. Yet I managed to collect over 200 signatures on the first day. On the second day, which was the administrative deadline for the final submission of the signatures, nobody was at the candidates’ registration office, so my bid for candidacy was over. Later on, someone from the candidates’ registration office told me in confidence that my candidacy was favoured by neither of the political camps, because the majority and opposition had 17 seats each, and in that situation I would become the kingmaker of the municipal council.
They resented this. They resented me being a woman, and what is more, a woman from a minority community. But I did not give up. I won’t give up now. Regardless this problem, Korça Municipality was supportive of our NGO. It provided us with premises in the pedestrian area, in a very lively area of the town.
From the civil society point of view, what I miss is a common language between the majority and the opposition. One has precious few things to learn from a parliament that excels only when it comes to verbal abuse. These people are elected by the people; they should work for the people. The politicians should be always mindful about the people’s issues, beyond the electoral campaign. At any rate, there are positive steps too.
The Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth has established a technical secretariat for the vulnerable communities. A couple of days ago, I presented to the secretariat some 30 names of Korça students who are about to finish their studies. I want them to be offered an opportunity to get employed. This may bring a positive turn to the situation in Korça, a good reason for more youngsters to study. In the last employment fair organised in our town, we managed to find employment for four youngsters.
Maybe this is too little, and true, there is much more to be done.
There are plenty of improvements needed. At any rate, I notice a change, at least in the mentality of how things are done. The Ministry of Education is setting up community-based schools. A pilot community school will be opened in Maliq in September this year. At least on paper, the program of the Socialist Party was good.
I hope they will manage to put it into practice, so as to prevent the usual disappointment in four years’ time. Mr. Niko Peleshi, the Deputy Prime Minister, considers Korça a priority. Initiatives to support tourism in the Dardha area, to rebuild the traditional bazaar of Korça, the construction of a guitar-shaped new business centre, seem to bring us on the right path to revitalize the town.
We don’t have gender equality right now. Women can be compared to the neck: it steers the direction the head turns, yet regardless of this, Albania is heavily dominated by men. There are attempts to raise the bar of the gender quota above 30%. At any rate, in today’s government, there are more women than men, which is a good thing. I believe women make better administrators, because they are able to manage relationships. Women by nature are better communicators.
Women should always support other women, regardless of their political affiliations. The biggest opponent to gender equality is, to my mind, the unbridled male mentality. The biggest support to my cause came from my family, my colleagues, and my community.
At the outset they told me: “What will you do for us, if you’re all alone?” Now this is not the case anymore. We are represented, but we still need more representation. This is an issue that pertains to the future.
I still remember the extreme poverty, coupled with a high level of violence. When I started to work as a community coordinator in charge of social affairs, the members of my community started to address me as “the boss”. I didn’t want them to call me that way, yet they saw hope in me, so I committed myself even more to their cause.
In the year 2010, the Ministry of Education passed a law that exempted the children of Roma and Egyptian families in poor economic conditions from university registration taxes.
In the same year, eight youngsters were about to register in the Fan Noli University of Korça. I followed the process. The dean was very welcoming and nice. On the other hand, the university secretary was contemptuous. He said that we were about to benefit from an unfair concession, therefore there was no way the youngsters could register.
We persisted in our efforts to overcome these barriers. We asked and managed to meet representatives of the Ministry of Education. At the end, the youngsters were able to register, as written in the law. In these matters, persistence does really count. In this regard, the training on women in decision-making helped me a lot; it was a second school to me.
My father was an idol for me. He followed each step I made. He was a friend to me, and he never said anything that would make me give up on my ideas, even though he might have different opinions. I was always told that I was his most beloved one. Everything I ever achieved in my life, in my career, is dedicated to him.