The Children of this Country Deserve a New Offer - PS Congress - february 2020
It is a pleasure be here. In all these long years, this is the first time I attend and, even more so, address a Socialist Party forum. Except for being present at the opening and closing election events by Edi’s side, I have stuck religiously to my conviction that the time, journey, battles and everything they entail in the whirlwind that is the life for all of you in this front, belong exclusively to the Socialist Party.
Meanwhile, with the small family, that of the husband and wife, mother and father, parents and children belongs only the invisible but unwavering support, unconditionally, relentlessly, without ever giving up.; support for its man, who has most of his life inextricably linked to the greater political family, but, above all, support for the cause he has invested himself at the service of Albania where we were born, as our children were, as their children will be.
Suddenly, this unexpected invitation to come here and address you on this day celebrating women, with women and for women, under the great motto, “One more”, felt quite natural! I say it was unexpected because I have persistently held my ground, refusing to show off as a protagonist, not even for a moment, under the great roof of the Socialist Party or even in the lights of the public stage, in general. The reason why accepted this invitation today and here will perhaps become clearer during my speech. However, allow me to tell you that I felt right away that this was the right time and the right place to speak in public, so, thank you to whoever thought of extending me this invitation and thank you to all of you who with your warm hospitality just confirmed that accepting it without hesitation was the right thing to do.
Thank you Lindita for your particularly generous introduction. I hope I will be an added value to this important activity. While it combines the mother, scholar, civil activist and life partner of your dear chairman I hope for all of you, my speech pretends nothing more than to be an expression of the good will to publicly share with you some modest thoughts.
In the autumn of 2005, the Socialist Party was electing its new chair. Back then, together with my colleagues, we had just started with the implementation of a new model of school as community centres at a commune somewhere in the south of the country, in the area of Gjirokastra and Permet. The mayor of the commune was a delegate to that electoral congress, the tumultuous Congress that elected Edi as the chairman a few months after the Socialist Party went in opposition. When the congress was over, the mayor came to our office to talk about the activities we would hold at the school in his commune. At one point, someone from us asked him: “How did the congress turn out?”
“It wasn’t us, the delegates, who elected the chairman – he answered – it were our children who did. We were flooded with messages telling us to vote for the tall one. He is modern and communicates very easily with them,” the mayor concluded with a smile that showed as much doubt in the tall man as it showed relief for having fulfilled his children wishes.
Thus, Edi came at the helm of the Socialist Party as a call from the children of those who while struggling through arduous changes, major obstacles and enormous sacrifices, rises and falls, gave a lot of themselves to the turbulent Albania of the first 15 years after it took on the path of freedom and democracy. Even the call, “We want Albania to be like Europe”, came from the children, which brought the entire people together to blaze that trail 30 years ago. Indeed, children remain forever the main reason why politics must exist, why parties should confront in the battlefield of visions and ideas for the future, why the Socialist Party itself should ask more of itself, and why you, the girls and women of this great family, must insist on your effort to be the best half of this party.
A major and real change has occurred, unthinkable only a few years ago, that makes me feel very good when I speak of gender representation abroad. This is obviously something intrinsic to the reason why I came here today, to address you, the women who belong to a party that is indisputably credited with such change and who carry the unquestionable burden to advance that further; to make such shift expand to the roots, now that it has occurred on the top level. Let us tell it as it is, anytime a man shows in the public stage, he is one more man from the gender of the majority, but a woman on that very public limelight carries behind like a shadow the obligation to become one more voice and the gravitational strength of her gender.
I am filled with pride to see Albania ranked among the top five countries in the world for the participation of women in governance and also to see that in terms of the global success ranking of women’s access to public life, Albania holds one the best position compared to any other index.
In my humble view, this historic increase of attention on women by the political parties thanks to the Socialist party is an admirable recognition not simply of the individual credits and of the individual contributions. It is a fair, courageous, political and humanistic recognition of the long-standing endeavour and contribution of mothers, teachers, civil activists in their constant battle for development and emancipation. This effort that is ongoing in its numerous facets, across all the societal cells of this country, fully deserves that the empowered network of girls and women in politics today finds ways and means to put individual ambitions and the access to public life at the service of the ordinary families where mothers and their daughters still fight their own battle for emancipation under extremely hard conditions.
Standing in front of this audience, I am strongly tempted to touch upon every topic of our daily life, but I want to stick with the one I feel is the most crucial one – the call of children – that echoes throughout the chain of years, passing down to reach our children.
Our children are to me the mirroring image of the Europe we carry within. Our obligation is to treat them as such not only when we talk to them or about them, but even when we address one another or the public, I would say this stands on top of all the other obligations. By the latter I refer to the immense harm inflicted on this fragile Europe by the harshness, vulgarity and misery of our public communication domain.
The young European born and raised into our households needs an exceptional care to grow into an open-minded and tolerant human being, who is able to identify similarities and appreciate differences between models, cultures, civilizations.
Their place in the modern world cannot be treated as one of the other tasks in the to-do list. Ahead of them lies a life that has nothing in common with the life we used to live in our childhood.
And it is all up to us to ask ourselves a question and perhaps it is up to you to ask more than this and also exert pressure to get the right answers in the realm of implementing public policies:
“Are we doing everything we should so that the younger generation, that of our children, is future the embodiment of Albania’s European calling?
Have we truly and fully realised that the challenges our children will face will be nothing like the ones we face and, consequently, overcoming our model becomes an imperative that, at the same time, brings a significant threat with it?
Further, is it enough to be aware that the change and the will it takes to embrace the new reality, in order to succeed in overcoming such model without succumbing to the threat of losing the mores and values that were passed down to us in generations in generations as a moral compass of our life?”
Let us take for a moment the epochal transformation internet and its platforms have brought in the lives of our children.
As we speak, internet users in Albania are above the world median and the rate is progressively going up. That is what numbers indicate, however, figures fail to tell us what kind of life are our children leading on the internet and how safe they are therein? The age of children who use internet is going down. That is the story figures tell us, but we cannot know how the mind of a child interprets and absorbs what the screen feeds them, without any guaranteed safety standard in his hands.
Parents continue to be the undisputed guardians defending their children from the internet’s dreadful threats, but 30% do not now how to use the internet and many others are so overburdened with all the issues pervading a less-than-easy life, that they prefer to leave it to the internet to be their children’s watchdog.
A child who is an internet user in Albania spends on average 2.9 hours online during weekdays and 3.3 hours on a weekend. The majority have online access via their mobile phones and that is so easy and so attractive that there is a risk that the only neighbourhood they will know will be the digital one, the only friends they have will be some digital imaginary companions, that their most revered heroes will be those who do not exist, and their main communication language will be the jargon of abbreviations and emoticons on a screen.
I feel that under the circumstances, the traditional offer – which has its significant flaws, nonetheless – is not enough. Many schools, kindergartens, nurseries, playgrounds have been built. Not only is there a need for others to be built; and even if that need were satisfied, I still think we would be short of handling the challenge we are talking.
So, dear Socialist friends, I urge you to please engage through your power of representation in Parliament, the Government, city councils or other interactive spaces where your voice is heard, to build a new offer for the children of this country.
It is clear why there is need of a new Opera and Ballet House, a new National Theatre or other theatre facilities, like ArtTurbina, in other areas of the country built by European standards. But can we, the mothers of this country, be fine with the fact that the only theatre for children is the Puppet Theatre, a cold ghost of the one it used to be when Tirana was almost one fifth of what it is today?! Or how come that a mega TV show, like the Song Festival in the Albanian Radio and Television, is still thriving thanks to public funds in times of a free competition, at a time where children should have been the ones to have the biggest national and, why not, pan-Albanian festival?!
The new stadium is impressive and so are the other stadiums that, certainly, are less than what Albania needs when it comes to football. However, can anyone tell me, since Edi has never given me any convincing argument on why doesn’t the country have in place a functioning system of sports classes for children at school?!
I finally heard that the Tirana Zoo will be built by European standards – let us hope it goes onboard this time - but why do I think that it would not be impossible to have nice zoos of domestic animals also in other parts of the country, where children could spend time and learn about them.
A nice job has been done to expand the network of schools as community centres. But shouldn’t we offer our children new meeting spaces between schools through contests that promote their talents?!
The new territorial division, articulated as an idea and necessity since early 2002 and finalized in a law more than a decade later, is fundamentally aimed at carving out spaces that allow advanced development and service models beyond old-fashioned boundaries and limitations. The vision for these new spaces should make it possible that the children’s recreational needs are not restricted within a minimalistic offer of neighbourhood playgrounds or the walls of commercial centres, with the latter being only a few, too.
Only a similar vision would enable the list of tourist attraction expand beyond the cultural and historical heritage, the beach and the mountain, where children are but an extension of the adults, rather than the main reason why these attractions are inviting for adults. Only this vision would assign to the children’s recreation and artistic development a clear institutional address.
In the November of the 105th Independence anniversary, Zaho was 3. In his kindergarten preparations were going on to celebrate the Independence Day. In the evening I received a message from his teacher Elda, who was at the same time the administrator of the kindergarten together with her husband, a US citizen. “Zaho surprised and touched me today,” she wrote.
The next morning she was waiting for me and she explained: “We were asking the children the other day about why they love Albania and when it was Zaho’s turn, he answered quite simply: ‘Because it is our home.’ “I thought of myself - she said. I left for the United States at a young age and returned after many years with David, my fiancé, as my father was sick and hospitalized. It was the early 2000s. Whenever we went out on the streets they were littered with garbage and filled with holes. I was embarrassed and told him “I’m sorry”. When we took the bus and people pushed us, I turned to him and said, “I am sorry”. I went to the hospital where nothing worked properly, and whispered, “I am sorry”. We entered home and power went out and again I was sorry. I don’t how many times, Elda said, I repeated the words “I am sorry” those day. The day we left, just before we took off to fly overseas, my fiance took out a piece of paper and told me: ‘You have been uttering so many “I am sorry” these days. Can you please write down 10 reasons why you love your country? In over 10 hours of flight I struggled to put together 10 reasons, with none being worthy of the 10. That is why I was touched. It was so simple, yet so meaningful: Yes, I love Albania, because it is my home.
While I wish to say a big thank you for giving me the chance to share with you and, through you, with all the great Socialist family, this message and also thanking you for your generous attention, allow me to conclude by saying:
If you, Socialist women, who are living in such favourable times for women in politics, cannot push for politics to do what it must for a new offer for the children, no one will!
Either the Socialist Party makes this country today home to the children of all Albanians with no social or regional distinction, or no one else will for who knows how long!
I hope you do it and be blessed by the history of the only Europe we carry within us, the history of our children!
May the best come for you, your families and the children of this country, which is their home!