Elvana Shala is from Peja, 28 years old and she was born on 11.05.1990, currently living in Prishtina. Her family is composed of her parents, two sisters and a brother. She is the third child of the family.
The words that best describe her character are perseverance, humanity and sincerity. She has a very strong character and as a woman she does not give up easily. She has always insisted on achieving her objectives whenever she knew they were right, but she admits that she does have a soft soul. She is the person that can never be mad at people or hate them. She is characterised by the love she has for others, even if it means not getting that love back. She admits that she is very sincere with people even though many times this kind of sincerity has fairly damaged her. Yet, it is this sincerity that fulfils her humanity.
When asked to provide to recall her childhood and any memory that is worthy to share, she states that her childhood was unfortunately very difficult and characterized with health problems. Six months after she was born she was wrongly diagnosed by a doctor in Peja, and this left her with a walking disability. She sought cures in local and international clinics and faced extraordinary health issues. From her early childhood, all she can remember is staying in hospitals, surgeries, tears, and the great difficulties while walking. So, it wasn’t a normal, beautiful, playful childhood for her at all. After she started primary school, despite her health issues, she was very dedicated to learn and was integrated equally in society, because her family treated her well and educated her to consider herself always equal to others. When she was 12 years old she started to work for many local and international organizations which worked with human rights, and as a result she had the opportunity to organize many cultural and humanitarian activities. From that time up to today, she graduated in Political Science and Mass Communication, and worked a lot against discrimination and for equal human rights regardless of gender, religion, race or sexual orientation. As a young woman, throughout her work and education, her motto was “We are all born out of love, and therefore we should be treated with love”. However, despite the painful health issues, she admits to have had many moments of happiness and success in her life. In her memory there are many good and bad instances, too many to recount.
When queried to give us an insight of her fights for women’s rights and how did her friend and relatives respond to her cause, she maintained that from a very young age she started to fight not only for women’s rights, but for human rights in general, especially against discrimination of marginalized categories and gender inequalities. The reason why she started this fight, was in particularly because she was a girl with a disability and she didn’t want to be subject of discrimination in society, and she didn’t want others to be discriminated either. Her family always responded positively to her cause and they always supported her. She was often faced with ideas of the patriarchal mentality of the society with which she didn’t agree. She admits that “at first, women were always seen as house servants who must abide to the family’s or husband’s orders even when they are not right; that you’re a good girl only when you don’t oppose your parents, and that it’s not worth working for such causes that don’t bring profit!” She continues by saying that “in reality, I always was and still am against the idea that women should not oppose their families or husbands and should not follow their dreams and objectives, or that you are a good girl only if you agree with the opinions or demands of your parents. The time of the Kanun has passed, and international laws and conventions determine that every person has the right to disagree with the opinions of others, whoever they may be. When I was accused of doing work in vain, and that my work didn’t bring me any financial profit, I always responded by saying that “the most beautiful things in the world are for free”.
When asked to tell us something about any activity/project that she will remember forever and which has been very special to her, she maintained that from the first time she started in 2002, she has undertaken many activities and projects. “They were all special in their own way, but I will always remember the first time I represented Kosovo as its Good Will Ambassador in the Annual Youth Summit of the UN in New York in 2015, and the latest project which was launched in November 2017 and is called “A ray of light” and is against discrimination of wartime sexual violence victims in Kosovo. The first case was special because it was the first time that Kosovo had a Good Will Ambassador and was being represented in the UN, whereas the campaign made me acknowledge the strong and painful characteristics of Kosovar women, and enabled me to hear stories the likes of which I didn’t read even in books” – concluded Elvana.
Considering the current situation in Kosovo she describes “Equal rights for women in Kosovo” as something rather challenging as she admits that the women rights in Kosovo are violated because we still live with a patriarchal or cannon mentality. In many rural zones in Kosovo, women are still under pressure and are dependent on men, whereas the situation might be slightly better in cities where we’ve noted great improvements. She thinks this partially comes as a result of severe economic conditions. Nevertheless, the main challenges of being a woman in Kosovo are being yourself and chasing your dream, saying your opinions openly without being prejudged and holding leading positions.
When asked to show us her happiest and most disappointing moments she stated that her happiest moment was when she managed to break taboos and prejudices for certain causes, to make people think differently, especially when she managed to help people who were in need. Whereas, as far as disappointment is concerned, she admits that she felt really disappointed whenever she was prejudiced for the way she walked. She gets disappointed also when people didn’t understand the essence of an activity.
She was asked what does ‘the empowerment of women’ mean to her? What about of men? What can we do as a society so that young boys and girls grow up in a spirit of social equality?
Her response was that empowerment of women implies the empowerment of society in general, because women are reproductive beings. They make children who then grow up and create society. So, when women are more powerful and emancipated, society is too. The empowerment of men fulfils to some extent what women can’t do by nature. As a society we must be more aware of social equality and we must educate our children to understand that brothers and sisters are equal, and that there is nothing different about them except gender. And the most important thing is not to be affected by the negative words of people around us.
Her role in society today is diverse. As from 2014 she has served the mission of Kosovo’s Good Will Ambassador which is given by the International Commission for Human Rights, an intergovernmental organization which is part of the UN. Her mission is being a diplomatic representative in a non-profit mission, with a four years mandate which gives her the opportunity to represent Kosovo in different conferences, summits and events of public diplomacy in the international arena, as well as to organize different awareness-raising social and humanitarian activities in Kosovo. In January, she undertook the second mandate among the 5 Good Will Ambassadors that are appointed by IHRC.
Her motto in life is “Your rights are not purchased. You are born with them. Protect them!”
Queried about two or three projects which she or her organization implemented, and which have had social impact, she mentioned three of her projects which she thinks have had great social impact and which were implemented while she has been the Kosovo’s Good Will Ambassador, and they are the following: the awareness-raising campaign for human rights which was launched in 2014, through which she conveyed messages about the importance of respecting human rights and of fighting discrimination; the humanitarian action for families in need in the city of Peja which was implemented in 2016 and through which many families were provided with assistance which were living in extremely severe conditions, by providing them food and clothing; and the awareness-raising campaign against the discrimination of wartime sexual violence victims in Kosovo, the “Ray of light” campaign which called to break the silence and respect this category not only in the local level, but also in the international level.