Albanian society has long been marked by unequal gender relations in several different spheres. Nevertheless, with its ongoing path towards EU integration, new aspirations and opportunities are seen for the strengthening of women’s rights in the country. 

Having started its democratic transition in 1991, Albania is still a young democracy working towards the improvement of its democratic institutions and engagement of civil society organisations in the political sphere. According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report developed by the World Economic Forum, the country has consistently improved in its efforts towards gender parity in recent years. The Global Gender Gap Index measures the level of gender inequality globally, on a scale from 0-100, where zero indicates perfect equality and 100 perfect inequality. While in 2006 Albania scored 61 on the Index, in 2020 it scored 20, which represents a significant improvement within the last decade.

Although these improvements are evidently seen in  access to healthcare and education, the political empowerment of women in the country still marks considerably low compared to the other indicators in the report. For instance, while women have had very high levels of opportunity to education in relation to men, their distance to parity is still significantly high when it comes to becoming representatives of the government and taking other positions in office. 

Moreover, in 2008 the country successfully implemented a gender parity parliamentary quota, in which at least 30% of the seats in parliament should be occupied by women. The quota has shown to be effective in including a higher number of females in the Albanian Parliament. Compared to the results of the 2017 to 2021 Parliamentary Elections, the percentage of female MPs has increased from 28 to 32 percent. But the strengthening of women’s position in Albanian politics and society is far from being sufficient. 

Despite the efforts to improve women’s position in Albanian society, it has been reported by the UNDP that around 50% of Albanian women have suffered from either physical or psychological violence. The situation has become worse over the past year during the pandemic, in which cases of domestic violence have risen in the country.

What to expect from the EU integration process?

As the negotiations and structural changes on governmental bodies and institutions occur in order to bring Albania closer to the European Union (EU) standards, the opportunity to further improve women’s rights in the country is also widened. That is because the standards and demands established by the EU, especially in terms of gender parity and gender sensitivity policies must be met for the process to continue. 

Thus, with the implementation of the 2008 quota and the recent improvements on the data collected in Albania, it is seen that indeed, the country has come a long way in improving women’s participation and inclusivity in society. Yet, the substantial levels of domestic violence towards women and lower levels of political engagement are still to be overcome in the country. The efforts by civil society organisations and governmental bodies to tackle this issue shall continue to protect and strengthen women’s rights in Albania. 

Image from UN Women via Flickr