The sixth in a series of 52 interviews with Albanian women in the public sphere #52GraShqiptare.
Nada Dosti is an activist, journalist, editor, mother, and linguist. She holds a degree in Translation and Interpretation from Tirana University and a Masters in Journalism from Ankara, Turkey. She is fluent in five languages; Albanian, English, Turkish, Macedonian, Arabic, and Italian
She is a Muslim and observes hijab as well as focusing her work on promoting tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism and fighting Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. She is based in Ankara where she lives with her husband and her son and travels frequently between Turkey and Albania.
Tell me about yourself as if we met for the first time.
My name is Nada Dosti, I’m from Durres and I have been living in Ankara, Turkey for seven years. I’ve been an independent journalist for over 10 years and I am currently working as a freelance editor for TUBITAK research institutions.
In 2014 I founded Muslimania.al which is a website with the purpose to advocate for Muslim Women in Albania, addressing Anti-Muslim racism and hate speech, promoting diversity and promoting success stories of women in different fields. We give the opportunity for our community to speak out (through the section Your Voice) and raise their voice against social injustice but also about different issues that concern our community and the society in general.
The topics I usually write about include gender issues, Islamophobia and other issues that concern Muslim women. I also write for other portals and magazines.
I am a mother of a 6-year-old boy half Durrsak half Tropojan who speaks Albanian, Turkish and English who has joined me at a number of events activities I have taken part in.
What are the biggest challenges you face and have faced in the past?
I learned injustice in the hardest way. I want you to imagine a 14 years old young lady with a strong character, mature, and with a clear idea about her identity. A young Muslim woman who had the dream to study in a religious school, so she could learn more about her religion, and wanted to show her identity by choosing to wear hijab. Imagine now her dream was denied by the people she loved the most: her family.
After an exhausting battle, she could succeed, still, life wasn’t easy. She felt first hand what it meant to not be accepted in society just because of your identity. She was bullied by people on the street, faced discriminatory comments, verbal abuse, comments behind her back, pointing and staring, being expelled from Durres University) and forced to move to Tirana to study. She was judged by classmates and professors, being asked: “do you speak Albanian?”; was refused from a job interview telling her “your appearance is not suitable for this job”; was put under pressure all the time to “behave perfectly” because no matter what you do or you say will be used against your religion.
How do you overcome them?
As all strong people do: by never giving up. I have learned how to react, how to ask for my rights and to stand against injustice. Learning when and how to step back, take some time for yourself and trying again is also an important part of it.
What does your perfect society look like?
Actually, I have never thought about it, because it seems a very idealistic notion and I don’t believe there is such a thing as “perfect society”. Though studying for a semester in Macedonia, travelling the Balkans and some places in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and living in Turkey has helped me learn a lot about cultures and people from around the world. What I love the most is multiculturalism and diversity.
So, in an idealistic “perfect society” I would hope for coexistence between multiculturalism and diversity while respecting each other’s rights.
Tell me about being an Albanian woman in 2020?
Being an Albanian woman in 2020 means having to face (still) many struggles. Femicide is still a huge problem and a big tragedy of society. There are still lots of obstacles for Albanian women such as male chauvinism & patriarchalism. They are fighting thousands of battles and they are trying their best to keep going and stand up tall. They lack the necessary support from other women, starting from their own mothers who raise them while teaching to shut up and stay quiet, from their mother in law, from their colleagues, friends etc. They lack role models and mentors to help them hold their heads up high.
But we are not hopeless. I truly believe there are lots of exceptions, and this project (52 Gra Shqiptare) is an awesome attempt to prove that. There are lots of women over there trying their best to succeed and show the world and especially other young women that they can too!
What is your 5-year plan
During one of my last visits to Albania, I was invited on different occasions to talk to girls from high schools and universities. It hurt me so much to see no hope, no dreams, and no plans for the future in their eyes. They are so demoralized and in need of role models, inspiration and motivation. So, in the next five years I would like to find the proper way to achieve my goal to inspire young women in Albania, and at the same time trying to focus more on my career goals. I haven’t decided yet whether to start a PhD in my field of studies or focus more on non-formal education activism.
One thing that I am sure about, is the fact that I don’t see myself in academia. After investing so much energy and time in gaining experience and knowledge on how to train and inspire that in the best way, I think it’s time to give back what I have collected during all these years in activism. My 5-year plan will be trying to make a balance between my personal life, career and activism which is a constant struggle between taking and giving!
Do you, or have you ever been afraid because of your work?
Working for different media outlets as a freelance journalist sometimes can be dangerous for your own security but also for your career. Even from the inside, you can’t be 100 percent sure about the media agenda you are affiliated with. It’s not easy being an independent journalist.
When speaking up and standing up against social injustice you have to do it in a smart way. Of course, I have received threats and insults about destroying me, my family and my career. It’s very uncomfortable being under pressure all the time, especially when you don’t have the support of relatives and friends who just think you should give up.
After I had my son, everyone was making assumptions such as “You’re still continuing with this job?” or “You are a mom now, don’t you think about your son, if you don’t care about yourself at least think about him and your family.” A lot of my relatives and friends, and also some NGOs, at some point in my life, didn’t want to have anything to do with me and tried to avoid me because they were afraid to be affiliated with me.
Once, when I travelled to Palestine to write a travel story, I was detained for four hours during the departure and in return too, a real interrogation about every detail of my life and job. I call that “my intersectional fate” which means I am Albania, living in Turkey, a Muslim with a hijab, and a journalist. This makes me a very easy target especially in airports and especially in Ben Gurion (Airport in Tel Aviv). And of course, I didn’t tell anyone I was travelling to Palestine, except my husband, just to avoid random comments such as “Are you going in a war zone, are you crazy, do you wanna die there?”
Second, I’m not really afraid but very annoyed with people who judge me, and have in their mind the stereotype of the journalist who even during a normal conversation on a sensitive topic thinks I will use it in my writing. They say “please do not write about this”, “don’t mention me in the media” or “don’t write an article about that. Journalists usually don’t work like this!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“Life it’s too short to learn German” they say! So you better start from now before you regret it!
If not German, please learn two more languages because when you get to my age, five foreign languages won’t be enough to fulfil your self-expectations.
Please read more books and travel more! Right now! Don’t wait until you have many more engagements and responsibilities.
And lastly, do you remember that dream of you saving the world? Mayday! Mayday! Abort the mission! I repeat: Abort the mission! You better start saving yourself, your community and then your country. Because saving the world is a quasi impossible mission!
What advice would you give to a woman who identifies with you and your words?
I know it’s not easy, my dear, but it’s worth it! Whatever your struggles, do not stop fighting for your rights. Speak up against injustice in a smart way and with the proper tools. Support other women instead of dragging them down.
Describe yourself in 3 words
This was the most difficult question, but I will try to answer honestly. I would say, strong, sarcastic, and empathetic.
This article was originally published on The Balkanista.