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Double-discrimination’ leaves Albania’s minority women vulnerable

6 February 2004

Minority women in Albania and across much of South-East Europe are in a precarious and vulnerable position due to exclusion, poverty and ‘double-discrimination’ against them as both minorities and as women. These are the findings of an innovative seminar held in Tirana, Albania, which brought together both minority-focused, and gender-focused groups, rights and gender experts and international organizations, to share experiences and to develop strategies to address a wide range of practical problems facing minorities and minority women. Amongst the major issues raised were the often extreme poverty facing minorities, trafficking and prostitution, unemployment, domestic violence and political exclusion.

Minorities in South-East Europe often face multiple discrimination on the basis of their ethnic, religious or linguistic difference, which contributes to exclusion and persistent poverty. The Roma, for example, face most extreme systematic discrimination and exclusion in a number of states. Lack of access to education in minority languages is one of many factors which contribute to low school attendance levels amongst minority children and consequent high levels of unemployment. Within some communities, expectations of early marriage, child bearing and gender defined domestic roles, also result in a low priority being given to the education of girls. Endemic poverty, coupled with lack of education and high levels of domestic violence, causing women to flee the home, create an environment in which women from both minority and majority communities are particularly at risk from traffickers, or resort to prostitution as a means of income.

Trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation has become a major issue in Albania, and in other states of South-East Europe, with many of the victims coming from minority communities. Albania is one of the main countries of origin and of transit for trafficking and traffickers themselves may come from minority or majority communities. According to a Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report, published today, on the Tirana seminar, minority participants and other experts alike, recognize the difficulty in combating problems such as trafficking, the causes of which lie in the reality of poverty, social and economic exclusion and lack of political participation facing minority communities.

Some progress has been achieved in the region through both the projects of organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and through community initiatives and the work of women’s groups to support and protect minority women. OSCE projects to promote gender equality in Serbia and Montenegro, and to encourage women’s political participation in Bosnia and Herzegovina have seen some success and could benefit minorities in states such as Albania, if implemented with sufficient consideration to the need for community participation and consultation. Equally, community led projects to support women in small businesses have worked to provide employment for women or to support those who have been the victims of trafficking or prostitution. More initiatives of this kind are urgently required stated participants who stressed the need for economic and political empowerment of minority women.

Minority Rights Group International points out that much remains to be done to promote gender equality within South-East Europe, and to advance the rights of minorities within broader society. MRG has presented a number of recommendations based on the experiences highlighted by participants at this seminar. Important amongst these are a full assessment of both community and gender based needs with full involvement of communities concerned in the design, implementation and evaluation of projects to tackle both the causes and effects of discrimination and ‘double-discrimination’ against women.

Notes for editors

Download ‘Gender and Minority Issues in Albania‘.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].