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Local charity receives prestigious award for its work with bereaved women in Kosovo

An Oxfordshire Charity, Transrural Trust, has been awarded second prize and 30,000 euros for its life changing work with Kosovan widows and their children, following the 1999 ethnic conflict.

The Erste Foundation Award for social integration was awarded to Transrural Trust out of 1,300 applications from eight different countries. Transrural Trust works with disadvantaged communities around the world, giving women the confidence and support to make their creative and local crafts and produce into profitable enterprises and a means of improving their lives.

From 2005-8 Transrural Trust introduced a project for bereaved women in villages in the Pizren and Gjakova areas of Kosovo, following the atrocities which left behind communities of mostly women and children. The project focussed on improving their livelihoods by producing and marketing fresh and processed vegetables, fruit jams and honeybee products. The Erste award gives recognition to outstanding organisations and projects that aim to create a stable and just society with equal chances and opportunities for all. The evaluators who visited the Kosovan projects said: "The results are extraordinary: reduced isolation, social well-being, increased self-confidence among women and group cohesion."

The 30,000 euros prize money will be used to further improve the lives of widows and children in Kosovo. Transrural’s Director, Trevor Lucey, visited one of the villages before the project began. He said: "We spent two hours in deep discussion with 15 women who had lost their husbands. They were not only traumatized and depressed, they were angry. Part of that anger was directed at the donor community that had pledged millions back at the Millennium, but the women had not benefited one iota. One of the women looked me in the eyes and said that she expected that we would be no different. Given that context, I take my hat off to the Kosovan women and to the amazing project team for what they achieved. When I went back to Krushe in September 2008, I admired the pristine processing unit that the women had built alongside one of their homes and while I was there, a Kosovan man who had driven 100km after hearing about the village enterprise, bought 20 jars of "ajvar", a delicious smoked red pepper recipe, for his extended family. I hardly recognized those same women I met in 2004, whose grimaces had been replaced by grins. One of them said that she’d been criticized by her mother for smiling, because widows are not only not allowed to remarry, they are expected to always show their grief by not smiling."

Prime Minister David Cameron and also MP for the Witney constituency where Transrural is based has followed the charity’s work since 2003. He said, "This Award is heartening, well-deserved, and sets an example to others. With tax payers and private donors contributing to overseas aid, value for money and impact are so important, and this project has delivered both. Well done!"

Transrural Trust will soon be launching a sales website to showcase the work of its various projects, including Batik scarves from Thailand, Nettle Fibre shawls and scarves from Sri Lanka, Painted eggs from Romania and Fish scale jewellery from the Tsunami affected areas of Thailand. All profits made will go directly back into their projects.