The story of little Xhesi who is selling clothes in Tirana
Written by Sabahet Peposhi
She is only eleven years old but she works a full twelve-hour day. Her name is Xhesi (her name has been changed to protect her privacy) and she lives, with the other six members of her family, in extreme poverty. Every day she can be seen selling second-hand clothes on the streets of Tirana. She has much to tell about suffering and misery. She experiences it every day.
‘I have never been to school. It is not that I do not like to go to school, but because we do not have money,’ Xhesi says in poor Albanian.
‘I could not send any of my five children to school. What should I pay for first: the rent? the goods I buy? which one? And we all want to eat after all!’ said the father of Xhesi, Xhevat, who was standing nearby.
I ask Xhesi how she spends her time. She replies ‘Most of the day here, at work. It is not a very heavy job. But it is very boring.’
A lady stops alongside the clothes that Xhesi sells and starts going through them. But the young girl keeps talking to me. This is the first time that someone has asked her to talk about herself. She says that she has never celebrated her birthday, nor has anyone ever given her a present. While she is talking she also keeps an eye on the clothes; she is afraid someone might steal something, and it would not be the first time.
While other children regularly enjoy presents their parents give them, enjoy an afternoon’s entertainment on the playgrounds with their friends, Xhesi has to sell second-hand clothes on the street corner. Her only happy moments are when she talks or jokes with her girlfriend selling second-hand shoes on the opposite pavement. Xhesi explains that she spends very little time with Fetije, her friend across the street, as she also has to keep an eye on her goods.
The lady has finished picking through the clothes Xhesi is trying to sell. She has taken more than 20 minutes. She leaves, without buying anything. Understanding my concern, Xhesi explains that usually only young women and girls buy anything. They sometimes also give her some extra money.
It is a few minutes after seven o’clock. Xhesi starts to collect her clothes. The sharp glowing colours of her sweater contrast starkly with her pale face. Even though I have some more questions, she has no more time for answering. I hope she will get some good sleep at least…