Her work can be described in one word: authentic. Any project she was involved in, had to do it right! She wants her pictures to represent truth to people, to enable them to find room far away from the expectations of society, far away from any standards or idealism. When people are standing in front of her camera, she wants them to feel calm and to trust her. She strives to provide for them a space where they be who they are.
Elona began to fight for women’s rights because she felt a constant pressure over women to adjust to standards (often unrealistic) and to behave in a way that society expects them to. This is especially related to certain “guidelines” towards men, behaving in that way that suitable to them. Why is it that women have to adjust to ideals which are imposed on them by men? She often meets people (even in her society) who don’t understand why the women of new era are “complaining”. Her answer is that women are not fighting for luxury or extravaganza, but simply for basic human rights. The right of men is guaranteed, but when women ask for their rights that shall leave the impression that they are demanding for something unrealistic.
Her favourite project is “Redefining beauty” performed realized in Pristina (December, 2016). The project’s goal was to help people see themselves as they are, away from perfection and idealism. In this actual project she took pictures of people who had acnes on their faces, with the only desire to help them feel different about themselves, but also for other people looking at those pictures, to help them feel better and to overcome complexes. The project was special because it required from its participants to get out of their comfort zone. It had a great impact. People from all over the world wrote messages stating that they were empowered and encouraged to get outside without putting any makeup on.
It can easily be maintained that modern women are by far more independent that our grandmothers, especially in Pristina, but let’s not forget that Pristina is just a small part of Kosovo, and that women in other parts are still oppressed and harassed. Old ideals are deeply rooted in our mental structures, and tearing those structures apart is not something that can be changed overnight. It is rather a very slow process, and it will take time for this to become a “norm” in Kosovo and to see equality between women and men. Yet, it is a journey we can walk through together. It is a goal for which we should fight together, especially we as women being most “privileged” ones (in the context of independence and equality), and we must get to use all these privileges that make us more bound with different social networks in order to help bring forth this change in the society.
Elona thinks that women empowerment will happen only on the basis of education, as it is key for personal independence. Firstly, one needs access to education, because schools will provide for opportunities for employment, independence and other chances to give their contribution to the society. Education is a key element, and the whole system must be changed, in order for it to pride equal opportunities for both genders. Therefore, we must reconsider the divisions of colours, toys, like spaceships for boys, which imply that sky is the limit, as opposed to dolls which set unrealistic beauty standards. Education should start at home with families encouraging girls to do great things. A family should not limit a daughter, but rather support her in any possible way. Empowering woman means empowering men, the family and future generations. Even men suffer under patriarchate system of family as they have to mind their mouth and behave as real men, because they are also under constant pressure to come home and provide for the whole family, and to be strong all the time.
Elona’s projects which have had a great impact in the society are the following:
- The piece of work along with some young people with whom she created projects to help refugees seeking asylum in our city get along with other young people from our city.
- 2)Photo-Project “Redefining beauty” – which helped people across the world to accept themselves as they are, with the so called, imperfections.
In September she is going to study political sciences. Currently, she is developing her photographic project
Here are names of people on images:
Adelina Tershani: You have built beauty standards, I shatter them! I accept myself as I am.
Medina Mehmeti: It’s not easy to be brave and to go outside uncovered. One should be able to confront all glances and occasionally even rude comments. After a while one stops paying attention to that. You simply accept yourself as you are, and when you go outside, you walk unashamed. That’s the time when you are at peace with yourself, and not a single glance nor comment isn’t worth more than your freedom. This is the best feeling ever!
Oketa Basha: I was ashamed of my skin for couple of years. I had bangs to cover acne on my forehead. When I grew up, I started hiding behind makeup. I cried often, wanting better skin. I hated the way I look for years., but not today! I won’t allow couple of acne to prevent me to love myself, I won’t allow rude comments and opinions of others to disturb me! I am beautiful! Essentially, we all are beautiful, we just need to open our hearts and minds.