An opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable role and contribution of women in agriculture and rural development as well as to renew our collective commitment to improving their well-being.
On the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women, on October 15, 2021, the Albanian Network for Rural Development (ANRD) organized the Third Edition of the event ‘Pro-Rural Women’, in the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. This year’s edition was organized under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ms. Frida Krifca, in close cooperation with ANRD member organizations as well as with the participation of producing women’s groups from different rural areas of the country. Nearly 75 participants, of whom 55 were women and girls who travelled from different rural communities of the country, gathered to discuss their needs, challenges and aspirations, to share inspiring models in their socio-economic empowerment as well as to jointly identify practical solutions to key challenges. The third edition of Pro Rural Women was supported by We Effect and the Balkan Rural Development Network.
Four local producing groups of women and girls from different rural communities travelled to attend this event. The establishment of these local groups of rural women and girls is supported by ANRD member organizations such as: Agro Puka active in the area of Puka and Fushë-Arrëz, Agrinet in the area of Korça and Elbasan, ADAD Malore in Korça, CoSPE and Women Center ‘Hapa të Lehtë’ in Shkoder and Lezha. Representatives of international and civil society organizations that are active and promote gender equality and social and economic empowerment of women and girls such as: UN Women, Women in Sustainable Agriculture, RTM, etc., were present at the event.
The edition was opened by a short meeting of the Minister Ms. Krifca with a representative group of women and girls from rural areas in her office to talk closely about the needs, interests and priorities of women. The meeting took place in a warm atmosphere enabling the exchange of opinions and specific requests for support.
The Secretary General of ANRD, Ms. Tatjana Dishnica welcomed the participants and highlighted this year’s theme of the International Day of Rural Women. ‘Rural Women who cultivate healthy food for all’ – a theme that highlights the essential role that rural women and girls play in the food systems.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ms. Frida Krifca reinforced the commitment to preserving and promoting local products that have been inherited over the years from generation to generation. She also stressed that rural women and girls deserve a dignified life for their important contribution and invaluable role in food security and sustainability of family and community life. Ms. Krifca guaranteed the support of the Ministry to make up for lost time in relation to sectoral reforms and particularly in the empowerment of women in agriculture and rural development.
Present at the event, Mr. Michele Ribotta, representative of UN Women Albania, enriched the context of this event with facts and evidence on the role of girls and women in rural communities. “Rural women represent ¼ of the Albanian population and have a very important role in the development of the agricultural and rural sector. Although they are deprived of their contribution, they have a lot of potential to be transformed into success stories. 50% of rural women work the land but are not landowners. Rural women have multifunctional roles in the family, in the community and beyond, and the lack of time makes it more difficult for their empowerment.”
The priorities, interests and aspirations of rural women and girls in agriculture and rural development are at the heart of ‘Pro Rural Women’. They play an important role and contribution to food security, reducing rural poverty and the sustainability of rural life. In an interactive session the participating women and girls from different parts of the country introduced themselves, their group and community, local products, challenges and dreams. The names of Elona Bejo, Ejona Zaimaj, Sentiliana Marku and many other women and their entrepreneurial economic activitis are well-kown by Albanians and beyond in the region and why not in Europe. This is plausible if we mention the names of the enterprises they run such as Grand Albanik Farm, Amalthia Farm, Devin Agrotourism Farm etc., which represent success stories run by women managers. Their experiences reinforce the belief that women and girls can be just as productive and entrepreneurial as men if they have proper access to land, credit, inputs, markets and food chains.
Other voices of participating women and girls brought different local stories and realities from Munella, Vithkuqi, Shirgjan, Zadrima etc. Flora, Pavlina, Ledina and Ana who stood behind the beautifully arranged exposure tables of their products that local women’s groups produce skillfully, took the floor and expressed their main concerns. Some of their voiced out needs are as follows:
- Women smallholder farmers in remote mountainous areas need agricultural information and advice;
- Local women’s groups need small-scale processing tools, wich enable them to engage in high value food chains (such as the case of berries in the area of Puka, Fushë Arrëz, etc.)
- Difficult access to markets for local agricultural products. There is a need for digital knowledge and technology for women and girls to improve local products’ marketing and sales;
- There is a need for collection, storage and processing facilities in each Administrative Unit. These facilities are important for rural women to ensure their products’ quality as a way to increase their incomes. The lack of such facilities prevents women from coming up with unified products. Working separately in their own homes, rural women find it hard to maintain the quality of products, the right ratio of the amount of by-products (sugar, water, fruits), their color and packaging, etc. All of these problems undermine the assurance that producing women groups can provide to the buyers.
- There is a need for easy procedures regarding public agricultural land vacant for rent;
- The problems of women and girls in rural areas exacerbatedduring the pandemic, mentioning the main ones: gender-based domestic violence escalated, women were less informed about the opportunities and assistance offered in these situations; loss of livelihoods, as many rural women are street vendors at their house door or on the main roads, increasing the burden of household chores while also bearing the burden of agricultural work; Health and nutrition of children remain the exclusive responsibilities of women, during the quarantine period access to health carë and provision of a well-balanced diet both for themselves and for children and family was difficult. These problems and others were more evident in women who are heads of households;
Following the speeches of the participating girls and women, the National Coordinator of ANRD, Evelina Azizaj presented the platform of priorities toward full activation of the creative and productive potential of rural women and girls. This platform represents an important focus area of ANRD and its member organizations for the social and economic empowerment of women and girls in rural areas. Specifically, this thematic area is part of ANRD’s medium-term Strategy concerning the undertaking of initiatives to bring about concrete changes. All this to promote social solidarity and to fight for human dignity for equality and justice for women and girls.
Following the presentation of the platform and concluding this edition, Lorena Totoni, Project Manager at ANRD presented the latest initiative that ANRD is undertaking toward support provision to women and girls living in the rural communities of Albania and belonging to the most vulnerable groups of society. Fundraising Campaign “You Are Not Alone! Support today livelihoods for the women living in the rural communities and they will provide for themselves, their family and community for the enter life.”- presented at this event aims to take a concrete step to support the most vulnerable part of rural women: ladies, mothers, women and girls who are off the radar of access to public support, donors and other institutions due to family status, lack of property, limited credit opportunities, scarce information and insufficient contacts.