United Nations Agencies in Albania embarked on a week-full of activities aiming to bring into spotlight gender inequalities and women’s rights and call on society to act for empowerment of women living in urban and rural areas.
Elbasan- one of the most affected regions from domestic violence in Albania, was the focus of activities organized by the UN Women under the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.
Activities organized in several villages with participation of Roma and Egyptian communities and religious leaders, included round table discussions around gender equality, gender discrimination in families and society. The President of the Republic of Albania Ilir Meta participated in an event in In Gjinar village of Elbasan where women farmers shared their stories and daily challenges to make a decent life for themselves and their families as well as and presented their local products in a dedicated fair.
"Besides poverty and the low level of education in rural areas, the high level of informal and unpaid work for girls and women in these areas is a great concern. They need full access to education and training and be part of grant schemes," highlighted President Ilir Meta
“You are the backbone of agriculture in Albania. You are a great contribution to the economy of the country. Your work can be an example for other women working in rural areas,” said UN Women Albania Representative Giuseppe Belsito. 54 per cent of women, active in the workforce in Albania, work in agriculture and still their work is not recognized.
In Tirana UNDP brought together women survivors of domestic violence who shared their stories to an audience of government officials, ambassadors, civil society organizations, academia, media and survivors of domestic violence. Stories underlined women’s struggles to break free from abusive relationships and seek a life of dignity for themselves and their children. One of the survivors made an appeal: “I appeal to every woman and girl to report violence and seek a life of dignity”.
In his speech Mr. Brian J. Williams, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, said that: “Whatever we do, whether in our families, communities, countries, or our planet, we do it to each-other and we do it to ourselves and our dear ones. Therefore, whatever progress we make in terms of eradicating this horrible pandemic, we can only make it happen while working together, men and women and responsible state and non-state bodies”.
Minister of Health and Social Protection Ms. Manastirliu, highlighted: “The Ministry will continue to guide and lead all efforts and engagement of Albania to further promote gender equality issues and effectively fight violence against women through scaling up the CCRs in all 61 municipalities. Time is now!”
During the event two video stories were launched. One of them underlined women’s fight against domestic violence and another one showcased the functioning of the Community Coordinated Response Mechanisms (CCR) at the local level and how in concrete terms they respond to this severe violation of human rights and help abused women rehabilitate and reintegrate.
An awareness event in Patos, organized by UNDP, brought together school students, survivors of domestic violence, local authorities to speak about women’s fight for equality and empowerment.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Albania underlined “The Government of Albania is highly committed to the fight against domestic violence and women’s empowerment. The community coordinated response mechanisms have proved effective and they should be extended all over Albania”.
UNDP Country Director Limya Eltayeb underlined: “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of Albania and wider communities. UNDP in Albania with the generous financial back up of the Government of Sweden were happy to support Patos Municipality take the lead in establishing the local referral mechanism together with 17 local and regional members aiming at becoming agents of change in this municipality. Together with Patos state authorities such as municipality, police, education and labor directorate, judiciary authorities, regional social services and civil society organizations you have joined your voices to reaffirm that The Time is Now to end violence against women”.
The National Network of the Alliances of Women Councilors of Albania was established on March 8. Women councilors from 16 municipalities united to coordinate joint work in support of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The network will also prioritize support towards rural women.
"In two years the Alliances among other achievements, have established for the first time the Gender Equality Commission within municipalities. We plan to support vulnerable women & focus our work on empowering rural women" -said the newly elected Head of the National Alliance, Mirela Bogdani.
"You should see yourselves as role models, speak up and raise your voice to support all women" - said Birgitta Jansson, Head of Development Cooperation, Swedish Embassy
Over the past two years, 16 alliances were created in different municipalities. They represent over half of the country's population, and have concrete plans and initiatives, such as supporting vulnerable women and girls through vocational training and the promotion of entrepreneurship. UN Women, through the financial contribution of the Swedish government, has provided technical support in establishing and strengthening eight alliances, while other alliances have been founded through the support of donors and other local partners.
On the same day, an awareness raising event was organized in Elbasan, as part of the EU funded regional programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds”. Activists that are contributing to changing the mindset of the community, especially in rural areas, were at the center of the event. These activists coming from different areas and backgrounds, such as students, teachers, health care providers and representatives from the Roma and Egyptian communities, shared their experiences and personal stories.
“Education and integration of Roma girls is necessary to prevent early marriages. Time is now for Roma women to speak up for issues they are concerned about,” said Nexhmije Ademi, a Roma woman.
Representatives from the local government, the police, the health sector, social services and civil society organizations were present at the event.
The 8th of March celebrations were finalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Municipality of Elbasan and UN Women on strengthening cooperation on the achievement of gender equality and women empowerment.