-International Women’s Day 2022
A heavy wooden gate, with two doors, typical of Berat, a city in southern Albania, invites you to "Kodikët" guesthouse, built 400 years ago and reconstructed by Vasilika, who returned from Greece after 18 years of work in the tourism business.
Vasilika Gogu is a charming lady who impresses with her speech and good manners. She welcomes you to beautiful flourished and a warm environment which makes you feel comfortable and familiar as if you have lived there before. You would hardly find such a kindness when you travel in Albania. Vasilika welcomes everyone in the kitchen smelling of biscuits, with watermelon jam prepared by her hardworking hands. Through the guesthouse she is contributing to promotion of tourism, culture and tradition of Berat.
She migrated to Greece in 1996. “I worked in Berat Textile Factory until the factory closed. Losing my job put us in a very difficult economic situation, so I was forced to leave Albania and go to Greece with my family,” recalls Vasilika. She lived in Greece until 2013. Hard work and long working hours are what she remembers, while she tells her story.
She decided to return to Albania and invest everything she saved while working for 18 years in Greece. Coming back to Berat, she managed to start her guesthouse, where she used the experience she gained in Greece.
She tells quietly, “I created an economic and social wellbeing I was satisfied, but at the same time I had an inner calling from my city and my country to return here so the investment I made were a response to this call”. “It was very difficult to readapt and reintegrate at the beginning”. I remember my mind and my suitcase were ready to go back to Greece. I overcome this feeling only several years after return to Berat. Now I feel very fulfilled with what I invested and set up in my country”.
“Nowhere is easy. But when you are a migrant, it is double challenging. Most of the time, you are just an employee in a foreign country, while in your homeland you could be the owner of your work”.
Vasilika believes that migration is an economic choice for many Albanians, and she strongly advises the young people to firstly consider the opportunities that Albania offers and above all to never migrate irregularly.
This is the behavior change that “Albania is YOU!” awareness-raising campaign aims to create among the groups with high potential to migrate irregularly in Albania. The campaign is raising awareness among Albanian citizens considering irregular migration to Europe on the risks of irregular migration and provides information on existing economic and educational opportunities in Albania as well as regular migration channels.
IOM has established an “influencers” network in Berat and the other 11 regions of Albania, as well as in the Netherlands and Belgium, with people with a personal migration experience. The influencers are working to sensitize the population through events, social networks, mini-projects, awareness-raising, video messages etc. Through this combined approach, IOM is expanding field activities and ensuring a solid network contributing to the dissemination of the message campaign along with a mass media campaign to be implemented in parallel.
“Albania is YOU!” campaign is implemented as part of ARISE_ALL project, with the financial support of the European Union and partners: Migration Office of the Belgian Federal Office for Home Affairs (IO), and the Repatriation and Deportation Service (DT&V) of the Netherlands.
IOM Albania ‘influencers’ are also amplifying the inspiring stories like Vasilika’s one among the targeted population, so they could consider the opportunities that Albania offers and take informed decisions when it comes to migration.
Reported by Omer Saraci, IOM Albania Influencer in Berat Region.