Vatra is a partner organisation to the Embassy of Sweden in Tirana and provides support to women who are victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Vatra is now working to strengthen legislation to combat trafficking in human beings. Photo: Eriona Cami
Equality between women and men is a fundamental aim of Swedish foreign policy. In Albania, Sweden is an active advocate of gender equality, and the largest bilateral donor in the area. The Swedish Embassy is frequently invited to attend consultations and seminars – not only because Sweden provides funding but also because Swedish knowledge and experience is in demand and the feminist foreign policy is of interest.
“The respect that Sweden enjoys in this area is based on many years of long-term work. Not least the longstanding work in the region by the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation has given us a good reputation,” says Birgitta Jansson, Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy in Tirana.
The feminist foreign policy has given greater prominence to the Swedish profile on gender equality in many different policy areas and circumstances. This is reflected in the Embassy’s continuous dialogue with different stakeholders.
“Sweden regularly raises gender equality issues at meetings with politicians and other decision-makers in Albania, and many of them also bring up these issues themselves during meetings with us,” says Ms Jansson.
Gender equality in Albania is gradually improving. The country now has a gender-equal government (half the ministers are women) and more women in parliament (28 per cent), as well as a greater number of women mayors and municipal commissioners. Sweden has highlighted the message of women’s political participation on numerous occasions. One example was during Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström’s visit in May 2017, when women politicians were invited to a dinner discussion that focused on gender equality in politics.
Several of the partners that Sweden supports through development cooperation – such as the UN and a number of civil society organisations – also promote gender equality issues in Albania. One of these issues is getting more women into decision-making assemblies. In this regard, Swedish partner organisations helped bring about the adoption in 2015 of gender quotas of candidate lists for local elections (50 per cent women). They also contributed to the establishment of an alliance for women parliamentarians as well as alliances for women municipal politicians.
Another result of the work of Swedish partner organisations has been a stronger legal framework concerning the right of inheritance for women and for combating gender-based violence. One partner organisation is currently working to strengthen legislation against human trafficking. Sweden’s support to women’s economic empowerment has contributed to women’s groups, that produce nuts, fruit, etc., being able to increase the revenues from product sales.
“At the same time, there are still a number of challenges facing gender equality in Albania, and to ensuring that legislation and action plans are put into practice,” says Ms Jansson.
“This includes combating gender-based violence, guaranteeing that victims receive sufficient support and ensuring participation by women at all levels. Sweden will continue to be a partner to Albania in this work, including through the exchange of experience on how we counter challenges in the same kind of areas.”