Western Balkans: Reconciliation and Regional Cooperation
Several of Olof Palme International Center's partner organisations in the Western Balkans recently assembled in Belgrade. One of the themes discussed at the meeting was the question of reconciliation.
– Reconciliation is a big word. But in our discussions we identified activities to make it happen. To achieve reconciliation a long chain of small steps needs to be taken, says Blerina Guga, the project manager of Partners Albania, Center for Change and Conflict Management (PA).
PA aims to advance civil society and reach a culture of change and conflict management in Albania. The main focus of PA includes: development and capacity building for the civil society sector, central and local government, and the business sector.
The organization has managed to influence the drafting of new laws that civil society at large has benefited from. Before this, the law refrained people from engaging in a local action group or an NGO. Blerina Guga has great hopes for the future of the civil society in Albania.
– For the first time in Albania we have a virtual platform where all the NGO’s can show their organization, their goals and activities. And where NGO’s can interact to form partnerships. It is available and bilingual so even interested donors can use it, she says.
During high school Blerina was a member of a debate club, educating critical thinking and public speaking. She then continued as a coach and teacher after she finished high school. The engagement in civil society organizations thus came naturally to her, she explains.
– I tried to work within the public administration once but I feel much freer, engaged and motivated working in the CSO sector in Albania.
By supporting and creating an initiative called green ideas, PA has promoted the establishment of environmentally concerned organizations that have found support from four big businesses in Albania, pushing these to employ people in need, cleaning seaside areas, and recycle used oil from restaurants for industrial purposes, Blerina Guga points out.
An important issue for Blerina Guga is the patriarchal structure in the Albanian society. For her, the main challenge of working as a woman in the CSO sector is related to being a mother. The Albanian mentality is that mothers should not work and stay at home.
– I’m a mom of two girls, I travel a lot in work, but what I am happy about is that they are growing up with a new model of a mom: a woman that is free and could choose for herself. This should be the mainstream, even though sometimes they miss me. This is how you teach. You need to practice it, it cannot be done by books. When working with your own kids you have to be an example of what you teach, every day.
She explains that her role as a mother and activist might affect the society in a positive way since they are curious of her way of working and engaging in the society.
– Sometimes I feel like my neighbours look at me with curiosity and curiosity make things change.
Attending the meeting in Belgrade meant yet another trip as part of work. But Blerina Guga is happy that she came. Especially because of the discussions about reconciliation, initiated by a representative from the Roma community in Serbia.
– I really liked the way the meeting was designed. To be honest, it is very rare that organisations from Serbia, Albania, Kosovo and Sweden meet like this. It is a strong incentive that brings these people together and make them talk with each other, not by force but by their own will and curiosity. It is definitely a way for building trust toward reconciliation and regional cooperation.
Text: Sayran Eliassi