Poverty Among Romanians in Albania
Albania, a country located east of the heel of Italy and bordering a chunk of the Adriatic Sea, receives millions of Euros each year. However, Albania invests next to nothing, if even that, in the ghettos where a majority of the Romani population live. The result is a continuous cycle of poverty among the Romani in Albania.

Estimates determine that Romani people migrated from Northern India to Eastern Europe in the 1400s. Upon arriving, Eastern Europeans discriminated against the Romani people due to their nomadic lifestyles. Romani people lived in tribes and worked as craftsmen. Being further developed when it came to technology, the Eastern Europeans used this to justify why they treated the Romani as “less than” or “untouchables.” In Albania, this treatment is still present today.

A Large Population

Although no one seems to have accurate data of how many Romani people live in Albania, the majority of sources seem to estimate somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000. Of this amount, 80 percent of the Romani in Albania have no job and live in extreme poverty. While this is a vast percentile, the Albanian government is still not fully addressing the issue of poverty among the Romani in Albania. For instance, the country’s social services such as welfare and economic aid make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for the Romani people to access them. Because most Romani people in Albania do not register at their local municipality, the government uses this to justify them as ineligible for the social services. However, the reason Romani in Albania do not register at their local municipality is due to the discrimination they face. This causes them to live on unclaimed land, move frequently and/or bear children at home rather than in a hospital.

Issues of Education

In Albania, 52 percent of the Romani population has no education. Of the other 48 percent who do attend school, 14 percent complete elementary school, three percent complete secondary school and four percent graduate from a college or university. Because of the lack of education, many Romani are not eligible to access employment which further contributes to their poverty.

Romani children tend to not attend school for the following reasons:

  1. They have to work to help their family survive because the average monthly income of Romani households is 68 Euros. The Romani people make less than half the monthly income of non-Romani households living in the same neighborhoods.
  2. Some schools refuse to register Romani children because they do not have birth certificates. This is despite the fact that it is the law in Albania to accept all Romani students into public schools whether they have a birth certificate or not.
  3. Romani parents choose to keep their kids home from school due to their claim that the teachers discriminate against their children because of their ethnicity.

Temporary Work

Because many Romani people in Albania are unable to find a stable source of income, they often resort to small, temporary jobs in different trades such as construction and agriculture, and most of these are low pay. While the government does provide economic aid to the unemployed, very few Romani benefit from this aid, and if they do, they do not receive it for as long as they need it. On top of all of this, Romani people are continuously denied their rights to adequate housing and lack of access to clean drinking water, and often experience ill-treatment from local police for no reason other than being of Romani descent.

The ERRC

In 1996, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) emerged out of recognition of the discrimination Romani people face in multiple countries including Albania. It uses two methods to establish equal rights and opportunities for all Romani people:

  1. Strategic Litigation: In order to eliminate the discrimination against Romani people that prevents them from moving out of poverty, the ERRC fights whoever is implementing these discriminatory acts in court. It is able to do so in both domestic and international courts.
  2. Advocacy and Research: The ERRC believes that one of the best things anyone can do in order to help prevent poverty among Romanians in Albania as well as in other countries is to get the word out. One requires awareness and education of the issue in order for change to be possible.

An ERRC Victory

The ERRC completed its latest project in Albania on December 12, 2018. Due to discrimination, Romani citizens of Fushe Kruje, a city in Albania that has been home to a Romanian community since 1990, were suffering from lack of clean drinking water. While numerous Romani organizations took action to prevent this for the past 20 years, next to nothing has changed. The ERRC stepped in and went to court to fight the local municipality in Fushe Kruje for refusing to address the community’s limited access to clean water. The ERRC won the case, and the court declared that the local municipality would have to fix this issue within 30 days or receive a fine.

The ERRC envisions a world in which Romani people and non-Romani people in Albania are able to work together to challenge the racism that exists. By doing so, poverty among the Romani in Albania will end, thus, allowing them to receive access to proper education, steady employment, and ultimately, better healthier lives.

Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

 

 

10 Facts About Hunger in AlbaniaAlbania is a country nestled in the southeast of Europe. Its coast is located on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, while it shares land borders with Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. The Democratic Albanian Republic came to power after the dissolution of the former Albanian Socialist Republic in 1991. The Albanian government has made it a central goal to eliminate hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Albania.

10 Facts About Hunger in Albania

  1. According to the 2017 census, Albania’s population is comprised of 2.8 million people, 15 percent of whom are living below the poverty line, having about $1 euro a day for personal expenses. Some families spend up to 80 percent of their budget on food.
  2. Albania is experiencing a refugee crisis which also contributes to its hunger problems. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Hunger, there are some 407,600 refugees from neighboring Kosovo, who are located mostly around Albania’s northern border. However, Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization,  is distributing food such as warm milk, broth, sugar and salt to the refugees. One team in the Albanian city of Kukes ensured the distribution of drinking water to some 4,000 refugees. While Action Against Hunger will continue to aid the refugees for as long as it takes, its goal is to establish food security and self-sufficiency as soon as possible.
  3. The 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked Albania 53rd out of 119 qualifying countries. With a score of 12.2, this puts the country at a hunger level that is moderate. However, it is still one of the lowest-ranked European nations. The GHI categorized Albania as a country with a transitioning economy that is highly vulnerable to a financial crisis and increased hunger rates. The GHI attributes this to high global food prices as well as pay cuts for unskilled workers.
  4. Child stunting rates have dropped dramatically in Albania, from almost 40 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2018. Additionally, GHI considers less than six percent of the Albanian population undernourished. This is likely the result of government programs, as well as the actions of non-governmental organizations and other humanitarian aid.
  5. As of 2016, about 54 percent of the adult population in Albania were overweight with an additional 21.7 percent of adults classified as obese. An interesting phenomenon surrounding obesity in Albania is that it is disproportionately high in the elderly and middle-aged, with rates jumping to 32.7 percent in people ages 46-55, and 21.9 percent in people ages 56-65. One can partially explain this by the fact that in some cultures, people consider obesity a sign of wealth and beauty.
  6. Gender inequality also contributes to hunger in Albania. Though Albanian women traditionally take on the well-being of their family, they have far fewer resources or opportunities than men with which to do this. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated that “Gender equality is the key to eliminating poverty and hunger.” The FAO’s policy on gender equality has been used as a resource in the creation of the Country Programming Framework, a signed plan between the FAO and Albanian government to further hunger and poverty reduction and end gender inequality.
  7. Twenty-four percent of Albania’s geography consists of arable land for farming. But because of small farms and limited mechanization, the agricultural sector of Albania remains largely underdeveloped. Agriculture contributes to 20 percent of the Albanian GDP and employs about 58 percent of the population. However, these numbers are likely to increase due to government involvement.
  8. A central goal of the Albanian government is the continued financial support and development of both independent farmers as well as private investment in the private agriculture sector. To this end, the Albanian government has allocated an average of $10 million annually to the agriculture sector over the past six years. In addition, the Albanian Ministry of Agriculture has set up a fund of $5 million euros to aid farmers in the country. Already, there have been 7,700 farmers who have passed the first phase of the application process.
  9. The government of Albania is not the only entity investing in the agricultural sector, though. The FAO announced it will establish an office in the capital city of Tirana. The Albanian Minister, Edmond Panariti, declared that the FAO would have the full support of the Albanian government and praised the organization for its assistance in the country. The FAO’s strategic objectives include, “the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, the transformation of agriculture into a more productive and sustainable sector and the reduction of rural poverty.” The FAO hopes to achieve this by assisting the Albanian government in the technical aspect of the agriculture and agro-culture sectors.
  10. Albania’s biggest trade partner, the EU (with around 66.7 percent of Albanian agricultural exported to EU markets and 57.8 percent of Albanian imports coming from the EU) aided the countries agricultural sector with The Stabilization and Association Agreement. This agreement eliminated many tariffs on Albanian imports and put protections on trade between Albania and the EU. Thanks to agreements like these, Albania represents a significant market for the EU and neighboring countries. As a result, the nation has experienced tremendous economic growth and a steady rise in GDP since the year 2000.

Since the ousting of the communist party in 1992, Albania has had an uphill battle against poverty and hunger. However, the years since then have seen the country make great strides in technological advancement and economic growth, both of which help it stay competitive in the European market and combat its hunger problem. There is still much for Albania to do, yet all indications from the Albanian government, EU and the global community, as well as these 10 facts about hunger in Albania, point to continued progress for this European nation.

– Henry Burkert
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is one of the poorest of the European nations. Recently, the Albanian Government has been making strides towards economic growth, but it has only now come to realize the importance of empowering and supporting women in the country. The government is empowering women in Albania by taking a stance against violence towards women, encouraging girls’ education and increasing access for women in the workforce.

Violence at Home

The National Strategy for Gender Equality campaign was launched in 2016 to help the Albania Government implement a policy to help women achieve real equality. As it stands now, most of the women are working in agriculture on family farms, often without pay. According to the U.N., almost 60 percent of Albanian women have direct experience with in-home violence.

A woman named Tone from a village in north Albania shared her story of endurance after being in a 10-year arranged marriage full of abuse. Her family had suggested she stay with her husband in spite of the abuse because there were no support systems available for Tone and her children if they left their abusive home. When she finally had had enough, she reported the violence and, to her surprise, the police were timely, responsive and positive. They referred her to the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse The Centre is up and coming and is currently aiding around 100 women victims annually.

Tome’s story is just one of several stories of women’s suppression in this poverty-riddled nation. In fact, one in two women are victims of abuse in Albania. For those that have not found a helping hand and been able to escape the harsh realities of inequality, the story acts as a cycle. Children who come from uneducated mothers are less likely to complete schooling if it is even available to them in the first place. The influences of home life, such as violence, inadequate funds, illness, excessive children in the home or lack of transportation, make it hard for children to succeed in school.

Promoting Education for Empowering Women in Albania

Because children from these homes require more support to make it through school without the heightened risk of drop-out, UNICEF has joined forces with the Albanian Government to promote Child-Friendly Schools (CFS).  These CFCs encompass a holistic education based on the needs of children who need the most help, especially girls. The projected outcome of the CFS plan is to make education in Albania more readily available by increasing the country’s GDP budget towards education up from 3.27 percent to 5 percent. The hope is that, with education and proper emotional support, these girls will grow up better educated and better equipped to enter the workforce.

Sociologists are quickly realizing that empowering women through education is crucial for national growth in any developing country. In 2006, Albania joined the Global Partnership for Education and has since implemented strategies for equality such as gender quotas that will make girls’ education in Albania more accessible and better equipped to serve these young ladies. The program has already seen an increase in primary and secondary school completion rates.

Many girls in Albania don’t have the same access to education due to conflict or crisis, poverty or because so many young girls are married. With access to primary and secondary education that is made more available by USAID and other activists, women will be empowered and, therefore, be able to make better choices that support their individual needs and dreams.

Improving the Future for Women in Albania

Women make up half of the Earth’s population, which equates to half of the human capital. Rigid gender roles and cultural tradition have delayed the realization of equality for some women in countries like Albania, but as change happens, government officials are seeing the benefits of humanity and equality along with the need to act. Together with the Government of Sweden, U.N. Women is raising awareness of women’s rights across each of the 10 municipalities in Albania. The good news is that in 2014 there was a 51 percent increase in female participation in the labor market.

The majority of Foreign and Domestic aid for Albanian women is geared toward equality as a whole, which means progress for women and girls in Albania. Escaping violence, becoming educated and empowered and gaining access to the workforce are all necessary for achieving equality and truly empowering women in Albania.

– Heather Benton

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Albania
Albania, a small country located in the Balkan, has a harsh and troubling history. From a constructing of half-a-million bunkers due to fear of a foreign invasion to multiple economic crises, corruption and civil unrest, Albania has seen it all. Such disruptions have taken a toll on the Albanian people, especially its children. As the situation in Albania gradually improves, targeting child poverty has become a significant focus of the international community. In the text below, 10 facts about the child poverty in Albania are presented.

10 Facts About Child Poverty in Albania

  1. Albania has a total population of 2.8 million. Out of this number, the number of Albanians under the age of 19 is around 1 million, which represents more than a third of the population. This places Albania’s populace in the second place of youngest countries in all of Europe, that creates an ever-increasing urgency to end child poverty and break the cycle of poverty in the country.
  2. The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) outlines the most significant threats to the Albanian children as growing economic disparities, social exclusion and discrimination violence and exploitation, domestic violence, lack of access to health and education services and, finally, malnutrition.
  3. In 2012, approximately 17.4 percent of Albanian children lived in absolute poverty while 1.8 percent lived with families who had no income. Furthermore, there is a measurable gap between poverty levels in rural and urban areas. However, this gap has narrowed to a difference of only 1.7 percent of those living in poverty in rural and urban areas.
  4. The Albanian government launched the Economic Aid (E.A.) programme in hopes of transferring cash and assistance to the country’s poorest. But by 2008, coverage had fallen to less than 7 percent due to stricter eligibility criteria and results showed only 0.4 percent of people lifted out of poverty.
  5. UNICEF attributes one-third of child deaths to malnutrition in Albania and has seen rates directly affected by wealth, geographic location, different residence (urban or rural) and education level of the mother. Child poverty and malnutrition in Albania are especially more prominent in resource-poor rural households and urban neighborhoods with high unemployment rates. According to a 2010 survey, up to 43 percent of these households had difficulties in providing food for their families on a yearly basis.
  6. Besides malnutrition, access to health services and other factors greatly hinder young Albanians from living healthy lives. For instance, the mortality rate of children under 5 in Albania is 17 per 1,000 children. In urban areas, the rate drops to 13 children, but more than doubles to 28 in rural parts of the country. On top of these statistics, primary health care and basic health services are severely underfunded and 90 percent of Albanian families cannot pay for their health care.
  7. The Romani (or Gypsy) children living in Albania are particularly at risk of poverty due to the discrimination they experience and the lack of institutions that support their cultural and linguistic background. In 2011, UNICEF conducted research on the Romani population and found that 40 percent are illiterate, only 25 percent of Romani children attend pre-school or early education institutions and 75 percent are considered very poor.
  8. While drop-out rates are only about 0.37 percent and the percent of children who never attended school is at 1.05 percent, the quality of education is still a challenge for the Albanian government. The vast majority of funding is given to teacher salaries and infrastructure (important parts of the successful educational system), but too little is given to development, services and quality of providing education.
  9. Due to the social and cultural attitudes of Albania, physical and phycological violence against children are often tolerated or even encouraged. A UNICEF study in 2006 revealed that most adults think physical or phycological violence has positive effects on children. Moreover, 50 percent of children have absorbed these ideas and believe that violence is needed at home and in school. In addition, children are exploited into forced labor since there basic social services and safety nets are lacking.
  10. Despite child poverty in Albania, UNICEF and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have done tremendous work through humanitarian aid and action. For example, UNICEF has largely focused on lobbying and working with the Albanian government and international community in providing long-term protections for the children in the country. As of 2016, UNICEF and the Albanian government have launched ambitious reforms in the social, economic, health and educational sectors in order to curtail childhood poverty. Furthermore, USAID has contributed nearly $500 million in foreign aid to Albania since 1992 with the goal of strengthening democracy, curtailing corruption, promoting civil society and gender equality and creating a more equitable economy.

Perhaps the biggest organization influencing poverty in Albania is the European Union (EU). While Albania is a candidate for the EU, the organization is requiring that the country progresses on political and economic reforms, improves governance and the rule of law and observes human rights standards.

Albania has shown that it values a future of being an E.U. member, which would be a significant step to building a stronger relationship between the United States and Albania. But in the first place, foreign aid will is needed to create a system capable of protecting every child and ending child poverty in Albania.

– Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr


On December 1, 2016, the BBC reported that Albania’s clandestine drug industry may be producing almost half of the nation’s total GDP on a yearly basis. The recent aspiration of the Albanian government to become admitted into the European Union, though, has successfully and drastically accelerated efforts to crack down on the mafias, corruption and poverty in Albania which allow these occurrences to take place.

But first, the events beg the question: how has the situation gotten so bad? Albania has been stable in recent decades, although not on a large enough scale. For instance, while the capital of Tirana had seen significant growth in services and order, most of the rest of the country was neglected. Poor and impoverished citizens in the rural regions were left to fend for themselves – and found a better life through the growth of illegal drugs. These are just a few examples of the effects of poverty in Albania backed by research.

In response to this, Prime Minister Edi Rama showed eagerness in establishing prosperous policies and projects. For instance, the government of Albania is attempting to curb issues mentioned heretofore by providing financial services to rural areas, establishing consumer protection and promoting tourism throughout the nation. Also, police salaries have risen between 10 and 17 percent to steer away bribery.

Of course, more turbulent methods are also being pursued — Rama has promised to deal with the more aggressive concerns by expanding currently existing assets. With the help of the Italian government, and significantly more senior officers, keeping track of and attacking these illicit organizations has become easier. For instance, Rama oversaw the besiege of Lazarat in 2014, a village in southern Albania, where civilians ineffectively utilized military-grade weaponry against police.

At this rate, the flow of certain drugs throughout Europe should significantly decrease since Albania is one of the root causes of this spread. Today, Albania has opened up more government jobs to citizens while it also works to rebuild and refurnish once-neglected regions. Programs to promote rehabilitation are also a must to not only help in reducing poverty in Albania, but to also further the nation as a whole. As a result of these efforts, Rama hopes Albania will be accepted into the EU in the early 2020s.

– Kristopher Nasse

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in albaniaImproved agricultural practices are currently bringing about poverty reduction and improved food security across the world. Sustainable agriculture in Albania is no exception. In a nutshell, sustainable agriculture is the effort to ensure that present agricultural activity will not deprive future generations of the ability to meet their own needs. This involves replacing problematic practices with ones that are easier on the environment, more economically profitable and less exploitative.

Major interest in sustainable agriculture in Albania is currently being generated and supported by two key sustainable development initiatives. A total of 71 percent of the Albanian population is employed in the agricultural sector, contributing 21 percent of Albania’s GDP. While many Albanians have long depended on agriculture as a means of subsistence, there are several cash crops endemic to the country which can compete strongly on the global market, especially when they are grown organically. This means that promoting sustainable agriculture in Albania would serve the Albanian people very well and lift many people out of poverty.

Two projects, in particular, are promoting sustainable agriculture in Albania and seeing great successes. Sustainable Agriculture Support in Albania, funded by the Swiss government, is undertaking efforts to introduce organic farming, to help organic farmers become and stay competitive in the global market and to promote organic Albanian products to consumers around the world. This project is working primarily to make organic farming profitable and attractive for Albanian farmers, and in doing so promote sustainable agriculture in Albania.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations also has an ongoing partnership promoting sustainable agriculture in Albania. In addition to the promotion of organic farming, the FAO is also working to promote innovation in agricultural practices. It is anticipated that greater innovation will help to keep Albanian agriculture profitable and competitive, especially as the country moves closer to European Union membership.

Other goals of the FAO partnership with Albania include preserving Albania’s rich biodiversity and helping to improve the management of Albanian fisheries in the Adriatic Sea. These are all critical if Albania is to successfully join the EU, which sets strict standards for agricultural products. Additionally, EU membership could pose a threat to Albanian farmers who cannot withstand the international competition that comes with access to the EU market. However, the hope is that the adoption of more sustainable practices will improve Albania’s competitiveness.

While some of the projects promoting sustainable agriculture in Albania may seem simple, their potential impact on rural Albanian communities cannot be understated. Rural Albania is seeing a massive outflow of people heading either to major cities or overseas to find better-paying jobs and better quality of life. Rural areas tend to be underdeveloped and some lack basic modern conveniences.

Efforts to promote sustainable agriculture often bring with them improvements that, while helpful for farming, also majorly improve daily living for local residents. An example of this is a German-backed project called Support for Agriculture and Rural Development in Disadvantaged Areas in Albania (SARED). In addition to things like more fuel-efficient tractors and irrigation systems, sustainable development projects like SARED have also brought electricity and wastewater treatment systems to rural Albania.

The hope is that these projects will not only provide a better future for rural Albanians but that in doing so they will stop the steady stream of people leaving these parts of the country in search of a better life by enabling them to create one where they are.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in AlbaniaIn 2008, Albania managed to develop its economy, rising from its position as the poorest European nation to middle-income economic status. This growth was possible because of international aid to develop infrastructure in Albania, and as a result, poverty decreased by half. Infrastructure projects have increased the prosperity of Albanian society.

Roads in Albania are one of the country’s largest projects, concentrated on the highway Corridor Durrës – Kukës – Morinë, known as the “The Nation’s Road.” This road connects key sections of the nation, linking the capital and the port of Durres to the state of Kosovo. Another project underway is Corridor VIII, which will connect the Albania port of Durres with Bulgaria, joining Tirana, Thana Neck, Skopje, Deve Bair, Sofia, Plovdiv and Burgas. This will fuel trade, being the main east-west transportation route between the Mediterranean and Balkan countries.

Another key part of infrastructure in Albania is electricity and the development potential within this sector. Albania’s potential capacity to generate power from hydro (water) resources, wind, solar and biomass is immense. In 2011, 98.57 percent of the total energy produced was from hydroelectric plants. Investments in energy production help the development of Albania and reduce poverty by allowing more individuals access to affordable, reliable energy.

Providing clean and sanitary water to people is another crucial service in running a functional state. The water supply is at the forefront of providing for citizens and a measurement of an effective government. Albania increased its investments in order to enhance the water supply sector. The government passed a budget increase to boost tourism projects and supply water to areas facing difficulties. In 2010, $10 billion went to water supply improvements, with $6 billion coming from the state budget and the remainder from foreign aid.

Entities such as the municipality of Tirana and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are working together to upgrade the municipal infrastructure in Albania. Their plan is to make the capital more environmentally conscious and promote sustainable growth and development. The municipality of Tirana and the EBRD are working through a memorandum of understanding for the development of urban transport, roads, water and wastewater services, solid waste management, street lights and improving energy efficiency.

Albania shows the great benefits of international aid: poverty reduction, roads being built, developing cities and providing for the people of the state. However, improvement growth models need to represent sustainability, investment-strong and export-led ideals.

Focusing on macroeconomic and government fiscal sustainability fuels reform and development for Albania. This, in turn, will benefit all sectors within infrastructure in Albania. Foreign aid in the form of investments will allow Albania to continue to decrease its poverty rate and boost the economy enough to further state development.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr


Credit helps to improve financial status so that a person can buy homes, get credit cards, and build trust between financial institutions and the consumer. Despite the many benefits to having access to credit, Albania still seems to have a low credit market.

Credit access in Albania is low due mostly in part to a supply-demand mismatch. This means that the creditors in Albania don’t have the products that the people are interested in. As a result of this mismatch, the supplier tends to change their product or becomes forced to go out of business.

Part of the reason why credit access in Albania is in a supply-demand mismatch is because some parts of the country have easy access to credit and a reliable supplier, while poorer parts of Albania do not.

Individual people’s credit access in Albania seems threatened by the lack of borrower awareness and protections, as well as a lack of a functioning credit registry. Without these two things, a person is left vulnerable to financial debt and burden that can last years.

Credit awareness is important because it poses as a financial risk for those who cannot afford it. If one is not careful, they can end up with massive debt. Debt hinders the chances of acquring a house, car, or financing any other prosperous items.

According to the World Bank, while individual access may be threatened, cooperate business account for 74 percent of all credit in Albania and small businesses account for majority of the economic population. Though credit access usually reflects the economic stability of a country, Albania relies heavily on cooperations.

For cooperate companies, credit access in Albania is important because credit helps businesses receive the funding they need to succeed financially. According to Cardhub in 2015, the average business needs 12-18 months to improve its business credit score.

By improving credit access in Albania, financial status is sure to improve as a result. Credit access in Albania can further smart banking and loaning so that the country can decrease their economic expenses.

– Seriah Sargenton

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in AlbaniaLong a conservative society and closed off to the outside world for decades under the communist rule of Enver Hoxha, Albania is making strides in improving the status of women in the country. Home to just under three million people, women’s empowerment in Albania is moving forward in the 21st century as the country continues to emerge from isolation and enters a period of rapid development.

Domestic violence has been the most pressing issue limiting women’s empowerment in Albania, affecting women of all generations across the country. The southeastern European nation is making progress in its efforts to bring an end to domestic violence, establishing a National Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse in the capital, Tirana. The center was opened by the Albanian government in cooperation with the U.N. Development Project (UNDP) and other aid organizations.

“This shelter is part of the state social service structures,” said the center’s director, Fatbardha Hoxhalli, to the UNDP. “It constitutes an important service in the overall mechanism for the coordination of work and referral of domestic violence cases set up at several municipalities throughout the country.”

Despite the progress in combating domestic abuse, the lack of developed childcare services is another obstacle to women’s empowerment in Albania. In a study published in 2013, UNICEF’s country office in Albania recommended further involvement of Albanian men in childcare and family networks to combat the persistence of Albania’s heavily patriarchal society. Further investment in childcare and early child development services would significantly contribute to women’s empowerment in Albania.

In Tirana, Albania’s bustling capital home to almost half a million people, businesses owned and run by women are thriving. Women run travel agencies, influential online newspapers and countless other enterprises, receiving support from a fund created by the city government.

Albania’s political leaders are also taking note of the gender equality gap in the country, announcing new measures to support women’s empowerment in Albania and enable more women to enter the labor market. A four-year National Strategy for Gender Equality and Action Plan, launched last year, aims to consolidate efforts across government ministries to advance gender equality in Albania by 2020.

All of these projects have been crucial steps in the process to advance women’s empowerment in Albania. By continuing to include women in all facets of the country, Albanian women’s daily lives can be greatly improved.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in AlbaniaAlbania is located in southern Europe, north of Greece. Albanians call themselves shqiptarë, which means “sons of eagles“. Albania gained independence in 1912 and was ruled as a monarchy between World War I and World War II. After WWII, it was a communist state, but new democratic parties developed after communist regimes failed.

25 years later, Albania gained candidate status in the EU after many attempts, but still faces challenges such as finding an economic niche and establishing rule of law. Despite this, water quality in Albania is one thing that has improved over the years.

A 2003 report from the World Bank stated that there was plenty of water available, but the water quality in Albania was compromised because of the poor conditions of its water infrastructure. The country lacked sufficient treatment facilities, the chemical suppliers were unreliable and the maintenance was unsatisfactory. The decaying supply and treatment facilities posed a major health threat and were believed to be a major contributing factor to infant mortality.

In 2015, the European Environment Agency reported that there have been significant measures taken to improve the water quality in Albania. Authorities have made efforts to reduce pollution, and between 2012 and 2015 the quality of bathing waters in Albania has improved significantly.

The Tirana Times reported in May that 86 percent of the bathing waters in Albania met the standards of the EU. In 2016 and 2017, Albanian authorities that reported 92 bathing waters were considered excellent or satisfactory, compared to 78 in 2015, which has helped attract more tourism.

Albania has many challenges to overcome, but the improvement of water quality in Albania is a step in the right direction. The increased tourism as a result of the improved water quality may also help stimulate the economy, which can help it more quickly overcome other obstacles.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr