UN Volunteers at UNHCR Field Office Peja, Kosovo and Aba-k, a local womens NGO, organized a sale exhibition in Istog/Istok on 12 June 2012 of handcrafts, embroidery, jewelry and traditional dishes. The activity was implemented through a UNV-led scheme promoting volunteerism, peace and development.
Aba-k is a multi-ethnic association of women with the objective to promote empowerment of women through economic emancipation. Their activities are focused on vulnerable women of both majority and minority communities to whom Aba-k provides opportunities to build skills and raise income. Women of Roma, Egyptian, Albanian and Bosniak communities receive training in tailoring and needle work and gain experience for future income generation. Many of them deliver their embroidery, both traditional and modern, to Aba-k for marketing and sales. They also prepare delicious local dishes for numerous public events. In 2010 they won the main award at a regional culinary contest.
Since its establishment in 2008, more than 200 women have participated in Aba-k activities. There is no membership fee and their activities are funded either through donations or small grants. However, voluntary engagement of women remains at the heart of the organization.
The women embraced the idea of having an exhibition of their handcrafts and received support from UNV to purchase the necessary materials. The success of the project depended on their volunteerism. They produced the handwork and cooked, and were also actively engaged in publicizing the event by putting up posters and placing advertisements in the local electronic and print media. Finally, they prepared the venue and tidied up the exhibition hall before the opening and after the closure of the exhibition on 12 June 2012. The commitment of these women attracted other voluntary contributions too. The Municipality of Istog/Istok donated refreshment drinks for the opening ceremony and a folklore band played music free-of-charge. Three young dancers gladly volunteered to charm everybody with a performance of traditional Albanian dances.
The exhibition was used well as an opportunity to support not only the NGO but also the individual women who offered their craftwork and culinary specialties for sale. Visitors were generous, spending their money on eye-catching crocheted necklaces, knitted socks, embroidered handkerchiefs or natural wool carpets. The foodies among them could not resist the typical local dish flia.
A special moment of the event and one which made everybody involved particularly proud was participation of Kosovo Serb returnee women from a mono-ethnic Serb village of the municipality. This was the first time for them to join women of other ethnicities and display their typical handwork. All the women expressed their determination to continue and reinforce this cooperation. This is a promising sign for the future and the long-term post-conflict recovery and reconciliation.