Elvira Daberdaku:

Albanian woman in Europe, her problems and challenges

First of all I would like to express my deepest pleasure and emotions being here, in front of such an honored audience. I had the courage to assume myself and to comment upon one of the most sensible social issue, that of the woman's position in the period of democracy, in a time when my country is still fragile, considering the aspect of democracy.

The topic that I will deal with is related to the historic point of view of the transformations that the Albanian woman has passed in years as well as her own hopes to be integrated in the European society.
In order to have a clear idea of this transformation, first of all, let me introduce to a brief historic preview of my own country.

Albania, the country that is surrounded and watered by Adriatic and Jon sea, part of ilirian grounds that along with the jewish people, small Azia, Greece and Macedonia, where the first countries where the Good News was initially spread.

Found amongst the winds of the western and eastern civilization, a crossway of cultures, the country that kept its own language and national identity as a sacred one for more than 5 centuries, despite the fact that it was under the Ottoman invasion.

Historically going back to the establishment of the first Albanian state in 1912 the Albanian woman and the society in general, was totally subdued by the common law rules. (Canun rules). Her position was strictly stipulated and codified in a certain way by several customs and habits that sanctioned her position in the society.

The common law period of time (Canun time), was that time in which the social right were extremely infringed in society. Even in the outmost specific cases in the People's Assembly, she was given the permission only to participate, which meant listening, but nor talking. But no one was permitted to offend or threaten her, except her husband, otherwise he would not be considered as a real man.

Despite her lower potential position she managed to face and let the others be aware of her potentiality by means of different female representatives, that could really show their own potentiality. The veracity of the above statement can be proved by the female names given to the two Albanian most famous castles, one in the north and the other in the south, which shows that no matter how patriarchal is our society, Albanian female is always honored and estimated.

As a result of the ongoing resistance towards the enemies she had to be very careful in centuries and that is the reason that she, very often, took responsibilities upon herself such running the house or providing a living, or fighting in war with men, things that generally speaking are not accomplished by the women. A well-known writer jotted down: "The good nation is grown up in the lap of the mothers", which, once more stresses out the importance of being a mother.

The first successful and meaningful step for the Albanian woman might be considered the law on the veils or purdahs that was ratified by the King himself in 1937, so that women could get rid of the purdahs and veils. This law was strictly implemented and it was a significant step that had a considerable impact in the position of the Muslim and Catholic Albanian woman, by providing, or trying to obtain an western position.

Generally the girls attended the girls' schools, whereas the ones with better financial possibilities were educated in several colleges around Europe, despite the fact that their percentage compared to the general number was very limited. From the Catholic Community we have so many educated women that have really contributed in teaching and in a cultural aspect of life. In 1920 we have the establishment of the first female organization. One of the most well-known writers, a representative of the Albanian Renaissance, S. Frasheri would write: "The happiness of one's nation totally depends on the education of its woman"

The young girls that had the opportunity to study abroad did not have the possibilities to organize themselves in feminine organizations, as a result of the second world war, so that the cases of "woman" phenomena were only sporadic cases, known only in intellectual close/intimate circles/relationships, whereas in other countries such as Rumania, U.S.A. etc they had given a precious contribution.

The period of the communist regime

15 years ago people did not know where Albania was situated. This self-isolated island, suffered an extreme and real terror by one of the most severe communist dictatorship. To those limited number of foreign visitors that came to visit Albania, was shown only the façade. It was exactly that part that the regime or the state wanted for the others to know about Albania, to know exactly only that decorated part of Albania. Within this controversial state or fact of being at the same time within and outside Europe was a very perplexed and complicated social situation. It looked like the xenophobia phenomena was present everywhere.

In the communist regime we have a totally different position of the woman. It would be enough to mention the woman's logo of that period, a woman with muscles.

So, the dictatorship period transformed the woman in a military employee of the regime, heavily threatening her femininity. This really changed her position, from a scary and inferior position in the Albanian society that she used to have, now, she passes to a totally different and extreme position, being completely involved in the social, economic and political life of that period.

The teaching school system was radically based in the soviet system. The female education was widespread and many efforts for a free institutionalization became possible.

This false position that aimed at gender equality has subdued the whole propaganda of that time, including culture and arts.

The woman could not follow the fashion and try to be fashionable in her clothes and in her appearance as well, as this inclination was considered out of the communist regime propaganda. Most of the times she was transformed in an obedient soldier of the dictatorship and none of the female organizations that were established during that period of time could protect her own rights, but the only thing they (the organizations) could do was only to transmit the ideological line of the political party of that time.

In this period of time , so around 1967-1990, all the religious cults were closed and practicing the religion was forbidden by law. The omnipotent God was substituted by the Party!!!

The dictatorship period of time proclaimed explicitly the anti-western program/platform and as a result it was an anti-political one. The resistance shown by the catholic community against the communist ideology, was utilized by the state to accomplish against it (the people) the most severe violence. The archbishop of Shkodra city, (that is the center of the Albanian Catholicism and, only in the literature field gave 25% of the total number of all the Albanian writers) asked the Dictator: "Just give us as much religious freedom as the Turkish invaders gave us." You might find strange as well, even the words that Stalin wrote himself to Enver,that were exactly, not to close the churches!

As a compensation for the secular efforts of the catholic community and its priesthood and above all because of their ideal of creating the common state, they were massively persecuted. It would be enough to mention the fact that the imprisoned catholic priests that have attended more than 450 years of school in the western universities, altogether suffered 881 years of political prison. This communist state, starting from 1944 until 1967 has given the death punishment or tortured in the political prisons, about 71 catholic priests.

As it comes out from the published data, after the '90s, in Shkodra city, in which the catholic community was more than 50% of the whole population of that city, the persecution level was 13 times higher than the rest of the population even in the other cities.

A very negative example of the persecution case was the story of the Cardinal Mikel Koliqi that survived for 40 years in the communist prisions and later on it was himself, the Holiness/Worship the Pope, John Paul the 2nd, that honored Mikel Koliqi a real Cardinal.

But we have to stress out that the houses of the religious people were transformed in religious cults, where people used to pray.

For this period of time that I am talking about, it is not strange at all to see the women in the morning, worn in uniforms, running to work, but really they ran toward a system without a future.

This was more or less the situation in which was found Albanian woman at the beginning of the democracy.

When the political regime changed, not only in Albania, but in the eastern parts mostly, this woman, just like the other women in eastern countries, found herself shocked and not prepared for the society. All the previous schemes fell down and what is more important are the so-called values were not sure either to be considered values or anti-values, as these last ones were nowadays considered real values.

What should be stressed out is that this post-dictatorial society had so many dictatorial elements in itself, and what is more important these elements were not included only in the structures of the state, but also in the mentality, in the opinions, customs, traditions, relationship among people, beliefs etc, that due to the long time of the previous regime it is quite difficult for them to be adopted in nowadays society, in nowadays institutions or in the legal framework of these institutions.

The post-dictatorial societies have a very fragile balance that could really be shaken in that part that the mediocrity was and still is inclined more.

When the Holiness, Pope John Paul the 2nd delivered the message that democracy of one country is not established by materialistic values, but by spiritual values.

Nowadays the Albanian woman is found in a cross-level, facing the dilemma and the challenge if she will ever be part of the modern European civilization, and this is all as a result of the above mentioned circumstances that did never let her have her own personality.

In order to answer such a question, we should take into consideration some features:

1. Albania is a country where most of the population lives in the rural areas, something that is in its disadvantage.

2. The Albanian woman is part of a traditional, patriarchial society that most of the time is inclined to avoid her from the decision taking processes.

3. Nowadays, her status is very contraversial. Most of them do not have their own "voice" and they are still managed by the men and sometimes even not capable to express themselves.

The other part is committed to intellectual activities, so their position is much more in favor, and, for sure, it gives to you the impression that the Albanian female is a western female, civilized and generally, totally committed in the social civilization.

Just like in other countries the Albanian woman is divided into four categories:

1. The Albanian woman living in the villages is about 60% and according to INSTAT has a minimal living payment of 60 EUR
2. The working Albanian woman having a payment of less than 150 EUR
3. The intellectual and educated woman whose payment is between 150 - 300 EUR
4. The woman in pension with an average payment of 65 EUR in a month
5. The woman living on dole (this payment is ridiculous) of 20 EUR in a month.

In the first category the difficulties that the women have to face are enormous as they have to deal directly with the agricultural work as their husbands chose the immigration to make a living for their families.

I have to stress out that he economic situation is much more difficult and hard in the north of Albania, where Catholicism is much more widespread. The limited access on information and the rights about the legislation, the low level of culture, the complexities of inferiority and superiority that the men have, makes it difficult and threatens more the position of the woman in society. From the results of a survey, it comes out that 65% of the women living in rural areas have limited knowledge on the legislation and on their rights as well, whereas about 20% does not know anything on such things.

The comparative studies held on problematic countries or countries in transition have that tendency of the femininity poverty, which has direct impact on the overall poverty of the country and society.

Another important problem that should be taken into consideration in the health problem, fertility and violence in family. From the statistical data of the women being asked it comes out that 32% of the women are maltreated by their husbands. Taking into consideration the poverty indicators according to the regions we have a close relationship between family and violence in family.

At the beginning of the democracy we faced the establishment of different NGO-s, giving a start to the feminist movement in this way. This kind of movement started as a real disagreement with the reality of the time. This movement, at the same time gave hopes even to the dream that something could change, either for the women themselves, for their families or for their children.

At the very beginning this movement was full of hopes and dreams and it was thought that problems might be solved immediately. Its mission was to intervene in the structures where the country could not intervene and taking advantage of the international help, it would create models that could be totally implemented.

Generally they operated in big cities, mainly in Tirana.

In the second phase 1997-2000 this movement is faced with many unscrupulous scenarios of an unfair cut-throat competition and as a result, as well, of the political changes that took place.

As a result of the drastic social changes that took place, the society transmitted endless conflict that resulted in the phenomena of self-judicial, that appeared even as a result of rule of law absence. Here we have a tragic moment where many Albanian families of north were isolated, which had a result the avoidance of the men and young boys from the society. Women, were the one that accomplished every housework and other works out of the house, being in this way a communicative factor and facing at the same time all these difficulties that, for sure, has phycological consequences.

The iniciative of the women and of the children under the guide of the church to collect the bullets, melt them and have a bell, was very significant.

In the third phase, in which she is actually, we face the question: How is this movement going to face the problems of this period of time?

It is obvious and it is a fact as well that the institutional bodies have began to implement the common strategies of the NGO-s, that have to do with the prostitution, violence or abuse of the women in society.

Despite the fact that this society was more inclined towards the masculinazation the society, it is a historical fact, that for the first time in the Albanian history the chairman of the Parliament is a chairwoman and for what is more important She is of a catholic background.

This is a good signal that the Albania society is more open towards the women and the fact that they should be more involved in the decision taking processes of this community (having to face the denied values of the women in years)

If we refer to the statistics taken by different organizations, national or international it comes out that:



Employed females



Year 2004
Lawmakers, high rank officials and leadership positions
Technicians and assisstants



Monthly average payment
Lawmakers, high rank officials and leadership positions
24.6% females employees
52% females employees
Technicians and assisstants
45.1 females employees
57.1% females employees
34.3 females employees



Year 2004








So as it can be clearly seen, we have quite an equal ratio between the males and females and this phenomena has the roots in the following factors:

1- in the unequal ration between the rural and the urban society.

2- of a scary and problematic unemployment in the females

3- In the fact of not respecting the gender ration in the decision taking process and in the involvement in the other structures. (Albania is the country having 51% females)

In this kind of summary it might be clear enough to you how important and necessary are the concrete measures taken towards the integration of Albanian woman is society and especially in the European society and this involves;

1-gender equality

2- education of the females in and outside Albania and offering opportunities to her for better education

3- increasing the employment

4- attending policies that support the people in need

5- exchanging cultural and sports activities

6- the establishment of as many as possible of the cultural centers
the establishment of a Catholic University in Shkodra that has always been the focus of Catholicism and of persecution at the same time for the simple fact of being catholic.

7-Setting contact points with the people of art, sociology and different walks of life.

8-Organizing trips, so that women can provide that little satisfaction that life avoided them from every aspect

Everything that I dealt with you today, makes very clear the position of the woman and the fact that she is an integral part of a very complicated and problematic system and that this position can not be judged and it can not be given a solution out of this system, but it quite evident the fact that investment of the human resources and the implementation of the policies in favor of the Albanian women is the proper and the necessary key that can reform the whole system.



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