Since 2011, the Decentralization and Local Development Programme (dldp) has supported the Network “Women in Politics” (WiPN). The Network was established with the initiative of the women local councilors of the Regions of Shkodra and Lezha and since 2015, has been expanded to the regions of Durres, Kukes and Diber comprising from 400 in 2015 to 468 members today.
The WiP is an informal network of women whom are part of political party’s structures and represent them in decision making bodies such as Local Councils. Meanwhile, some of the members have been elected even on the national Parliament serving as drivers of change countrywide.
The WiPN was born in a difficult context, taking into consideration the fierce conflict between political parties in Albania. Furthermore, the mentality regarding gender roles in society, kept women away from politics. Few women were elected in governance bodies such as municipal councils.With the introduction of 50% quotas for women in the Electoral Code in 2015, this number increased from 12% to 35%, in national level. Meanwhile other challenges appeared: the Territorial Administrative Reform and a new legislative framework for local governance.
What makes the WiP notable in the series of movements to increase women’s participation in politics is dldp’s innovative approach with the aim to build a model, which is self-sustainable and easily replicated. Dldp chose on purpose to establish a Network in order to mainstream gender not through projects, but through actors in the system.
Nowadays, The WiP is one network but with multiple effects: at the personal, local and national level. Above all, it produced a model that now can walk alone and be a factor in the reform’s process.
TRAININGS AND COACHING
During the first phase of the programme, 2011-2013, the support to the WiP Network has been focused to the strengthening of the capacities of 54 local councillors in areas such as local governance functioning, budgeting, social inclusion, etc. After the Territorial Reform in 2015, trainings- from whom benefitted 87 persons, were focused on the new legislation along with mainstreaming gender perspective in desicionmaking.
ACADEMY OF POLITICAL STUDIES
Dldp has supported 18 members of the WiP so far to follow the studies at the Academy of
Political Studies. The Academy is an educational program established in 2007 in the framework of the Network of the Schools of Political Studies by the Council of Europe.
The second phase of the WiP Network 2013-2015 has started with the efforts to draft a common platform for women in the general elections of 2013. About 300 women and men attended 5 regional forums held in Shkoder, Lezhe, Rubik, Malesi e Madhe and Puka with the main aim to increase the representation of women in the regions of Lezha and Shkodra as candidates and voters in the general elections of that year. Right after the amendments to the Electoral Code in 2015, 8 other local forums were held with a total number of 261 participants, women and men.
VISIBILITY & NETWORKING
Two catalogues of women candidates for local elections and NGO’s active on gender issues were published and disseminated. In the eve of the local elections 2015, dldp facilitated TV debates at the biggest national channels, promoting women candidates as well as unique cases: Two women competed to lead Shkodra municipality, while giving others space in TV programs about their experience and objectives.
At the beginning, dldp supported WiP Network with small grants for initiatives taken from women councilors. In this context, an awareness campaign for the screening of the breast cancer and cervical cancer was held in October 2013 with the initiative of the women councilors of Lezha and Rubik municipalities. Also in Shkodra, the group of women councilors in the Commission of Education proposed enriching the libraries of 10 schools- 8 secondary and 2 high schools- with new titles. The municipality matched funds with dldp to carry out the project.
The WiP has been exposed to international good practices. Cooperation initiatives took place with Kosovo elected representatives. Members of the WiP which were students at the Academy of Political Studies participated at the Global Forum for Democracy held in Strasbourg.
WiP interacted with other networks and initiatives like those supported from NDI and OSCE. Also the Ambassador of Switzerland in Albania facilitated an inspiring exchange between national MP and Ministers with WiP which concluded with concrete projects for improving employment of women at local level taken up by RISI project.
Due to innovation and empowerment, the network became the place where the members felt free to flourish their full potential. By improving confidence of women on social sensitive politics and investing in their personal development career, members of the Network were able to impact national and local governance by engendering policies and public resources. Last but not least, the Network had a considerable impact on the political consensus space: 3 of 9 Women in Politics Alliances established at local level belong to WiPN.
468 Women in the Network
118 Women councilors
5 Regions (covering 12- 30% of the total population)
3 Alliances of Women Councilors
5 Regional forums
8 Local forums
1 Catalogue for women candidates for local elections 2011
1 Catalogue for civil society organizations in Shkodra
2 Fiscal packages and budgets
2 Women up scaled from local to national politics
2 Joint initiatives undertaken