The hard living of single young mothers holding the family burden. They do not receive social support, while they are fed from the aid of relatives as there are no employment opportunities in rural areas. Director of Social Services in Fier: There is no support that favours single and abandoned women that own land.
By Kristina Fidhi
Mira, Silvana, Xhevo and some hundreds of other women and mothers throughout the rural area of Fier find themselves abandoned in the name of law. The system that offers social support is proved not to function for many years for categories such as: widows, lonely women, single mothers, divorced women, and violated women, women whose spouses are in jail or physically disabled women. Only in Cakran commune with 16,400 inhabitants, tens of women are left out of the scheme due to the penalisation that causes the applicable law on the provision of social support.
Xhevo Xhafaj, 27 years old, is the mother of a 7 year old child unregistered in the registry of civil status. She lives alone in an unfinished house in the upper part of “Xhafaj” neighbourhood in Cakran. Her return to the village is noticed only by women who whisper that she is divorced and has an unhealthy child. Xhevo’s parents and brother live in Greece, while she is raising her son, Theodhori, alone, as she got divorced shortly after his birth. “It’s 6 years now that I am living alone with my child. The reason why I got divorced is that my ex-husband was drinking alcohol and was beating me badly inside the home. Even here life is too hard. I don’t know how to live with this economy. My dad in Greece works to make the living of every one of us. He feeds five persons. My son was unregistered, but a few months ago I did some papers and now I am waiting to register him. I should take my son to the doctor in Tirana but the economy is bad, we do not have money. I don’t know what his physical problem is, I don’t know this. You think it can be set up with just a finger, you solve everything with just a finger, it does not go as we want to” said Xhevo in this narrative part of her life.
The child’s father is from Librazhd and has never recognized the paternity of the child. The 27 year old woman says that even his family has never been interested in meeting him. Xhevo, as the head of the village Bardhul explains, was married as per her father’s will and after the divorce she lived alone in her father’s house. The only document that Xhevo possesses for Theodhori is an act of birth in Greek language that shows as date of birth of the child 21 December 2007 and as his birthplace the city of Volos, in Greece. Another recently discovered document for registration purposes, dated 29 January 2008, confirms the hospitalization of the forty day old baby at the time because of anaemia and serious cardiopathy from birth. Doctors of the Hospital “Ahilopulio” recommended further specialized treatment for the child at the hospital of Athens. It was the time when Xhevo broke up her marriage after the continuous violence and returned to Albania. The child was brought for consultation to any doctor after this date while it seems that problems followed alternately. The boy does not speak, and presents many difficulties in performing logical operations.
Xhevo is abandoned in the name of law throughout these years because she and her child do not exist for anyone. “They have left since she was a little girl, 20 years ago. When she reached a certain age her father married her in Greece and she gave birth to a child that no one knew he had problems. Later it was heard from the women that she was separated from her husband. Her father brought her and then left again, left her at home, but with no economy. Her parents are both in a difficult situation and cannot help her. She receives eleemosynary from others as you have seen, there is no need for comments” says the head of the village Bardhul Xhafaj.
The difficulties of life for the young mother have been numerous. Xhevo has spent months in the dark with her sick child after electricity shortage. She doesn’t benefits any pension for her sick child or any social support. Just a few blocks of buildings further another woman is legally exempt from any support offered by the state. Silvana Memaj, 30 years old, lives alone with her two children, one and five years old, after the imprisonment of her husband last September. The family has only 500 square meters of land that Silvana cannot work because she is the only caretaker of the children. The family has no incomes and relatives try to provide at least nutrition.
The woman doesn’t benefit social support because her husband has benefited land. A few years ago, says Silvana, the land was sold for nutrition reasons without any legal document and our family results as owner of a land on papers, but with no land to use actually. The law that would regulate the completion with documentation of plots for use from farmers was never implemented in most rural areas in the country, which prevented the legal transaction of land. “I have been married for 6 years and I have 2 children. My husband left to Greece on 7 September, with no luggage, no paper and without clothes, to feed the family. He left for this olive campaign but then they stopped him. They said he had drugs, you know how they do these things”, says Silvana. She says she does not expect anything from the state. “If the state didn’t take care of me now that I’m alone when would they?! I live with what I get from my relatives and from them of my husband, too” says Silvana. “Her, – she continues, showing the little girl, I leave here and pick up the other one from the kindergarten. Only God cares for these children, no one else. They are sick and I have no money to take them to the doctor. Since my husband was imprisoned I haven’t gone to see him. I do not know what it will become with us. They told me that the law is not applicable for my situation” concludes the mother of two minor children.
In Varibop, several miles away, Mira Sherifaj, an unmarried mother and her two daughters are also legally abandoned by the state. The girls, Daniela and Refija, respectively 17 and 15 years old appear unregistered in the registry of civil status. Although they attended school until four years ago and their existence is recognized from many institutions nobody has tried at least to register them. Even Mira herself does not appear inhabitant of the commune. She was never married to the father of the girls. He left 20 years ago to Greece and abandoned the family eventually after the birth of their second daughter. In such conditions where nobody works, the three of them live in extreme poverty. Mira suffers from an early disease and is completely unable to work, while the girls dropped out school because they cannot afford the cost of schooling.
“What we have lived with? Is anything here? Someone gives us a slice of bread, if they do not give us, we do not eat any bread. If you stay without bread it is rather difficult. I have gone to the commune, but they did not give me anything. They have told me that they cannot help. My daughters are dying because of no bread; I do not get any pension or anything else. We have nothing. You asked me what we will eat for lunch. Nothing, just bread, the same that we ate even yesterday”, says suffocated from the sadness the 50 year old woman. Mira, certainly does not have land, does not have any vehicle, does not work, she is not ensured and fulfils all the criteria to get support, but her problem with the law is that she had to get registered as an inhabitant of the commune, she must have registered the children and perhaps she must have requested her diagnosis to benefit an invalidity payment for her limited mental and physical ability. But if Mira had been able for all these, her family would have not lived in extreme poverty. The law does not have any definition for such cases.
Daniela, her older daughter, 17 years old, says that her father helped them a little when she was a baby, but later he did not show up. “Our uncle has helped us, Lado and his son that opened the case in the court to get us registered during the New Year days. He could not do it before as money was needed. There were needed some 500-600 thousand Leke”, tells Daniela. The girl says that she and her daughter abandoned the school some four years ago because they were feeling ashamed an embarrassed of being poor. “To tell the truth, I did not go to school when I was at the eighth grade because I did not have anything and I stopped it, I was obliged. How could I learn, the classmates were not giving me. Even my sister stopped the school together with me. I was obliged to stop going to the school because I did not have anything at all, I was going in vain, I was just occupying the chair”, further says the 17 year old girl.
Daniela and Refije say that the most difficult moments to them are repeated any time that they go hungry in bed. “Many times we have slept without eating bread, especially my sister who was younger, she wanted to eat. I can remember this perfectly well, these are things you cannot forget. Our mother has not ever been able to work; she gathered things on her way home. We got used to this now”, admits Daniela. Whereas her sister, Refije, 15 years old says that she feels bad that she left school and she does not know what will happen in her life. “Our mother does not work, she is sick from the leg, whereas the father in Greece, I have never seen him, he abandoned us when I was little. I left the school as well, we stay, we do not have what to do, nothing”, expresses the 15 year old girl. Ladi Sherifaj, the uncle of the girls says that his family is trying to help them at least with the food because they cannot for more. He explains that nobody else has helped this family and this perhaps due to the fact that my sister in law has never been registered neither her daughters. “This could not be verified, even in the civil status office, nothing. At the school they have registered them like that, they did not get any school document, later they even left the school. They did not have books, they had to buy them and they did not have money”, says the uncle of the girls.
Leonard Ruçaj, inspector of the economic aid in Cakran commune says that there are tens of women unprotected from the law in the whole territory under the administration of the commune. “All those women that I had in the scheme with this specification were found as violations to the law and the majority of the beneficiaries were removed from the list”, explains Rucaj. He says that he knows very well the case of Mira, but there is no legal space to help her.
“This woman does not have anything at all, no benefit or civil status, and she cannot even get a certificate here and she is in the crossed roads. I have even communicated with the Minister on Facebook and he answered me that he has referred it, but there has not been any solution to that until now. Mira got married without a formal ceremony and her husband has abandoned her since 20 years ago. Until yesterday, she was living with the retirement payment of her mother in law, if you go to see her she is really in very, very difficult conditions. Her mother in law died, she has also suffered from a depression and how can you find a solution to that”, expresses the inspector of the social aid.
Alba Stefa, director of Fier State Social Service admits that the system has not still solved the cases of Xhevo, Silvana and Mira. She accepts that there lacks the solution for hundreds of other abandoned women from the services in Fier and in the whole country as the system does not regulate such cases. By referring to procedures that are requested for the diagnosis of the people with physical and mental disabilities among the single women or their ill children, Stefa talks about endless wanderings that are caused by lack of institutional responsibility, especially from those of the health sector. “The ill person that is directed with the official letter to me or to the Social Insurance office, and then again to the hospital and then again to me, he goes and comes 20 times to get nine thousand leke at a time when with the law: did the person get into the hospital? Did he get the diagnosis? Was he assessed by the commission of the hospital as being unable to work? That is right; the official letter for the Commission of Defining the Invalidity (CDI), being closed comes here in an official way. I have the physician of the CDI that does this job, he decides on the dates as the stamp of the post office defines the date of arrival. At the moment that it arrives, our physician has on its duty to enable the person’s examination within 10 days to the CDI. That person can benefit the payment after 3-4 months, after six months, time when the deadline for his application has expired etc.”, says Stefa.
By arguing on the possibilities of the current support for the abovementioned cases even Stefa agrees that these women are abandoned in a legal way and for the moment the system cannot do anything for them. “There is no support that favours the single women and those abandoned because the law stipulates that if you possess some land and other assets you do not benefit. Personally talking, I judge it as being very wrong, it must be regulated, but they have to be done with Decisions of the Council of Ministers. We are still on the phase when on the evaluation criteria it is estimated if the families have a TV set, refrigerator and washing machine. If they have the three of them and nothing else in the house, it says that you have these three, the minimum that the law requires and does not include them in the scheme”, explains Alba Stefa. According to her, the only hope to support these abandoned and alone women in the future is to apply the new digital scheme of the economic aid even in Fier region. “In none of the cases that you mentioned, the women do not benefit, but the pilot project that is taking place in three other regions has adjusted these obstacles. It has regulated the issue of the women that are divorced independently from the incomes that they have, which have excluded them until now. This is being piloted since one year in Tirana, Durres and Elbasan. After three years of piloting in these areas, the new scheme will be reformed and implemented in the whole Albania”, concludes the director of the Fier Social Service.
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