Successful Roma entrepreneur receives EU award for promoting employment

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After finishing high school, like many other youngsters, Fatos Koçi migrated to Greece in search of employment and that is where he learned all the tricks of commercial cleaning.

“I started exercising the experience earned in Greece at my friends’ places, mainly as a hobby, but they were telling that I should push forward with my idea”.

And so, he returned to his home city in Fier and founded the Voice of Roma in Albania association, mainly dealing with education among Roma youth.

That is where he first got a sense that in addition to challenges in education, the community encountered problems in employment, too.

“One of the main problems of the Roma community is employment and I thought that this idea would prove worthy to parents”, Koçi said.

According to official data, there are around 730 Roma and Egyptian families in the municipality of Fier, although the figure is widely disputed, a majority of which live in difficult conditions. The latest data presented by the Employment Office report that in 2018 “about 235 Roma and Egyptians registered as unemployed jobseekers”.

In light of this, Koçi thought of sharing his experience and knowledge with others, by opening a licensed commercial cleaning enterprise, initially focused mainly on cleaning windows.

He started off alone three years ago, while now the enterprise has 3 employees.

“Then we expanded our services by offering floor cleaning, upholstery, and recently carpet washing”, he tells Euronews Albania.

His work did pay off as the European Union awarded him with the 2021 Price for “Integration of Roma in the Western Balkans and Turkey”.

“It was completely unimaginable to receive an award from the European Commission”, he recounts the moment, a price awarded to extraordinary citizens and their contribution in promoting equality through employment.

Asked about the challenges of his daily work, Koçi listed two, modern equipment and hiring more people. His goal is to employ even more people, particularly women.

While the other objective is to bring closer his work practices with EU’s green policies through equipment that are environmentally friendly.

A clear example of that is a device used for cleaning which consumes less water and electricity, which from a financial point of view would also help reduce daily costs.

His plan to turn his company greener seems to have already eyes on the future as it complies with what the Albanian government has actually vowed to, in line with deal signed in Sofia.

On 10 November 2020, the leaders of the Western Balkans signed the Sofia Declaration in which they pledged to join the EU initiative in making the planet carbon-neutral by 2050.

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) will assist in the implementation of the agreement, where a particular part encompasses marginalized communities.

One of the points recommended by the RCC in its 2021-2030 action plan is endorsing green models.

“The business community in the Western Balkans is encouraged to consider a new business model that includes green entrepreneurship, sustainable investments, circular design, and pledges under the European Climate Pact (ECP) initiative while embracing sustainable product policy, extended producer responsibility, and preventing environmentally harmful products from being placed on the Western Balkan market”.

Kompania e sipërmarrësit të suksesshëm rom vlerësohet nga BE by Euronews Balkans

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