On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day on 10th December, Youth Center “Perspektiva” in partnership with NGO “Projekte Vullnetare Nderkombetare” (PVN Albania) and NGO “LiburnEtik” organized a Human Library event under the motto “One of Us”. You may ask – what is Human Library? It functions like a normal library – with books and readers. Well, almost. You choose a Book from a catalogue. With one exception. Each Book is a real person with a real story to share.
Human Library as a tool was developed by the Council of Europe long ago in 2003 – being polished by hundreds of initiatives around the globe, it has proven to be a very powerful way to challenge stereotypes, stigmas and make a step beyond one’s barriers. The rules are as easy as they may be challenging – “don’t destroy the pages of the Book” – or, in other words, be respectful and don’t judge. Often even very pressing prejudices can be challenged in an honest face-to-face conversation. In the end of the day, each one of us is unique, but we all love and suffer in the same way – no matter your skin color, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, health and wealth.
Human Library is a very new concept for Tirana and Albania in general. And that’s why we were even more happy to see a truly engaging group of young people – Albanians, Roma, Ashkali and expats -among the participants. Three Books… Three very different life stories united by strength of the character and not giving up.
Sokoli had everything – a smiley girl, who just became his wife, a nice job and a shiny Vespa motorbike. He was just 25, having all his life ahead. Sokoli and his young wife were expecting a first baby, when a terrible traffic accident paralyzed half of his body and doomed Sokoli to spent his life in a wheelchair. It was too much for his wife. His story is a story of a stubborn struggle with the system that doesn’t fulfill the basic provisions, with indifference of people, who are not used to see socially active people with disabilities. A struggle, where the only source of Sokoli’s energy for several years was shared pain and optimism of hundreds of people with physical disabilities in Albania, many of whom are completely excluded from public life. Today Sokoli is married again and enjoys support of his new family and his soulmates in the Albanian National Association of People with Disabilities.
Rami is an elegant young gentleman, who got his education in the UK, became known for his strong position against discrimination in Albania, and after a long time he has finally convinced the father of his beloved one to bless their marriage. Sounds like a great story, which wouldn’t be full if I wouldn’t tell you that Rami belongs to the Roma community in Albania. Every single step for Rami, while climbing the social ladder, was poisoned by prejudices and stigmas in his native Albania, yet his struggle makes him a great role model for youth.
Klodi was born blind, which left almost no choice for his mother, who had to follow her husband on a dream trip to America after the dramatic fall of Albanian communism. Klodi was left to the Albanian social care, which does not offer much to kids in his condition. A miracle happened when Klodi reached teenagerhood. One day he woke up, seeing blurry shadows, not understanding what’s going on. While Klodi spent long months training to strengthen his eyesight, Albanian media was fast to pick up on the case and spread the miracle, having the boy being brought to the conferences all around the region. Shortly afterwards he had his first contact with the mother. He passionately speaks about going to the US one day to meet with his mom, and sadly adds that he is more needed in Albania because there are too many abandoned children with disabilities, like he was until recently.
Each one of us has a story to tell. Human Library offers a unique opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a person, One of Us, to whom you probably would never talk otherwise. Judging a book by its cover takes a way an opportunity of a powerful journey.
Human Library “One of Us” was realized in the framework of the No Hate Speech Movement Albania activities – a youth campaign for human rights online and offline. Please, follow our Facebook page to learn about the upcoming activities.