Greetings, Today we’d like to provide an update regarding a women’s empowerment program Spirit of America recently supported in southern Kosovo. This program, which we first told you about here, was designed to help impoverished women in communities threatened by violent extremism stand up for themselves and their families, thereby providing a powerful counter to extremist ideology and influence. Because they had no way to earn an income, the women in these vulnerable villages did not feel empowered to have a voice in their communities’ affairs. The US Army civil affairs team working to build resiliencies against extremism in Kosovo found a solution to this problem: they identified an organization that could provide the women training in making cheese and other products they could then sell in local markets. The women may have lacked marketable skills, but they did all have cows whose milk could support this endeavor. While the team could arrange the training program, the trainees still needed the basic materials to turn the training into a business – buckets, forms, cheese starter kits, etc. Spirit of America stepped in to fill this gap. The training recently concluded. Thirty women from three key communities now have the skills to turn their cows’ milk into a marketable product. Cheese-making classes and small business training will help them earn an income and build their standing in their communities. One trainee had this to say about the power of this opportunity: “We don’t want to be beggars, we simply want to be able to help support our families through our work.” The US team leader had this to say about the training program:
The ladies in each village were very excited to be able to gain information about increasing their herd productivity and animal health. The supplies will allow the ladies to sell the milk their animals produce and earn income to help support their families. The ability to help provide income increases the role these women play in the family and community decision-making process. This enhances their ability to counter violent extremist activity and recruiting at the local level. Additionally, the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) provided transportation for the donated items. This allowed them to interact with the local population in a very positive way, increasing their image in the eyes of the rural population of Kosovo. This enhanced the KSF’s image as an organization that supports the people of Kosovo. This strengthens the relationship between the Government of Kosovo and the population, increasing the residents’ ability to resist violent extremist activities and recruitment.Your support helps our men and women in uniform take on the toughest problems around the world, and it helps them help locals like these Kosovar women stand up against extremism and poverty. Thank you. Isaac Eagan Field Ops Director
Isaac is a veteran of the Army National Guard with two tours in Iraq, in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007. After his last deployment during the Surge, he served as the OEF/OIF Coordinator for the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.