Bukurije´s husband fell from the 8th floor of a building site six months ago while doing a night time inspection with his mobile phone as a light. Her husband had no safety harness and no compensation was received.
Bukurije has memories of a good marriage of 20 years and of always being able to make decisions together with her husband. This is what she misses today.
Burkuije’s children would like to study at university. Their home is squeezed like a sardine in the heart of a municipality which is one of the most densely populated in Europe. The walls of their apartment are cracked and still in need of repair from the earth quake of 2016.
Bukurije has never wanted to be dependent on people. She has always been a voice for the laxhe (neighbourhood) and a source of hope and leadership in the darkest part of the north of the city where she lives.
A second woman (unknown to Bukurije) is Ferija. She shares a room with four others. Her husband lives in an adjoining room, but they have no relationship. He wants her out of the apartment, even though she owns half of it and has nowhere else to go. Her husband does not provide for her or their children. He tells Ferija and the oldest daughter that they are like cheap women who walk the street.
Ferija should receive pension support but she has received nothing so far this year. Ferija is living off borrowed money from the neighbours. “I’ll pay it back,” she says.
Ferija is afraid for her children and what will become of them. She has no wider family support outside the country and no family in the diaspora or even in neighbouring Kosovo.
Ferija and Bukurije have something in common: they have both signed on to Operation Mercy’s Skills Training Empowerment and Practice (STEP) program where they will take part in their choice of Zanaet or skill. They have both chosen to learn dress-making. Others have chosen cosmetics, hairdressing or cake-decorating.
STEP aims to help women who are inactive in the workforce to have the confidence, resilience and support to move ahead despite others thinking they have no future as husband-less women.
Not everyone’s lives are as difficult as Ferija and Bukurijes’, but STEP was conceived to touch some of the toughest areas of the city where women have few or no options. The Sever region has a 88% non-engagement rate amongst women, despite the poverty here.
STEP does not promise work but rather it builds upon the God-given assets of the women themselves. STEP provides training for business, personal and vocational skills to enable the women to find value, recognition of potential and the possibility of a future with greater earning capacity. STEP provides a breathing space and a message of hope for the community.