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By Laureta Memo

Youth in Albania often encounter aggression and violence and are exposed to other risk factors leading to various types of abuse. However, an increased awareness of these factors and access to appropriate response can mitigate these risks and build safer societies. In an effort to prepare and empower youth to identify risks and address conflict situations, PLGP is conducting an Empowerment through Self-Defense Program (ESD) with young girls and boys from six Youth Boards (YBs) in partner municipalities across Albania.

The ESD Program will empower approximately 200 girls and boys from these Youth Boards, and through them strengthen their families and communities, in order to prevent situations of abuse, violence, bullying, crime and victimization, and to break the myths surrounding violence against girls and boys. The program combines awareness-raising activities on different forms of violence with empowerment through the development of simple, easy-to-use self-defense techniques.

Fifty girls and boys from Pogradec and Kamza YBs completed the three-course program early this year. These experiential courses combine awareness, assertiveness, and verbal confrontation skills with safety strategies and physical techniques.

The abilities gained through the training equipped youth to successfully prevent, resist, escape, and survive abusive physical and emotional situations and went beyond the physical to provide psychological awareness and verbal skills as well.

Built upon the three components of the “Peace over Violence” model: awareness, assertiveness, and physical techniques, the ESD Program helped Youth Board members increase their self-esteem and confidence by learning and practicing tools to respond to such situations using the ethic of least harm.

“This has been an awesome experience. I feel safer now. The ESD Program helped us learn strategies that could be applied in a variety of uncomfortable or violent situations,” said Megi, a 15-year old from the Kamza YB.

“I am glad I could get this training. I feel stronger and prepared to face difficult situations now. We learned about the power of words, importance of setting boundaries, and controlling our feelings and minds,” said 16-year old Kleart from the Pogradec YB.

PLGP will continue the implementation of the Empowerment through Self-Defense Program with the Youth Boards of Librazhd, Cerrik, Bulqiza, and Dibra in the coming months as we are able with the current global health crisis. Youth empowerment through sport and other alternative methods supports their development and prepares them for life as leaders of their communities and Albania as a whole.

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