Brussels, 10 July – The European Union (EU) and UN Women have launched a three-year regional initiative to end discrimination and violence against women in six Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) and Turkey. The Programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds” is one more effort within the framework of the EU Year to End Violence against Women, and the EU-UN Women partnership to empower and protect the rights of women and girls.
Taking place at the premises of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the event brought together EU and UN representatives, governments and civil society from the Western Balkans and Turkey as well as representatives from the Council of Europe, European Institute for Gender Equality and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to discuss the way forward for eliminating discrimination and violence against women and girls.
“In the European Union year to end violence against women, the European Commission is pleased to partner with UN Women to step up efforts to end violence against women in Western Balkan countries and Turkey. We will work together to support national governments and civil society, to accelerate protection, prevention and response to violence against women,” said Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission.
Albania was represented by Prof. Aurela Anastasi, Director of the Albanian Center for Legal and Civic Initiatives, Ms. Etleva Sheshi, Head of Gender Equality Sector in the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, Ms. Brunilda Minarolli, Head of Human Rights and Reporting Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Ada Shehu, representative from the Albanian Mission to the EU.
Prof. Aurela Anastasi, provided an overview of the support of the Albanian civil society for the implementation of CEDAW and Istanbul Convention. She raised some of the key challenges in relation to legal services for women victims of violence, as well as provided key recommendations that need to be taken into consideration by the Albanian Government.
Ms. Etleva Sheshi discussed about the efforts of the Albanian Government to fight violence against women, including the adoption of the relevant legal framework, the establishment of the gender equality machinery, the National Referral Mechanism and the online tracking system of gender-based violence.
“The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is our anchor for this important initiative. Our goal is to work with governments and civil society in the region to implement legislation and policies in full compliance with the Convention,” said Alia El-Yassir, UN Women acting Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.
The 3-year EU-UN Women programme, financed by the European Commission to the tune of 5 million euros, builds on the momentum created by the Istanbul Convention. It is also anchored in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and is in alignment with European Union accession standards and the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the latest CEDAW recommendations, Albania has made efforts to combat gender-based violence but the issue still remains prevalent and the country needs to take measures to encourage women to report cases of gender-based violence by providing free legal aid, including in rural and remote areas.
The programme will, in particular, support governments and women’s organizations in Western Balkans an Turkey in enhancing their efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women, and advancing the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
This is an edited version of the UN Women Regional Office Press Release.