Though the government of Albania in recent years has embarked on the journey to reform gender equity endeavors such as the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2016-20 (NSGE) and Action Plan produce a strong vision about gender equality and women’s rights in Albania, Albanian women constantly deal with daunting challenges. Therefore, in today’s post, I’m going to discuss women’s rights in Albania along with the past and present conditions of women in that nation.
Nestled between Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and the Adriatic sea, situated in the Balkan peninsula, the small country Albania transitioned from a communist country to a democratic one during the Presidential election of 1992. The transition brought forth various issues like poverty, lack of political and economic development, women’s rights in Albania. In the decision-making process of economic and political mechanisms, the participation of women still remains limited.
Violence against Albanian women is common as evident in the rate of domestic violence were around sixty percent of women have experienced abuse at the hands of their family. Little improvement has been made towards the gender pay gap and the rights to entrepreneurship credit and services for women. The average salary of a woman is eighteen percent lower than a man in urban areas and more in rural areas. The situation of women’s rights in Albania compels us to learn more about it. So, let’s delve into it!
Some Truths about Women’s Rights in Albania
- More than fifty percent of women in Albania have faced sexual violence. According to a research study performed by U.N.D.P and U.N. Women and the government of Sweden, over fifty percent of Albanian women have been subjugated to some form of “sexual, physical or psychological violence.” The violence of this sort happens due to the perpetuation of one’s partner. Furthermore, the current amalgamation of the financial struggle and the order of stay-at-home because of COVID-19 have increased the domestic violence against Albanian women. It has left women with little to no protection from the abuse at home. During these circumstances, UN Women has initiated social media campaigns to provide shelter and security to the victims of domestic violence across the country.
- The majority of the agricultural workers are dominated by women in Albania, though they are still paid less than the male workers. For promoting women’s rights in Albania and gender equity in the workplace the U.N. Economic Empowerment Program provides resources for initiatives and programs that will encourage girls and women to get extended vocational training and be independent.
- Under the law, women in Albania can buy and own property. However, these laws are often not implemented because traditionally women can’t sign legal documents as the “head of the household” which makes it incredibly hard for women to become owners of properties. Since 2018, only eight percent of women in Albania owned land. The Center for Civic and Legal Initiatives has been working to maximize this figure by encouraging women to buy land. Additionally, they also provide legal support to navigate the traditional customs that present as obstacles for women’s rights in Albania.
- During COVID-19, the healthcare system is severely lacking for reproductive health care and safe abortion. Albanian law vehemently restricts access to abortion. Under this outbreak, women find it difficult to find a safe healthcare center for abortion. As per Amnesty International, the governments in this region deem safe abortion care as a redundant health service. According to Leah Hoctor, the Regional Director for Europe’s Center for Reproductive Rights, it is vital for each European government including Albanian to intervene and act immediately to provide timely and safe access to abortion during this pandemic.
Tradition as an Adversity for Women in Albania
The northern Gheg region occupies Women from Albania with a patriarchal and conservative society. In Gheg communities, the women’s rights in Albania have little existence as the women are seen as the subordinate ones in the predominantly male society. Despite the incorporation of the free market economy and the ruling of a democratic party, the primary role of women in the Gheg community still remains to take care of the household and the children.
Though the Albanian women are allowed to carry arms and in the matriarchal Tosk Albanian society and central Albania, the people value equality across sexuality, gender, and religion, the village women in Gheg society are more conservative in managing conventions like revenge calls. Some such conventions are,
- Albanian women in the Gheg community used to be “live-in Concubines” for the males who were living in the mountain region, before the Second World War.
- Gheg men’s seemingly significant qualification in women is their intact virginity which had resulted in the women paying to “become virgin again.”
- In spite of the dangers of inflammation and infection, the sexually driven women in the Gheg community are opting for the secret twenty minutes of simple gynecological surgery to restore their virginity in the Gheg cities.
- Reports from the same clinic have stated that several new husbands have brought in their brides in order to check their virginity because they haven’t bled on their wedding nights.
- Women’s rights in Albania and especially in Gheg society are non-existent since they are treated and considered as commodities by their husbands. They are not very fond of having daughters in the patriarchal society of Gheg. It is even a custom in northern Albania, like in Mirdite and other neighboring mountain regions, that women can only be married until after they have birthed their first sons.
- In the past, women could be the leader of the household if they swore to take an oath of virginity. They could dress like men, carry weapons, move more freely, own property, live and be treated like a man among other men, and could also avoid arranged marriages.
Education, Marriage, and Family Life for Women in Albania
- No women’s rights in Albania exist, especially in some portions of Albania where the patriarchal and conventional society is led by the values of Kanun.
- They still arranged marriages and Albanian girl marriages often are forced even though it is disapproved of by society.
- Especially in remote and rural areas where poverty and patriarchal mentality are heavy women are forced to marry whoever is arranged by their families.
- The literacy rate for women in Albania is a little lower than men, in 2015, 96.9% of females are literate whereas 98.4% of males are the same.
History of Women’s Rights in Albania
Urani Rumbo and others established Lidhja e Gruas which means the Women’s Union in Gjirokaster in 1920. The Union was one of the most significant feminist organizations promoting Women’s rights in Albania. In the newspaper Drita, they had also published a declaration to protest against the discrimination of women and social predicaments. Urani Rumbo was also part of a campaign in 1923 to ensure girls attend the boys’ lyceum at Gjirokaster.
During the rule of Zog I, women’s rights in Albania were protected by the state under Gruaja Shqiptare. It promoted a progressive policy and secured the right to education and professional life for women. It also prohibited the isolation of women behind veils and in harems and equal rights to inheritance. It also banned polygamy as well as forced and arranged marriages. However, the practice of these women’s rights in Albania was mostly concerned with the elite women of the cosmopolitan and the majority of the Albanian women remained unaffected.
In 1920, the suffrage of Albanian women was limited but they received full voting rights in 1945. An official ideology for gender equity was formed and promoted under the Communist government. The fall of communism succeeded the first democratic election which led to the fall of seventy-five women deputies from the parliament of communists to nine in Albania. In the turbulent period of this transition, the place of women worsened in 1991. The revival of religion also happened in Albania at this time, which also meant in Muslims, oftentimes women were pushed back to the roles of housekeeper and mother. Since 2013, women have represented in the parliament 22.9%.
How Albanians are Trying to Improve the Women’s Rights in Albania
Albania vows to take meaningful action regarding violence against women, the economic empowerment of women, and the maximization of women’s role in decision-making as they promise to engage all responsible institutions to take action on women’s empowerment and gender equality. They will involve improving and increasing access of women to credit, expanding and promoting employment programs for girls and women, and boosting the participation of women in the labor market.
- The nation will take steps to prevent and decrease violence against women and abolish gender discrimination in health service and education and in the media.
- The government will make efforts to increase the number of women in the decision-making processes of armed and police forces including public administrations across the country.
- Stronger institutional and legal policies will take place to secure women’s rights in Albania. They will also improve evaluation mechanisms and monitor the progress of gender equality and keep it on track.
- At the global leaders’ meeting on 27th September 2015, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that gender equality has taken the center stage of their agenda of the government.
The Development since the Commitment to Protect Women’s Rights in Albania
As mentioned early on, the government of Albania has embraced the National Strategy for Gender Equality and Action Plan 2016-20 in October 2016. Since speaking in the global leaders’ meeting, the government has gathered efforts of responsible institutions to protect gender equality and women’s rights in Albania.
- In order to expand entrepreneurship opportunities and employment for women, state funds have been utilized to benefit forty enterprises that are led by women. Girls and women also form fifty-six percent of the unemployed women who have benefitted from the employment promotion program. Furthermore, the currently acquired Law on Crafts has opened opportunities in the craftsmanship market for women.
- The nation has also taken action to prevent and tackle the issue of violence against women. The support services for the victims and survivors of the abuse have been strengthened which include free legal help, national shelters, and referral mechanisms at the level of the municipality and had opened a “National Counselling Lines for Victims of Domestic Violence.”
- There is also progress being made in the participation and decision-making capacities. For the first time in Albania, a female general was promoted in the armed force.
- The government of Albania has improved and acquired a new family planning system where women can get access to needed reproductive services.
- The Albanian government has also implemented the National National Action Plan for Children that increase the access to effective health care urgently for both mother and children which works to prevent weight-related problems and malnutrition, curbs the spreading of preventable diseases and reduces the rate of infection of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses.
Things to do in Albania
Despite having a tumultuous past and present for protecting women’s rights Albania, it is a safe country to visit if you are a woman and traveling alone. Though there are places where you shouldn’t go like the lawless town named Lazarat that is hostile towards tourists, mostly the country is filled with friendly Albanians, good food, and picturesque landscapes. Albania is developing a new reputation slowly as the Lonely Planet has named it as the top country of the year 2011.
Camping in Shkodra
If you want to avoid odd glances from the people, keep yourself covered up. One of the best places to go in Shkodra is the Lake in Shkodra which is the best place for camping. Though a little outside of the city, you can get a taxi or can hire a car to get there instead.
Visiting the capital of Albania, Tirana can be very exhilarating. It’s a colorful city with a large man-made lake where locals take their lunch break and just relax. You can also find many shopping avenues and get a shuffle to visit the larger malls.
Whatever you do, do not forget to add Skanderbeg Square to your itinerary. You can visit the museums any day except Monday and the central plaza is vibrant enough to make your camera happy.
You can always book beforehand at the hostels and hotels but they always try to find accommodation for you if you haven’t booked before you visit. It gets difficult during busy summer days, so it’s best to book rooms ahead of that time.
Escaping City Life
If you want to escape the humdrum of city life, visit the ‘Albanian Alps’, though rockier than the original, it’s a serene and eye-soothing place to visit. You can visit the village of Theth which is a rocky landscape, surrounded by limestones, conventional stone houses with crispy clean mountain air.
Your accommodation is the comfortable guest houses of the local houses who are gracious enough in their hospitality to provide you with home-cooked meals and they also guide you trekking in the region. Though the place is five hours away from Shkoder, the rustic traveling is worth it in the end.
To know more about the visit to Albania, visit this site.
We are now at the end of our journey. Hopefully, I’ve informed you enough about women’s rights in Albania, so that you can seek more details and spread awareness as best as you can. Until then travel well, be well.