Macedonia E.S.I. Project|
E.S.I. is a self-help project designed and implemented by Frederika Sumelius, a board member of VOR. The project involves 42 Romani refugee women from Kosovo who are currently living in a temporary refugee camp in Macedonia. The women range in age from 12 to 67 years. The main objectives of the project are to aid in the development of a livelihood for the women, creating a business with their traditional handwork. The E.S.I. project also aims to build a bridge between Romani women of all ages, and from different segments of the Romani population from Kosovo who have not worked together in the past, but are now living together as refugees.
The first shipment of the handcrafted items was sent to VOR in April 2001, and sold at the annual Herdeljez celebration in Graton, California. In addition to the beautiful pillows, table-clothes, lace doilies, etc.*, people attending this event were able to view the display of photographs of some of the women and a selection of some of the short stories/poems they wrote (and had translated into English) about their experiences during and after the NATO bombing in Kosovo. Those who purchased an item were also provided with a color copy of the photo and the story/poem written by the woman who made their item.
The refugee women have received 100% of all proceeds from the sale of the handcrafts, and had agreed to decide collectively how much to re-invest in materials so as to expand their business. Ms. Sumelius and the initial group of women had also planned to include more Romani refugees in the project in the future, contributing additional skills and increasing the variety of handcrafts. However, due to the violence and turmoil in Macedonia over the past several months and the tenuous existence these women face in the refugee camp, the production of more handcrafted items and the project as a whole is currently on hold.
With the escalation of violence in Macedonia, and the ongoing violence and economic despair for the Roma in Kosovo, the situation for this group of Romani refugees has become even more desperate. Some thought they should try to return to Kosovo, others contemplated fleeing once again to become refugees in yet another country. Almost all of these women have thus far remained in the camp in Sutka, Macedonia - to wait out another trauma impacting their lives, while the world remains blind or indifferent to their struggle for survival.
The E.S.I. project has, and hopefully will continue to give many of these women the beginnings of a sense of empowerment, self-confidence, and independence.
* The handcrafted items include colorfully embroidered table clothes, lace covered decorator pillows, lace doilies, knitted baby/toddler clothes, women's sweater vests, etc. Please visit the VOR online store for information regarding how to purchase the handcrafts, along with the accompanying photos and stories/poems produced by these women.