In 2013 Matilda started a project among Roma-teenage girls. As a Roma Woman herself, she knows that many girls marry around the age of 14 and 15 and soon have children. Matilda is strongly motivated to give the girls a more positive self-image, so that they do not feel they have to marry automatically at a young age.
Teenage girls in the Roma community often marry around the age of 15 (despite the Albanian law that you must be 18 to consent to marriage). These girls are left undereducated and have very few options for their lives from that point on.
According to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), at the time of the 2011 census, only fifteen percent of the Roma women in Albania were employed. Additionally, more than forty percent of the Roma population lacks compulsory education, which contributes to their difficulty in gaining employment. We believe that the early marriage of these girls is a contributing factor in the generational cycle of poverty. The program for Roma girls, age 12-15, is designed to show the girls that they are loved and have value, and give them the confidence to continue their education. The hope is that these girls will have opportunities to create a better life for their families by choosing to postpone marriage until they have completed at least their basic education.
The project was started in 2013, by Matilda, a Roma woman who worked for the Kenedi Foundation. The program is a collaboration between the Kenedi Foundation and the Kenedi Korca Roma organization “Brezi Yne Per Komunitetin,” which means “Our Generation for the Community.”
Matilda (born in 1990) grew up in a Roma village in Albania. Despite family difficulties and losing her father when she was nine years old, Matilda persevered in her education and graduated from university with a degree in tourism. She hopes to complete a Master’s degree in sociology.
Through her experience, she has learned to see the opportunities in life. She is an example for the girls and living proof that it is possible to finish their education and pursue their dreams. She got married last year and now lives in Tirana.
New Leadership Since Matilda moved to Tirana, Valentina Taip has taken on the responsibilities of the ministry. She works in the kids’ center everday working with Roma girls and girls of all backgrounds, mentoring them and loving them.
About the girls
The teenage girls are a vulnerable group. They have often endured much in their childhood, including domestic violence, sexual abuse, and exploitation. Many are expected to marry at a young age and some are trafficked into prostitution. The girls are often responsible for their siblings and do much of the housework for their families.
About the project
Education is a significant part of the program. The Foundation staff helps the girls with homework and contacts their teachers to find the best ways to support and encourage them in their education. The girls also have the opportunity to participate in other courses such as music and English as a second language. An important element leading to success in education is that The Foundation staff meets with the parents of the girls to involve them in their daughters’ progress.
The girls in the project also participate in a cooking course that is designed to expand the girls’ skills and create a product that they can take home to their families.They also learn traditional and folk dancing which gives them an opportunity for fun and exercise as well as an artistic outlet. After ten lessons, the girls prepare a performance including music and drama. The performance is an important part of the program, so that they can share what they have learned with their families.
The girls learn how to use a sewing machine in a sewing workshop, which gives them skills to make and mend clothing and other household items. About 15 girls participate in the project, meeting together three times a week for activities. Some of these girls were a part of the day center when they were younger.
Long term results
We hope that by participating in the program, it is more likely that the girls will be able to break the vicious cycle of poverty in their own lives as they start to understand the possibilities before them and see that they are capable of doing and creating. The program has not been in place long enough to show long term results, but has the support of the United Nations Development Program.
Young Mothers’ Group
The Kenedi Foundation would like to organize a support group for the girls who do marry young and become mothers. At this young age, they lack the necessary maturity and parenting skills for raising a family. Unfortunately, at this time they usually disappear from the care The Foundation can provide. The Foundation would like to start a support group that would cover topics including hygiene, sexual morality, money management, nutrition, parenting, and more. The goal is to create a nurturing environment where the young mothers can grow in knowledge and skills so that they can provide a healthier home for their families.
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