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On the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women, the Albanian Network for Rural Development (ANRD), in cooperation with its member organizations, successfully organized the 5th edition “Pro Rural Women” on October 12, 2023 at the premises of the Agricultural University of Tirana. This edition was organized within the third Albanian Rural Parliament, which was held under the theme “Life springs from the village”. The annual meeting of ‘Pro-Rural Women’ aims to promote society-wide solidarity for the empowerment of women and girls in rural areas, as well as to raise public awareness about the sustainable support needed to address the challenges faced by rural women in our country, emphasizing equality and social justice.

The event brought together more 250 participants, mainly groups of women and girls who traveled from rural communities across the country such as Erseka, Elbasan, Puka, Malësia e Madhe, Shkodra, Pogradec, Lushnja, Berat, etc. Together with representatives from the Italian Agency for Development and Cooperation, FAO, UN Women, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, other central government institutions, the Albanian Network for Rural Development, Agricultural University of Tirana, various CSOs, youth, local government representatives and others  discussions centered on the challenges and priorities of women and girls in rural areas and the measures/ actions that should be taken to enhance their well-being, in particular the role of women in value chains in the agri-food sector.

The edition was opened by Ms. Evelina Azizaj, the National Coordinator of ANRDwho among other things said: “Even though there is increasing discussion and noticeable efforts regarding the empowerment of women in rural areas and their involvement in agriculture and there is a growing awareness about the role and contribution of women to rural development, much remains to be done to promote their well-being”.

Ms. Stefania Vizzaccaro, Director of the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development, in her speech thanked the Network and its member organizations “Thanks to them, we find ourselves in an environment that is both empowering and stimulating, a space where we discuss concerns and solutions for empowering women and girls in rural areas. We are guided by the awareness that we must fight for gender equality in the value chain. If we do not, we will worsen social and economic inclusion of women”.

Ms. Lorena Pullumbi, Assistant Representative of FAO in Albania, added in her speech: “Organizations like FAO and UN Women are committed to implementing tools that help women and girls in rural areas have more access and development opportunities in the local community. The process of empowering women and girls in rural communities is not a process imposed by international organizations or the government, but a process that starts from the grassroots, thanks to the contribution of civil society organizations”.

Mr. Deni Guga, Project Manager at UN Women Albania, assessed the event as extremely important, as it gives voice to the problems of rural life in Albania, especially for women and girls, and above all it creates a background to find concrete solutions to some of these issues.

Ms. Irena Mitro, representative of the Directorate of Social Inclusion and Gender Equality Policies at the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, emphasized that development is closely linked to empowering of women in all spheres. According to her, “The Albanian government is paying attention to gender equality through the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2021-2023, which foresees important objectives for empowering women and increasing their representation in society, access to employment, property and capital “.

Ms. Selvije Lufo, a representative of women from the mountainous rural area of Pogradec, Mokra region, from Velçan village, highlighted the challenges and needs as an entrepreneurial woman striving to establish an accommodation business in mountainous area. In her speech, Selvija voiced the concerns of all women in her community: “Women in the mountainous villages of the Mokra area are skilled artisans, they work the land, look after the cattle, and sometimes they even overworking as farmers because they care more for the livestock than for themselves. These women want to continue living here, but financial support does not meet our desires for investments in this area “.

One of the most exciting moments of the event was the launching of “Liljana Isakaj” Rural Women’s Empowerment Award – an initiative dedicated to honoring the exceptional legacy of Mrs Liljana Isakaj who devoted her life to rural development and the economic empowerment of rural women. As an epitome for rural women, Liljana paved the way for progress, leadership, and positive change within rural communities. Participants had the opportunity to learn about Liljana’s work and contribution through a video prepared with memories shared by Liljana’s friends and colleagues. Her legacy is vibrant, rich and inspiring.

ADAD Malore”, in which Liljana has contributed, awarded for outstanding contribution to Ms. Pavlina Sumbulla from Vithkuqi, Korçë. Pavlina is actively engaged in promoting local products of Vithkuq, inspired by Liljana’s experience. With Pavlina and other future winners of this award, we aim to create this valuable legacy that encourages the continuous development and progress of Albanian rural communities.

The event concluded with the “Rural Taste” fair of local products produced by the participating rural women in the fifth edition of ‘Pro-Rural Women’. it served as an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and richness of the Albanian rural areas through local food, products and traditional costumes.

The discussions regarding the challenges faced by women and girls in rural areas and the recommendations for improving their well-being will be further formulated in the Declaration of Rural Women and Girls – the main output of the 2023 edition.

The 5th edition of “Pro Rural Women” was organized within the project “Empowerment of Women in Rural Areas and Tourism” which is being implemented by the Albanian Network for Rural Development, in the role of responsible party, in collaboration with UN Women Albania, funded by the Italian Government and in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.