The question is not “why women” but “why not women”: Albania and gender equality

by Albanita_Cokaj on December 28, 2014 - 11:24am

“A true democracy can not and should not exclude women.

So, the question is not “why women” but “why not women.”


(Mary Teigen, 2000)


Albania was a socialist country, that experienced the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, from 1946 until 1990. During this period, especially between 1970 and 1980 the country was politically and economically isolated. In 1991 a multi-party elections were held for the first time . In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when many people from Kosovo found refuge in Albania.                                                                                       Albania remains still one of the poorest countries in Europe,  despite the transition to a market economy, the majority of the population is poor . In 2009, Albania became a full member of NATO and applied to join the European Union.                                                                                                            The Islam is the majority religion, followed by 70% of the population, although 20% of Albanians are Orthodox and 10 % are Catholic. In the country are mostly celebrated the Islamic festivity and , and even if the Catholic religion is recognized , the Catholic festivity are totally ignored. About gender equality, article 18 of the Albanian Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Albania ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1994, and the Optional Protocol on violence against women in 2004.

Although Albanian society remains extremely conservative and patriarchal, particularly in rural areas. Women are expected to obey their husbands and male relatives, and to take care of the house and children, and this places many restrictions on their rights to participate in public life. Women especially in the few last years are trying to fight against these silly stereotypes and to gain their independence in private and public life.  The way to reach fully these purposes is still long and full of obstacles that society create and that now it has to eliminate, since laws have ratified gender equality between women and men. The analysis of the laws and on the other side how actually the society behaves, it allows to understand why gender inequality persists. First of all we face a discriminatory family code. The legal age of marriage is 18 years for women and men. Early marriage is not widespread in Albania, but does occur. Data from the 2008-2009 of the Demographic and Household Survey indicates that 9.4% of women aged 20-49 were married before the aged of 18. Of these, 22.2% had no or basic primary education. Based on laws Albanian parents share equal parental authority. According to the 2010 CEDAW report, women are more likely to be granted custody of children in the event of divorce. Although  divorce carries a high level of social stigma for women, and is very uncommon in Albania. Many women that are subjected to domestic violence or that simply they don’t want to share anymore their life with their husband, sometimes they decided to not divorce because the family push them to not do it. In addition, sadly a large minority of women appear to accept domestic violence as part of marriage. The opinion of the entire society, in case women decide to divorce, is totally negative and those women will be always seen as bad ones and not able to have a husband and take care of a family.                                                                                                                                                               

The Civil Code gives men and women equal rights to inheritance of property and recognizes two types of inheritance, legal and testamentary. Although, in most cases, inheritance follows the male line, mainly because women move to the husband’s family home after marriage. If a single woman has inherited property from her father, this passes to her husband’s family, even if there no any kind of law that says that.                                 Women have more limited access than men to assets that could help them earn a living, adding to their vulnerability. For example, women face discrimination in owning property and in starting a business. Even gaining access to credit can be difficult for women, not for legal reasons but because banks prefer lending to men. Everything is mostly based on the society’s attitude and traditions.                                                                             In Albania, politics is an area where deep gender differences exist and persist.  The general elections of June 2009 produced figures far below the target, with 23 women parliamentarians out of 140. It seems that there exists a different, more skeptical attitude by politicians toward “quota women”, sometimes also by women themselves. Several factors have contributed to the decline of women in politics , such as the aggressive nature of politics which puts many women off engaging in politics, the masculine culture of society, and low self-esteem among women. As we said, Albania has signed most of the international documents which guarantee gender equality, but still the gender gap persists  in education, employment, decision-making processes, politics, and media. Probably the main problem to face and to solve is the attitude of society, somehow still yet not “grow up” and linked with old traditions due to a long period of isolation from the world. This has clearly created gender inequality. Nowadays the scenario in Albania, even if in a slow way, is trying to change, especially in the capital city Tirana, where women are more empowered and they try to be engaged in public life. The case of Albania is an interesting one, since this country after the dictatorship was really in bad conditions and it is still one of the poorest country in Europe. So one the best solution would be the empowerment of women also in the rural areas, which will give an economic and political growth to the country.






Every time I read some similar article about a very traditional, patriarchal, often also poorer and less-educated country full of gender stereotypes and inequality as well as domestic violence, at first, I cogitate how it is possible. However, few seconds later I have to think about how it is possible in a richer regions, too, moreover, if there is full of some equally laws. The pieces of that problem are a little bit different, but the root is similar everywhere on the Earth, unhappily.
The better and accessible education for everyone is a solution to many stereotype issues as well as a society-wide debate. I also support the idea that every little person can change the world around herself/himself. It could be as a domino-effect; if individuals know about the stereotypes, then they say it to their friends etc. It needs just patience in consideration of such a long period of total inequality. However, I hope the equality is knocking on the door.