Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence Programme

What is this programme about?

In recent years Albania has improved the status of women and promoted gender equality. However, the country still faces many challenges in terms of fully displaying and utilising the women’s potential in the labour market and economy, increasing participation in decision-making and eradicating the widespread violence against women, particularly in the family realm. In addition, the country still needs to strengthen its legislative and institutional framework pertaining to gender equality and non-discrimination, improve monitoring and accountability of public offices towards women as well as ensure gender mainstreaming in public policies.

In September 2015, Albania adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), alongside all other Member States of the United Nations. Going forward, the SDGs present similarly strong entry points, especially for social inclusion (SDG10), gender equality (SDG5), governance and rule of law (SDG 16), employment (SGD 8) and climate change and resilience (SDG13 and 9). The UNDP Gender Equality Programme uses these SDGs entry points throughout its interventions.

UNDP programme aims to improve the status of women as reflected in personal integrity, economic advancement and political representation. The specific objective of the programme is to strengthen Government of Albania (GoA) capacities, improve mechanisms, advance policies and improve the conditions for the implementation of the legislation that foresees a society that values gender equality as an indispensable prerequisite to sustainable development and aims towards zero tolerance of gender-based violence and domestic violence.

The programme works with a wide array of public authorities, civil society organisations, the media and citizens at large in order to improve national capacities on gender issues as well as to increase public demand for human rights and gender equality.

The Gender Equality Programme (GEP) assists the Albanian lawmakers to review the legislation and ensure that human and particularly women’s rights are embodied throughout Albanian legislation.  The Women Parliamentary Alliance and various parliamentary sub-committees supported by UNDP and other agencies have advocated for engendered review of legislation in the frame of justice sector review.

The GEP supports the Albanian Parliament to improve their monitoring capacities in the implementation of gender equality and human rights legislation. It provides technical assistance to crucial independent institutions such as the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and the People’s Advocate to enable them to advocate more efficiently for gender equality and elimination of sexual discrimination.

The Programme works closely with men and boys, women and girls and since 2006 till at present supports a yearly tradition to conduct awareness raising activities on gender equality and against gender based and domestic violence (GB&DV) particularly during the 16 days of activism against violence against women and joined the UN SG’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.     Driving the engagement of Men & Boys as agents of change in support of women & girls, the campaign of 16 days of activism against GB&DV has been rolled out by volunteers and CSOs. Leaders of the 5 main religious communities of the country supported by UNDP signed cooperation agreements with the MSWY to advocate for gender equality & fight against GBV.  Innovative ideas such as social experiments have been extensively used in close cooperation with youth, University students, academia and civil society to raise public attention against GBV.

Continuous support is being provided to the Albanian Government in terms of gender mainstreaming and legislative changes that will make the country fully compliant with international standards. The Programme provides training for judges and prosecutors so that the judiciary improves the understanding and the application of gender equality commitments and guarantee of women’s rights.

UNDP GEP has supported the GoA to establish and strengthen the institutional response to combat GB&DV through the Coordinated Community Response (CCRs) at the municipal level. This is a referral mechanism that involves the entire community, from local government units to law enforcement agencies, health care providers, judges and prosecutors.
The Gender Equality Programme assists vulnerable women with awareness activities about their economic rights and promotes women’s entrepreneurship.

What have we accomplished so far?

Measures in place and implemented across sectors to prevent and respond to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV)

  • In August 2014, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence entered into force for all Council of Europe Sate Parties, including Albania. Pursuant to its requirements, UNDP is supporting the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth to adopt standards of hotline services provided to victims of GB&DV based on the best international practices and establish a national hotline for GB&DV survivors.
  • UNDP is continuously contributing in enhancing the capacities of police, judges, prosecutors, social service providers, health workers, teachers, psychologists, journalists, labour inspectors, local and central level civil servants to obtain accurate information on the legal requirements under the Gender Equality and Domestic Violence Laws, Anti-discrimination Law, Criminal Code and the ratified Istanbul Convention.
  • The State Police Academy, supported by UNDP, assessed and upgraded the training curricula on GBV–DV in view of the latest legal improvements of the domestic related legislation and newly ratified international treaties. 23 trainers from the academy were trained on acquiring pedagogical skills in their future capacity building work with police staff using this upgraded training curricula and modules. Additionally, this is the first public institution that adopted in 2015 with UNDP support a harmonized policy to properly address harassment and sexual harassment cases among police forces. In this regard, 512 basic role and middle management police staff were trained in 9 regions of the country.
  • UNDP piloted coordinated community response (CCR) mechanisms (2010-2011) in three municipalities with focus on strengthening preventive actions and systems of protection for GB&DV survivors. This piloted initiative led to a Decree of the Government mandating local governments to establish CCRs mechanism in every local unit. Nearly half of municipalities have functioning CCRs with real-case management installed at the local level. During 2016, more than 155 police officers, CCR members and local GBV coordinators were trained in providing coordinated assistance to GBV victims and their children and in tracking cases through the national online tracking system.
  • Due to an increased level of awareness, victims of domestic violence and their families reported 4,163 cases to the state police in 2016 compared to 3,866 cases in 2015 and 94 cases in 2005. Furthermore, more than 500 GB–DV cases were recorded in the national online tracking mechanism REVALB, under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth (MoSWY), and handled by CCR members in 2016.
  • The Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination (CPD) is being supported by UNDP to increase its outreach to vulnerable women and men and transparency. The CPD annual report provides evidence on the increased number of complaints lodged and increased participation of CPD in judicial processes ensuring better law enforcement & upholding gender equality commitments.
  • The only state-run national shelter for survivors of domestic violence supported by UNDP under previous programmatic work (2011) provide refuge from abuse and prepare GB&DV survivors for their safe independent living when returning to communities. Under this programmatic cycle UNDP supports capacities of the national shelter to provide reintegration programs for GB&DV survivors. As a result of this support, nearly 55 percent of GB–DV victims successfully integrated through employment, social housing and legal empowerment, compared to 38 percent in 2014.
  • With UNDP support, MoSWY standardised services with a national telephone helpline for GBV victims and addressed the need to ensure basic support shelters for survivors.
  • UNDP in Albania established since 2006 a yearly tradition to conduct awareness raising activities on gender equality and against GB&DV particularly during the 16 days of activism against violence against women and joined the UN SG’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.     Driving the engagement of Men & Boys as agents of change in support of women & girls, the campaign of 16 days of activism against GB&DV has been rolled out by volunteers and CSOs.  Leaders of the 5 main religious communities of the country supported by UNDP signed cooperation agreements with the MSWY to advocate for gender equality & fight against GBV.  Innovative ideas have been extensively used to raise public attention against GBV.
  • ‘Not only 8th of March’  was the winning prototype video  of a UNDP-supported innovation boot camp that involved Tirana University students, academia and civil society to design a public awareness campaign against domestic and GBV as part of the UNiTE worldwide campaign. The video went viral on social media and traditional media and is one of the most effective campaigns on violence against women in Albania

Evidence-informed national strategies and partnerships to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment

  • UNDP supported the GoA to review the Albanian legislation from the gender equality perspective and develop a comprehensive set of legal proposals to remove discriminatory provisions from Albanian legislation. This normative and CEDAW/Istanbul Convention-compliant package comes at a crucial moment for Albania in its efforts to carry on justice reform and legislation harmonization with Acquis and gender commitments. Albanian Penal code was duly amended by introducing new provisions on bringing the perpetrators to justice.
  • A UNDP supported NGO submitted a shadow report to the Albanian Government fourth periodic report during the 64th session of CEDAW with concrete recommendations on the enforcement of court orders on child alimony and women and children’s rights in divorce cases. This shadow report echoed the 2015 NGO review which showed that in 82.9% of the cases women are not guaranteed enforcement of court orders on child alimony and no alternative is provided by law enforcement agencies. CEDAW reflected these recommendations among others coming from the Albanian civil society organisations and Ombudsman in its concluding observations. These concluding observations are framed in a concrete accountability work plan of the Ombudsman, the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and civil society organisations to follow-up with responsible state authorities on effective implementation. 
  • UNDP supported the National Institute of Statistics to collect and analyse data on the prevalence of GBV.   The National Survey collected reliable data on the nature and extent of domestic violence against women, and help-seeking behaviors of battered women.
  • The UN Women–UNDP ‘Gender Brief Albania 2016’  was prepared in 2016, providing an overview and analysis of the current state of GE and progress made in implementing gender and socially-responsive measures as part of Albania’s international and national commitments on GE and empowerment of women.
  • Further on, the Alliance of Women Parliamentarians and UNDP presented a pilot study  investigating public perceptions and attitudes towards gender equality in Albania, focusing on the types of barriers hindering women’s successful integration into the labour market and proposing strategies that promote the economic empowerment of women. The study is based on 450 interviews conducted in the four regions of the country – mountainous, coastal, central, and Tirana regions. The research recommendations inform evidence-based interventions that can be utilized to affect public perceptions and attitudes, grow the support for gender equality, and reduce the gap between legal changes and local realities in Albania.
  •  UNDP supported review of the National Strategy and Action Plan on gender equality and against domestic violence (NSGE-GBV&DV 2011-2015) informed the new National Strategy and Action Plan on Gender Equality (NSGE 2016-2020) which is in process of official formalisation. This Strategy with its strategic goals, specific objectives, proposed actions and accountability, monitoring and assessment indicators will drive development progress by addressing gender inequalities and empowering women in Albania.
  • UNDP supported the development of an online tool (REVALB) for reporting on GB&DV cases by members of the coordinated community mechanisms (CCRs) at municipal level and centrally coordinated by the MSWY. The data produced through the system are fundamental for measuring the effectiveness of the local interdisciplinary technical groups in the frame of the CCR mechanism as well as for designing evidence-informed local and national policies.
  • UNDP also supported the development and implementation of an innovative national plan of action for “Men and Boys involvement as partners to Women and Girls for gender equality and against GB&DV” to which relevant mandated authorities are committed to implement.
  • Albanian judicial practice on family law analysed from the women’s rights perspective in a UNDP supported study with a view to improve it in light of the CEDAW Committee recommendations.
  • In view of the substantial changes ensuing from EU accession as well as the recent legal and policy advances of the territorial and administrative reform, UNDP in cooperation with UN Women supported Albanian School of Public Administration in the gender-sensitive assessment and review of its current curricula. The Assessment of Critical Gender Gaps in the Training of Albanian Public Sector Employees identified 20 critical gender gaps in the existing training documents and provided 26 recommendations for addressing the gaps while updating the curricula.
  • Twenty-six municipalities were supported by UNDP in their efforts to develop Local Operational Plans (LOPs) following a methodology that integrates gender in all the planning stages, including collection of gender–disaggregated data, gender oriented analyses, priority setting, and planning of specific measures interventions that are gender sensitive and reflect gender equality considerations. These engendered LOPs are approved by the 26 mayors who will pursue their implementation in the future.

Measures in place to increase women’s participation in decision-making  

  • UNDP, other UN and international agencies supported the Albanian Parliament in legislating 50% women’s quota through the zipper system for the June 2015 local elections. This resulted in a milestone achievement of approximately 35% of women across 61 municipal councils. UNDP support for legislation development, and advocacy and lobbying partnerships with women organizations, parliamentary commissions and women parliamentary caucus (WPC) came out successful in bringing about this important change for the political participation in the country.  
  • The research undertaken in early 2015 by UNDP on “Strengthening the Decision Making Power of Council Women in Albania” timely fed the debate on the future role of women elected officials post territorial reform. The discussions fuelled new concrete ideas on women empowerment in politics and the oversight role of the local parliaments as regards gender equality commitments of the respective local governments.
  • Gender Quotas and women substantive representation in the local councils in Albania  is a UNDP supported study which examines the relationship between gender quotas and women’s substantive representation in the local councils of Albania. Drawing on a mixed methods design, the study sheds light into the characteristics of councilors, and their role and contribution in council meetings. Findings inform local, national, and international actors committed to gender equality and local development in Albania.
  • Women Caucus (WPC) in the parliament has expanded its activity and strengthened its influence. A number of important human rights issues such as GE, GBV, juvenile justice, women political participation were discussed by Parliamentary commissions. The judicial reform seen from gender perspective & women representation in local bodies were the focus of parliamentary commissions’ and PWC consultation forums organized through UNDP support.

Country led measures accelerated to advance women’s economic empowerment

  • A UNDP supported study on judicial practice in protecting women’s rights in labour disputes together with guiding leaflets in lay person language assisted many women navigate the legal system. The findings reveal that women rarely utilize available legal remedies to demand their economic rights and provide arguments on the need increased government investment in developing policies, improving practices and increasing women’s awareness towards their economic empowerment.
  • UNDP’s economic literacy programme for women, conducted in five regions of the country reached out to 170 vulnerable women in local communities and to relevant state and non-state bodies emphasizing women’s rights, duties and protection mechanisms in family, marital, work and property relations, and the role and responsibilities of local state bodies to appropriate implementation of these rights and safeguards.
  • Ninety-six women and their families in 6 rural and semi-rural areas (Erseka, Vithkuq, Novosela and Burrel) are benefiting from expanded business capacity and new skills therefore adding more value to the local products like processing new herbs, knitting show uppers, using organic ingredients for hand creams. UNDP supported training, workshops, fairs, sales events and coaching to build skills in learning appropriate methods of collecting, processing and marketing local and handicraft products, building sustainable partnerships and designing business plans for successful women-run social enterprises. Strengthening the collaboration with local governments remained in the focus of UNDP team and partners aiming for local ownership and community engagement. Women members of these groups have gained confidence in closing business deals out of their local context, improving their skills for business planning. One important achievement is the involvement of young women from Macukull and Gurabardh remote areas in medicinal herbs collection and processing as a way of distracting them from cultivating illegal crops.
  • These interventions increased i) awareness of the areas’ products aiming to expand their trademark through private businesses operating in other parts of the country, ii) income for women, resulting in their economic empowerment, and iii) women’s orientation towards private initiatives for self-employment. Through a participatory process, four business plans were developed and four cooperation agreements between women and local authorities were established. As a result 96 women from the above-mentioned areas are now employed full-time. Families of 96 women are benefiting (in all, 390 people of whom 96 are women and 294 are additional beneficiaries among men) from income generated from selling of products mainly in trade-fairs, youngsters being sent to school and young women expressing interest in participating in professional training to better obtain skills to further advance their business.