The formulation of WOMEN took place in the framework of RTM, PfD- Partenrship for Development, the Women’s Center “Light Steps” ongoing projects in target areas: it started in March and ended in July 2015. A joint team (2 experts per partner), carried out the feasibility study and drafted the proposal. A mapping of grass-root women’s organizations based in target areas was done and two rounds of consultations with them organized. Consultations focused on: exploring their needs/constraints; assessing priority areas to be addressed; validating the intervention strategy. Consultations revealed a deep concern over socio-economic conditions of rural women living in remote communities. Other information collected during the study confirmed reasons of concern and pushed RTM, “Light Steps” and PfD to launch a new joint initiative to promote rural women’ socio-economic rights.
Rural women have experienced increased economic problems and huge loss of rights over the last two decades in Albania. The revival of the customary rules with the demise of the State structures and the strengthening of men role as breadwinners weakened women’s social and economic influence in the decision-making processes inside the household and in the community in rural areas. This change had a very negative impact on rural women’s level of education, health access, participation in social life, access to labor and other income generating sources. Gender inequality is visible under multiple spheres: 58% of female labor force is employed in agriculture, but only 6.5% of the farms are managed by women; women are less likely to legally own properties; women are involved in unpaid activities in around 90% of cases The situation of rural women living in remote areas of Northern Albania, where patriarchal traditions are stronger than in other parts of the country, is even more critical: traditions shape gender identities and roles, contributing to the social, economical and political impoverishment of communities. Municipalities of Vau i Dejës, Pukë and Fushë Arrëz (Shkoder Region) are among the less favored areas of the country: a decrease of over 50% of the population was recorded in the decade 2001-2011; around ¼ of the population benefits from public subventions.
WOMEN addresses three main and interrelated problems that rural women face in target remote areas:
- Deep isolation. They are left alone by institutions and communities with no option than the one of experiencing multiple forms/levels of violence, poverty and violations: they have no other social relations than ones with family members (social level); they also lack understanding/information on women rights and gender equality policies (cultural level); service providers focus on urban areas (physical level).
- Weak business capacities. Women’s productivity in rural economy is very low: they have no access to information and advisory services; their technical skills and off-farm business incentives are limited by their lack of education/professional training in an accessible distance/suitable time; their level of lobbying and advocacy is inadequate; cooperation is insignificant as result of patriarchal rules and burden of family chores.
- Economic dependence. They generally live in the husband’s family-house with no access to property rights and outside work opportunities. Despite their huge contribution in rural economic activities, patriarchal rules and the level of education allow men to exert a complete control over family incomes.
The formulation of WOMEN was devised as a participatory process. This approach will be maintained also in the implementation phase. For this purpose, three main participatory measures are envisaged:
- Establishment of a WOMEN Fund Management Committe composed also by representatives of target Municipalities and grass-root women’s organizations. This body will be in charge of the general management of the WOMEN Fund and of selecting initiatives to be supported under this funding scheme.
- Organization of in-community and multi-stakeholder public events, namely three launch events (Year 1) and three final conferences (Year 3), stimulating community-based dialogue among target local actors.
- WOMEN Desks will be antennas and binders of target women’s needs, constraints and wishes. Community agents will play a key role in collecting feedbacks and recommendations through their field work.