For years, women have struggled to obtain equality in the developing European country, Albania. Recently, however, this topic has received greater publicity as it becomes an increasingly pressing issue for thousands of citizens. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Albania that illustrate Albanians’ struggles. Moreover, these facts highlight organizations and initiatives that are inspiring positive change.
5 Facts about Women’s Rights in Albania
- The number of Albanian women in the workforce is rapidly increasing. Women now comprise the majority of agricultural workers in Albania, yet they are still paid lower wages than their male counterparts. On average, women receive 18% lesser salaries than men. To promote gender equality in the workforce, the U.N. Economic Empowerment Program in Albania provides resources for programs and initiatives. Such initiatives aim to expand vocational training and encourage female entrepreneurship throughout the country.
- Over 50% of Albanian women have experienced sexual violence. According to a study performed by the Swedish government, U.N.D.P. and U.N. Women, more than 50% of Albanian women have been victims of some form of “sexual, physical or psychological violence.” This most commonly occurs as a result of a partner’s perpetration. Additionally, a recent combination of economic struggles and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 has caused an increase in domestic violence in Albania. This leaves women with little protection from violent situations. Under these circumstances, U.N. Women is initiating social media campaigns to spread awareness about resources providing security and shelter for domestic violence victims throughout Albania.
- Traditional customs prevent women from owning property. Under Albanian laws, women can purchase and own property. However, these laws often go ignored. Because women are traditionally unable to sign as a “head of the household” in legal affairs, it is incredibly difficult for women to become property owners. As of 2018, only 8% of Albanian women owned land. The Center for Civic and Legal Initiatives in Albania is working to boost this figure by encouraging women to purchase property. Also, they provide legal support to help navigate the obstacles that traditional customs present.
- More women participate in Albanian politics. Aiming to lessen the country’s multitude of gender inequalities, many women have successfully run for office. As of 2017, “women make up 23% of members of parliament, 35% of local counselors, 9 in 61 mayors and 8 in 20 cabinet ministers.” Though the numbers fall short of achieving proper representation, initiatives by the Albanian Parliament are encouraging women to run for various political offices.
- Women and girls struggle to access safe reproductive health care amid COVID-19. Albanian law severely limits access to abortion. Coupled with restricted access to healthcare due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many women find it impossible to receive access to safe abortion care. According to Amnesty International, governments in the region deem abortion care as an inessential health service. Leah Hoctor, the Regional Director for Europe’s Center for Reproductive Rights, has called on many governments, including the Albanian government, to intervene. She states “European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Continuing the Fight
Women in Albania struggle to lead independent lives due to the prevalence and severity of gender inequality. Sexist laws and cultural norms limit women’s rights in Albania. This, in turn, prevents many women from achieving equality in health, safety and prosperity. Though organizations like U.N. Women and the Center for Legal and Civic Initiatives, improving the quality of life for these women has become a real possibility.
– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons