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Increasing Awareness as We Shelter in Place

Once-bustling streets have fallen silent, and Albania’s lively café culture has ground to a halt. Amidst the global pandemic, businesses, households, and society at large across the nation now operate under restrictions of time and movement. Although these measures have been accepted as a best-practice to fight the spread of COVID-19, unintended consequences are negatively affecting those at-risk for domestic violence. The orders to “shelter in place”, in effect, trap victims in close quarters with their abusers. Increased economic stress, coupled with the uncertainty of an indefinite period of isolation, can further exacerbate situations leading to violence. In a country where domestic violence will statistically be experienced by over half of women, this is an alarming situation. Fortunately, reporting mechanisms are in place for domestic violence and violence against women. When limited social engagement cuts off normal means of communication, how can we raise awareness of these issues and provide resources to those most at-risk?

USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project (PGLP) recognizes that local governments must be vocal in their support of victims of domestic violence and condemnation of violence against women. Working with our Gender Expert and Gender Equality Officers (GEOs) at the local levels, PLGP prepared an awareness campaign, cautioning aggressors that violence will not be tolerated and providing information for reporting cases of abuse to those who may be at-risk. Using the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, the campaign urges women to reach out and report threatening or dangerous situations. It is more important now, in these times of imposed isolation, that women feel connected to resources and a community beyond the four walls of their homes. This message was immediately carried forward by four partner municipalities in Cerrik, Dibra, Kamza, and Pogradec and reached over 9500 people. “Posting these messages is really important, especially in these days, and we thank USAID for their support,” stated one GEO. “We are all facing unexpected challenges”.

“For an abused person, the most difficult feelings to overcome are fear, isolation, and a lack of confidence that someone can hear, understand, and not judge their behavior. Under the conditions of isolation precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19, these feelings become more evident and block the ability to speak out and report the violence experienced. Conversely, the situation of isolation makes the perpetrator feel even stronger, believing that the victim is unprotected and completely “in his hands”. In these days of dealing with COVID-19, we all want to know that we are not alone and that we will win this situation together. This message is even more appreciated when addressed to those who have been/are being abused. The fight against domestic violence and the fight against COVID-19 are the fight for life. Life is precious and must be protected at all costs!” – Monika Kocaqi, PLGP Gender Expert.

USAID continues to raise awareness and stand with women and those at risk of domestic violence, providing support and encouragement that we are in this fight together. #YouAreNotAlone  

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