Why an Albanian OBOS?
A Message from the Gender Alliance for Development Center, the Albanian Coordinating Group
Albania is a country with a young population and a yearly population growth. In 2004 (according to the latest data), Albania had an average population of 3,127,263 people, of which 50.2% were women. Today, Albanian people confront many barriers, and due to a period of transition that has brought many changes to different segments of the population, women carry the heaviest burden. Problems such as poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, internal and external migration, decrease in years of education, lack of proper health and social care (amongst others) have had deep and lasting consequences on women and girls in the country.
Based on the Living Standards Measurement Survey (2002) from the World Bank and the Institute of Statistics, about 25% of the population lives under the poverty level, and most of them are women and girls living in rural areas. Further, the level of education has significantly decreased and there is an observed increase in the drop-out rate for both girls and boys. Girls, however, continue to achieve better results at all educational levels and have a higher performance rate in general. Regardless, they are discriminated against in the job market, not only in terms of wages, but also in terms of the sectors where they are able to find work (such as education, health, social services which pay less) Other problems observed are not only linked to the difficulty of finding work, but to the number of working hours, family and home responsibilities as well as family care, which includes children and the elderly. Consequently, women comprise a significant portion of the informal job market as they try to compensate for their lack of income. To make matters worse, the informal market does not guarantee healthcare and social security, thereby directly influencing the health and reproductive well being of women and girls.
Economic dependency also limits opportunities available to women in many areas of life. Though there are many girls and women who complete their higher education and are integrated into the job market, they are located in large cities and are more privileged in comparison to women residing in rural areas or women of minority groups. Further, women’s participation in politics is low, only 7 percent, and they occupy only 10 of 140 seats in parliament. The positive change during the last elections held in July 2005 was the election of a woman - Mrs. Jozefina Topalli - as the leader of parliament. However, during the transition period the quality of and access to health care decreased, and even though the law guarantees health services for all, often they are not equally accessible to women and men. The main difficulties are faced in rural hospitals and clinics that are not able to provide basic services and do not receive any significant financial support from the State.
Another important problem faced by women and girls in Albania is domestic violence, observed primarily in the form of violence against women and considered, by most, as a private problem confined to the family and not a concern for larger society. Regardless of awareness efforts undertaken over the last ten years to sensitize the public, attitudes toward domestic violence have not really changed. The socialization process of women and men in Albanian society and the ‘placement’ of women in inferior roles has kept them economically dependent upon men and made them very vulnerable to abuse from male partners. This victimization by husbands/partners is also reinforced by traditions and customs, lack of public awareness about domestic violence, and the lack of a specific law that protects women. Violence against women is not an isolated problem as it has economic and social implications that weigh heavily on society as a whole. However, data on the prevalence of violence continues to be limited as the police department, judicial offices, healthcare and social services centers are not legally required to collect and submit data on domestic violence or violence against women. Unfortunately, one of the direct effects of this violence is trafficking of women, a problem that has developed during the period of transition. Poverty, lack of economic opportunities, unemployment, and low levels of education, are additional factors that have influenced the levels of human trafficking.
Hence, the list of problems that women face daily is long and there is a lot more to be done besides what has been done already in order to improve the quality of life for women and girls in Albania. Many non-governmental, non-profit organizations do offer services in different areas, but they do not always fulfill the needs. Regarding legislation on gender equality, Albania has ratified a series of international conventions which guarantee equal rights and opportunities for women and men. However, the main difficulty remains in implementation due to a lack of financial resources and adequate implementing mechanisms. In addition, there needs to be greater political will to provide equal access and opportunities for women and men in all areas of life as a principle and necessity in a democratic society. Gender Alliance for Development Center, Albania.