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Women Living As Men - An Ancient Albanian Custom

series: European Journal

air date: 4/02/13 5:00 AM

Romania: the old coal pits - The picturesque Jiu Valley in southwestern Romania is experiencing a social and economic crisis. As the mine pits shut down, unemployment is growing - but there's little help from the state. During the Ceausescu era, tens of thousands were employed in the Jiu mines. Most were unskilled workers from other parts of the country. The turn of the millennium saw the first pit closures and massive protests of miners in Bucharest. Today the miners have given up protesting and are left living in dire poverty. Some even dig for coal to heat their homes for their families. Albania: The women who live as men - It's an unusual tradition in Albania, and today it's dying out: the tradition of the sworn virgin. They are women who choose to live as men to escape the restrictions imposed on women in their patriarchal society. They call themselves burrnesha, and have sworn a vow of chastity. Most of them made the decision during puberty to switch gender roles and live as men, though physically they remain female. The tradition of the "man-woman" has its origins in an ancient code of honor common in Albania whereby families without a male successor could choose a girl to fill the role of patriarch instead. Britain: Happy hens - The Hen Welfare Trust is a national charity in Britain that believes all hens should live in free-range settings. The charity has already rescued more than 300,000 hens from the misery of battery cages. Trust members regularly rescue commercial egg-laying hens from slaughter and find them new homes with private households. Often the birds are scrawny and have been classified as "unproductive" because the strain of life in the battery farm has left them unable to lay many eggs. But in private gardens, the hens often recover and thrive. Spain: Savior of the homeless - The debt crisis and forced evictions have left many people in Spain without a place to live. It's estimated that 100,000 Spaniards are homeless. Many of them rely on help from their community. One of them is Gloria Iglesias, who has been opening her home to homeless people for 13 years now. Motivated by her religious belief, Gloria has helped more than 160 people over the years. But her project also depends on the charity of others - like the owners of a nearby grocery stall who give food donations, and property owners who let her use space for her project's workshop.

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