A depressed autumn night. In a small village, in the western part of Kosovo, in Deçan’s Pobergje, when all were asleep, a girl took the courage to leave the family. At that time, the 17-year-old girl could not agree with the predetermined destiny of the family; missing education and accepting an early marriage. “Oh, do not dare to engage me with someone, I will not go. I brought many problems to my mother, who was a single mother, with 7 girls and unprotected.
This rebellious, feminine and rewarding girl is Xhejerane Lokaj, now 62 years old. After completing the eighth grade, she had been waiting for her mother and father for three years to show that she could go to high school. Regardless of the pleadings of teachers, school principal, youth chairman, they disagreed. Grown up in a family with inherited traditions and customs, they did not in any way accept girls’ schooling and gender equality.
Then, the escape was the only alternative, taking the road to the police station in Deçan with a request “I want to go to school”. The responsibility she took at an early age for herself, her six sisters and her family for education, and advancing the position of women in society were the memories of the youth that Xhejerane took with her throughout her life
“You are a girl and you should take care and watch out for what you are talking about and what you are doing. The boys are different, they have free legs to go,” – she describes the fundamental difference between women and men at that time.
After many years, life again challenged her by sending her to the south of Kosovo, in an isolated, mountainous and a separated town. She started working in the municipality of Deçan as a midwife, but also promoting gender equality values because inequality was hurting her in the soul.
She established a non-governmental organization “Initiative for Women from Dragash”, which works tirelessly to prevent early marriages and advocates for girls and women in her municipality to have access to education. She is fighting the prejudices and underestimates of the girls. “This is not the case, I do not know, this is not true, can you trust a woman?” However, she gets very disappointed when women are handed over to unfair challenges.
The organization lead by Xhejerane organizes workshops and meetings with the girls of the remote and deepest mountain villages that consist of the Albanian community and the Gorano-Bosniak community. To date, they have implemented many projects in various fields such as: Economic Empowerment, Gender-Based Violence, Domestic Violence, Anti-Trafficking, Gender Equality, Health. According to some initiatives, although with many difficulties, today in Dragash Municipality has increased the number of girls who attend the studies, the number of women employed and job seekers has increased. Xhejerane, together with her organization, have dared to talk about sharing the property in the family, and have encouraged and supported many women to get involved in politics. During 2012-2013, Xhejerane Lokaj and the organization she leads in cooperation with Dragash Municipality developed the activity for girls’ education, with home-to-home visits to the villages of this municipality. She succeeded in several villages such as the village of Krusha, where 6 girls started secondary education. However, she was quite disappointed when she was not successful in Restelica village. Her dream to empower women and men in Kosovo is only through education and employment. These two will enable women to make equal decisions in the family and society.