The next morning was composed of two sessions, in which the participants were joined by nearly fifty local guests. The initial portion was moderated by Mrs. Minollari, beginning with greetings from the Vice Mayor of Tirana, Mr. Andi Seferi, who warmly welcomed all guests, and expressed his appreciation for the contribution of women and girls in civil society and local government. As we learned from him, very proudly, the number of women in local governments in Albania is even higher than the number of women in the Parliament.
After the remarks of the Vice Mayor, a video on international activities of WFWP was shown as an introduction for the new guests. Mrs. Carolyn Handschin then welcomed once again all participants, in the name of WFWP Europe, sharing her presentation on Peace Leadership. She emphasized that peace needs to come from the roots of society, and as such it cannot be forced, but needs to be nurtured and encouraged starting on a personal level. Consequently, women need to realize their leadership role in that process. “Peace is freedom to recognize needs and respond naturally”, she shared, proposing an innovative definition of peace, and setting the tone for the conference. To complement this insightful presentation, Mrs. Marcia de Abreu, President of WFWP Spain, explained the meaning and importance of the conference’s theme, focusing on the issue of equality between men and women. As she stated “women have remained in a position of inequality compared with men partly because their situation, needs, priorities and concerns have not been considered in current decision-making”. There needs to be complementarity and balance between sexes, in order to allow women to make their vital contribution.
The following session on “Harmony through Integration and Unity in a Diverse Europe” was moderated by Mrs. Brigitte Wada, President of WFWP France. She first introduced the next speaker, Professor Dalila Paulo from Portugal, who shared her perspective on the topic as a psychologist. She emphasized the necessity of win-win approach, where we give up the concept of competition for cooperation and mutual benefit. Next speaker, Ms. Natasha Schellen, Vice-President of WFWP Germany, started her remarks making a reference to recent commemorations of a 100 years anniversary of the end of WWI. Europe has faced many wars, and even though we have had a period of stability, lack of military conflict is not yet a true peace, as there is many underlying conflicts, she said. Trade itself cannot bring peace. We need to start on a deeper, human level. Ms. Schellen then gave the example of her own international marriage and how it contributes to overcoming existing barriers and prejudices.
The second session “The Dignity of Women and Healthy Families: Preventing Violence”, led by Mrs. Tina Coombs, Special Advisor of WFWP Europe, featured a variety of speakers, each of them bringing a different approach to the topic. Ms. Samantha Streibl, a Speech Contest Winner from UK, spoke passionately about “period poverty”, a struggle of many young women to afford sanitary pads and tampons during their periods, and the necessity for the governments to address this problem. Mrs. Aferdia Prroni, Director for the Human Rights in Democracy Center in Albania shared about the problem of domestic violence in her country and the work her center does to support women who are victims of this inhumanity. Ms. Anisa Berisha, President of World Youth Alliance in Albania, said that her organization’s educational curriculum on human dignity emphasizes the family. “The family is the most basic unit of society and the place where free and responsible citizens are best formed. In order to develop free and just societies, the family must be cultivated and protected in culture and law.” Then Mrs. Heidi Meyr, Marriage Counselor and FFWPU member from Austria shared about the need for a paradigm shift – we need a society where family is valued to the point where economic and social systems are built to protect the family, not a system where family is sacrificed in order to attend to economic needs. She stated that it is not healthy for a family when both parents need to work long hours, leaving their children in the care of public institutions. The last speaker, Ms. Nicole La Hogue, Vice President of WFWP Germany, spoke about the necessity for internal preparation before starting family. The session concluded with the appointment of twenty new Ambassadors for Peace, both from within and outside Albania.
The afternoon was a time for workshops in groups, coordinated by Ms. Natasha Schellen, where participants could choose a session they want to attend. Altogether nine workshops were offered, featuring a variety of topics, ranging from training in public speaking to sharing experience on character education and “energy profiling”, an innovative personal development program. This was a very fruitful session, which gave a chance for more interaction and networking. Participants then had some time for sightseeing in Tirana, enjoying the festive atmosphere of the city, even joining in some of the traditional dancing on the Square.The evening program resumed after dinner, with a very meaningful “water ceremony” guided by Mrs. Elisabetta Cali, President of WFWP Italy, and Ms. Fracesca Stabile, also from Italy. Mrs. Cali first reported on recent Centennial Commemoration of Armistice after WWI, organized by WFWP in Padua, Italy. The water ceremony, where representatives of various countries poured water to one container, was a symbolic expression of a desire for peace and unity in Europe. Mrs. Handschin then took the floor and introduced to participants the idea of family festivals, and guided all in a toast for healthy families with a glass of holy nectar. All were then encouraged to participate in the Marriage Blessing ceremony when they returned to their own countries- with their husbands. The evening continued with a performance of traditional Albanian dances presented by an invited ensemble. Eventually all participants went out to the floor and joined the dancers, actively experiencing Albanian culture. The day finished with a beautiful and joyful atmosphere.
Text written by Katarzyna Minollari (WFWP Albania, Pres.), with editing and photo assistance from various European WFWP Members.