The United for Child Care and Protection Coalition partnered with the United Nations in Albania to consult with the public on the post 2015 development agenda (find out more about the public consultations). We looked specifically at inequality in the following areas:
- Women’s empowerment
- Domestic violence
- Access to social and health services
- Quality education
Consultations took place in fourteen regions of Albania: Berat, Kuçovë, Kukes, Durres, Shkoder, Vlore, Elbasan, Cerrik, Tirane, Korce, Pojan, Librazhd, Lezhe and Diber. (See: A small town with big dreams)
Around 700 people were consulted and their voices will be featured in the report from Albania that we will share with the United Nations Secretary-General’s high level panel on post-2015 development planning.
The groups we talked with were diverse, and discussions dynamic. We talked to Roma and Egyptian communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups (LGBT), pensioners, young people, employed and unemployed, people working in the education, health, business, law, and journalism.
Discussions varied from town to town, showing the variety of problems existing in different areas of the country.
One thing I noticed is that people had high expectations. People from vulnerable communities hoped the consultations would provide them with the opportunity of solving their problems.
It was sad to hear about people’s hardships, and all the different problems they’re facing. If we want to help them, we have to do more than just listen and collect their stories.
But people did want to talk, and they want to be heard. The issues that arose varied from town to town and region to region. Some of the opinions that came out of the discussions we had:
- The need for more quality education for women, as a way to economic empowerment and strengthening their role in the family.
- Domestic violence came up as an issue not only among husbands and wives but parents and children too. Most people considered poverty as the crucial factor which put people in vulnerable situations with no way out.
- Discrimination and stigma, especially towards Roma communities. This was perceived as coming from prejudice against Roma, and also the lack of opportunities for Roma.
- Children brought up the issue of housing or living in tents and shacks as an issue of inequality. They also identified discrimination against women and girls. Girls from the northern part of Albania raised the issue of selective abortion based on the sex of the child, pointing out that discrimination in Albania starts in utero.
- People focused mainly on the lack of access to health and social services. They suggested that better services should be made available to vulnerable communities, especially improved infrastructure. Citizens spoke out about the lack of information on health services especially regarding family planning and reproductive health.
- Some citizens pointed out unequal access to services for people living in rural or urban areas, for Roma or non Roma and for rich or poor people.
- Education was a key issue in many discussions. People want a higher quality education than is currently available. Many teachers pressured students to attend private courses in order to get better results. Schools lacked the right infrastructure and sometimes were not considered a safe environment due to the use of drugs. (See:
- People want children with different abilities to be better included in schools.
- Children from Roma and Egyptian communities should be a priority for many schools in order to reduce school dropout and provide more opportunities for their future.
- Citizens suggested that local institutions should do more monitoring to see how services are provided for children and vulnerable communities in order to reduce discrimination and increase access to services.
What I observed during the consultations was that most of the citizens had lost trust in institutions and many had found ways to collaborate with non governmental agencies where they seem to find solutions to their problems.
They therefore suggested stronger collaboration between civil society organizations and state institutions to improve the state of many vulnerable communities in Albania.
For me this has been a very rewarding initiative. I got to talk with many different people from all walks of life and discuss the burning issues that affect their daily lives, their families, and their communities.
Citizens spoke out loudly and clearly thinking that their voices will be heard. I also thought, people do trust the United Nations. They feel it is their organization.
* United for Child Care and Protection Coalition (BKTF) is a national coalition of 28 organizations which lobby and advocate for the improvement of the child protection system in Albania.