Women on the Balkans

Women on the Balkans

Nasiba Abbasova, Translation: Megan Nagel

During our DAAD field trip to Macedonia and Albania with the aim of exploring the Balkan Muslims it was also interesting to observe the women both in cities and villages. Here the question is not only about the division of the role of men and women in the family or society but also about the influence of religion on the lives of the women. In our case Islam. According to the 2002 census 30% of the Macedonian population identify as Muslim, in Albania 50% according to their last census in 2011. From 1968 until the 1990s Albania was an atheist state under communist rule.

Tirana, Albania. Source: S. Stankovic
Tirana, Albania. Source: S. Stankovic

Women in cities and villages

Muslim women are represented everywhere in cities; on the street, at the markets and in other public spaces, whether with headscarf or not. To be out on the street at midnight as a woman is not dangerous. Smoking and drinking alcohol in public is also no problem.

Skopje Old Bazaar, mainly Albanian and Muslim part

The women in the villages are very friendly but not always visible. Public squares such as cafés or teahouses are mainly frequented by men. In the villages usually old ladies live in big and beautiful villas, either alone or with their men. One of these women is Afrodita whom we met in a village. She lives alone in a two-storeyed villa throughout the whole year. Her children and grandchildren live in Germany and she visits them a few times a year. She prepares different jams made with the fruit from her own garden and other specialities which she takes along to Germany when she visits. She welcomed us like her own grandchildren and hugged and kissed us when parting, presenting us with her tasty apples.

Women of the Bektashi community

During our field trip we visited the Bektashi community in the Macedonian town of Tetovo. During the conversation with the friendly man who is going to be the Dervish the coming years it appeared that the women of this faith are well educated, mostly with university degrees. They do not have to wear a headscarf or chador. The Bektashi community in Tetovo has had a woman as the Baba, the highest position in this society.

Women as entrepreneurs

In Zogaj, a beautiful village on Lake Skadar on the Montenegrin-Albanian border a workshop was founded a few years ago by a young woman where they produce carpets and bags etc in different sizes. It is a small and friendly team of women working here.

The owner of the workshop
Zogaj, Workshop. Source: Darinka Antić

Good future perspectives abroad

During the conversation with the women it became clear that they hope for a good and safe future for their children. Many want to send their children to Western Europe, especially Germany, for a good university degree and hope for a good perspective for staying there. A saleswoman in a shopping centre in Tirana talked about how she came to Germany with her two children during the refugee wave and was deported half a year later. She wants to do her best for her children to receive good higher education in Germany. “Good studies” and a “good life” in Germany/abroad are the most important desires for these women.