The Home of Women’s Competence and Culture

The Home of Women’s Competence and Culture offers assistance through a telephone line

Women’s telephone line: 42237728

In the Amazon cafe, where Women “Talk about ” men,

Sevim Arbana

November 1996!
We are returning from Vlora to Tirana.
We are a group of people, including our donor, Brigitt Huni and other donors.
One of the things that took (and still does) the attention of the foreigners, was the fact that in all streets, areas, coffeehouses, and public areas they could see only men.
These men gave the atmosphere an unusual view, especially for some guests that came from a world with certain equality, where both genders are active; in streets, offices, and clubs.
While explaining the social, economic, and emotional context of Albanian life, our conversation led to our greater desire since the fall of 1996 when the country seemed like Utopia, but not unreachable.
I articulated emotionally our dream to have a place, like a coffeehouse where women could come, assemble, talk, meet, and after drinking a coffee they could „dream“ for more courageous and beautiful things such as gender equality, to speak on violence against women, equal opportunities, and many other dreams and issues.
This emotional, euphoric, and dreamful conversation touched the heart of our friend and partner, who with her womanly intuition believed in us and wanted in all costs to support us.  She gave us the approval that meant she believed in our dream and wanted to support us with all costs. She gave us her approval which intended that we were capable to make this real.
Therefore, the beautiful and courageous road of the Women’s Club had started.  At the end of 1996, on Christmas Eve and entering the New Year 1997, we signed the agreement to build the women’s club in Naim Frasheri Street in Tirana.
This was an old Tirana house, the owner of which had sold it to a Greek national.  After getting sick and not able to continue his business activities, the Greek national sold to us this old house but nicely located.
We were lucky.  We seek and found a house in the center of Tirana, in one of the main streets, but a little hidden from the eye of the people.
We did not want to impose the Women’s Club.  We wanted that slowly and naturally we could be accepted not only in the hearts and minds of women, but also in men’s minds.  We wanted them as our allies.
…And we made it…
The reconstruction began on 13th of March 1997, which signs a black day for all Albanians.  This is the day where the military depots were open and guns were fired away in all Albania.  This was called the day of the civil war or absurdities of such, but for sure these were the worst days of the Albanian history, where everything was burnt and destroyed.
Thus I want to emphasize that we were lucky.  We begun the reconstruction of our Center and until the inauguration no one touched even a brick from it.
Seemed like everyone new that we were achieving a dream.
The inauguration day was the most beautiful moment, which I will never forget even if we built hundreds of project after this.
Seemed like, everyone knew of our dream.
In the little garden and outside the house were gathered around 300 people who astonished looked what we had built.
These were the first reactions of our projects, and we were the first NGO building such a thing.
Thus, began our beautiful and non returnable road of strives to better everything that we see as an opportunity to change.
Year after year, we made lots of friends in our club.  We learned closely the horrible problems faced by women.  We taught to the government and other institutions on how to work with us, for women, children and the future.
We begun for the first time a campaign with the slogan „Don’t be Quiet!“.  We began the war against women trafficking.
We tried hard to better the life conditions of women and children.  We worked with the belief Women are bridges to peace and understanding.
We dreamt and worked to make a reality the slogan that A different Balkan is Possible.
In the Women’s Club we continued forward with the logo; Help yourself with your work!
We support women of all levels by giving them the belief that Women make history everyday.
Also, we were the first to open the woman-telephone line, which helps many women and girls to resolve some of their problems.
We worked in our way with many men who were the most important clients and supports.
With the slogan we are a feminist movement but we do not hate men, and that together we want to better our reality , many men came to our centers and we received their fully support.
Through our beautiful and long road, we grew while walking, we learned in the making.
Today, after 10 years, turning our heads around, we see that we did not make a mistake, not even in a moment.  This is not lack of modesty, but sincerity, because from the start we tried hard, we were involved emotionally thus forgetting time, family, difficulties, and seeing always the best part of these strives.
After 10 years, we believe that it is very difficult to be successful because first of all you need to be true; you need to do what most people think it is impossible or a dream.
I believe in dreams, for conquering the future we have to dream first.  After ten years in the „Amazon“ Club, we gather together to „talk“ about men, but let us gather to built the future in the coming 10 years.
The women’s Club Teuta e Re tries to inspire women not to become „queens“ but strong status women, and a multi-disciplinary Center with a competent staff with a long working experience.
Today, together with the Women’s Club we are the  Women Competence and Culture House.  Don’t forget to visit us. We are in the same address:
Street of Kavaja, near by  Zonja e Keshillit te  Mire,  the most beautiful small house with many flowers and UAW’s logo of “Teuta’ that means of  Ilirian Queen.

Coordinator for Albania of Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS) 1991 – 2000

Brigitt Hüni

Sometimes it seems to me like a fairy-tale: The brave ancient Illyrian queen Teuta inspired a group of today’s women, brave not less, to the idea to open a Women’s Club in the center of Tirana, the capital of patriarchal Albania. Ten years ago, it was not easy to explain to Swiss people, interested in development aid, what this actually meant.  Yes, there was a lot of goodwill and preparedness among the Swiss to help the Albanian people who just overcame the sufferings of a harsh dictatorship and who were living in deep poverty.  But a ‘club’?  A kind of elitist meeting place where a selected group only, preferably men, have access to in order to spend leisure time with hot drinks, discussing politics, doing big business, and all in a cloud of smoke?  A club for women?  Was this really something serious and decent? How could this help to alleviate the life of the Albanian women? And was it really something to be supported by a Western Aid Agency? I tried to explain the idea in detail and convince people pointing out the already successfully working aid program of UAW.  Was it at that time a strange project for Swiss people, how much more was it in Tirana! It was a provocation in a city where bars and restaurants were crowded day by day with men whereas women rushed by carrying shopping bags and holding children’s hands.
The idea was born, the plan got concrete, based on the large experience of the ‘Usefuls’ regarding the precarious living situation of women in the country, the cramped conditions in their homes, the tiring housework with continuous lack of water and electricity, the domestic violence, the hidden, often unconscious desire to speak out in an appreciative atmosphere, to get information or just to relax. A safe and friendly meeting place for all this, that’s what the club offered to women, to women of all ages and strata, and that’s what it does up to now.
The ancient Teuta is present by a mosaic on the front wall of the UAW headquarter where the women’s club with its cafeteria is located, too. As creating a mosaic, the ‘Usefuls’ have enlarged ‘stone by stone’ the club’s offers and activities. Still it is a place just to meet and drink a cappuccino, to share daily life or serious problems with one another, to get inspiration by reading the daily ‘green sheets’. However, the club attracts women also for its variety of social and cultural events. An admirable number of volunteer workers discuss and prepare campaigns and actions. Empowerment of women is not just an empty phrase, it happens every day: Continuous information and consultancy strengthen the club visitors’ awareness and self confidence in order to enable them helping themselves by their own effort, just according to one of UAW’s guidelines.
Now being retired it’s like coming home when I enter the inviting place with its carefully cultivated small garden. Sometimes the club is like a bee-house, sometimes it’s full of concentrated listening and discussing work. The club is a house of tears and laughter, as it was expressed so appropriately in one of UAW’s recent documentaries.  May the club flourish another ten years!

Modest Manifest of the Women’s Club

Fatmir Koçi

The idea to call this short writing a Manifest, comes from the high consideration that we have on women, and especially for the new born Albanian woman.  This feeling has pushed me to accept that often I have discovered the world through the woman and her image.  In most of part of my movies, the woman’s world is overwhelming, beautiful, rich, suffering, and always confronted with male world and men which for the sake of the truth I have paradox as a backwards phenomenon, like the steam trains in the 19th century compared with the express trains in Europe today.  I believe that the Teuta eRe Club is first step to a long run to reach not the end but the beginning of an emancipated society where women can strive to be her true self.  I would like to conclude with Victor Hugo, “Year ‘93”:
Man 1: And the wife? How do you value her?
Man 2: Like she is the servant of the man.
Man 1: Yes, but with one condition.
Man 2: Which?
Man 1: With the condition that the man can be the servant of the woman.
Man 2: Are you serious? The man a servant! Never! The man is God.  The man is king…
Man 1: Yes, on one condition..
Man 2: Which?
Man 1: For the woman to be queen.
Man 2: This means that you want for the man and woman….
Man 1: Equality…
Man 2: Equality!? Are you serious? Both beings are different!
Man 1: I said equality.  I did not say similarity.