KWN members, staff gather at the end of the retreat held in Durres, Albania on 3-6 Oct.

Annual Retreat Energizes, Empowers KWN Members

More than 100 KWN members gathered in Durres, Albania from 3-6 October for a weekend of recuperation, debate, entertainment and learning. Despite the dense agenda, participants energetically continued discussions outside organized activities. Diverse members readily shared their knowledge and life experiences, motivating and inspiring each other.

“One strength of KWN is its diversity,” observed Lina Andeer from Kvinna till Kvinna, the Swedish organization that supported the retreat. “You have young women and older women. You have women from cities and from rural areas, from different ethnic communities and women with disabilities.”
Indeed the diversity of participating KWN members was inspiring. Throughout the weekend, they supported each other: KWN had ongoing interpretation in Albanian, Serbian and English, as well as sign language. And when the party started, all members took to the floor, including blind women and persons with special physical needs, dancing in their wheelchairs.
During an all-day workshop on conflict resolution, the world-renowned inspirational speaker Shqipe Malushi supported members with strategies for transforming negative energy to positive energy. Fearing that she might open the wounds that many women still suffer from the war, she carefully conveyed how positive thinking can support women in dealing with their everyday realities. Positive thinking can enable activists to overcome various forms of conflict, from inter-personal to organizational to societal. Participants welcomed her unique approach and effective communication strategies.
“It was a very positive and inspiring workshop,” a participant said.
Meanwhile, in the room next door, KWN Program Manager Nicole Farnsworth facilitated a discussion on concrete steps in planning effective advocacy initiatives. Members discussed tools and “tricks” in planning related to the advocacy cycle. Then, they divided into groups where they planned advocacy initiatives to address real issues within their communities, such as physical access to public buildings for persons in wheelchairs, mothers with strollers and the elderly; health insurance for all; and sufficient pensions for retirees.
“The workshop about advocacy was very productive, especially working in groups where we had the chance to create concrete advocacy strategies,” an activist said. “Most of us plan to use these strategies when we go back to Kosovo.”
In addition to all-day workshops, the retreat involved events each evening. NGO “Artpolis” facilitated a discussion on “Women’s Empowerment.” Members viewed a series of photographs that triggered different emotions, which members then discussed together. KWN members also welcomed guests from the Albanian NGO “Gruaja tek Gruaja” (Women to Women) who amused members with a powerful and humorous monologue: “Sex. Thank you, Just to Try It.”
The next evening, activists from Albania, Delina Fico and Xheni Karaj, joined members in discussing the meanings, concepts and practices of feminism in Kosovo and Albania.
“There are many people who don’t have knowledge about feminism,” Delina Fico said. “They say that feminists hate men, but feminism has never seen men as enemies. Instead, it has seen them as part of the problem and the solution. This is obvious from the fact that throughout the world, and in Kosovo, there are men feminists who are part of the project of reviewing and reforming gender relations.”
KWN members discussed the importance of feminism as part of activism towards furthering women’s rights.
KWN marked the end of this unforgettable weekend with a party filled with music, fun and dancing.
“The party was the best way to end this meeting. We really had fun,” an activist said.
The dancing continued on the bus, all the way back to Kosovo. The retreat had served its purpose: transforming negative energy into positive energy, motivating activists, fostering collaboration among members and providing activists with new strategies for their future work.