In Albania, UN Women’s rapid gender assessment (RGA) has helped farm subsidies expand to better reach women; support packages for small businesses and job-seekers are being adjusted to give special attention to women; gender-responsive programming has increased; and a new gender equality programme redesigned to support rural women and is now being funded.
UN Women Albania partnered with IDRA Research & Consulting to administer a survey using computer-assisted phone interviews that reached 1,300 respondents from 17–26 April 2020. In July, infographics were disseminated and findings were integrated into a regional report. Albania’s detailed national report was published in December.
“We were the first agency with concrete data, not only within the UN, but within the country, so we were really feeding the whole UN response,” explains Estela Bulku, National Programme Officer for UN Women Albania. “On the gender-responsive budgeting side, it helped a lot, especially with interactions with the Parliament and line ministries, and with the Socioeconomic Recovery Plan [a UN-Government-produced plan that cited the RGA data].”
The Parliamentary Subcommittee on Gender Equality and Violence against Women was among the various stakeholders that received and helped further disseminate the data in letters to ministries and in articles and presentations. “The rapid gender assessment was really the best tool to make people aware – not only policymakers but also other people – of the gendered impacts of the pandemic,” says Subcommittee Chair Eglantina Gjermeni.
The RGA found that men had a higher risk of unemployment but women were more likely to lose income. In fact, half of self-employed women living with children had to reduce their working hours, mainly due to the burden of unpaid care and domestic work.
According to Gentian Opre, Director of Mid-term Budget Planning at the Ministry of Finance and Economy, these findings have been seriously considered by both deputy ministers and officials dealing with vocational and educational training and labour market measures.
“We’re making sure that the [small and medium-sized enterprise] support packages they’re implementing for 2021 are paying special attention to women who have businesses that size,” he says, adding that the Ministry has included programme performance indicators to track how many supported businesses are women-headed. “There is also a new support package for job-seekers that tends to positively favour women. So, this [RGA] report has been taken into account to a large extent.”
The RGA revealed that half of all respondents saw reduced earnings from employment, but two-thirds suffered a loss of income from farming. With this data and technical inputs from UN Women, the Parliamentary Subcommittee sent a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development asking officials to redesign farm subsidies to better reach women.
“Only 24% of women were eligible or benefiting from these schemes,” explains Blerina Xhani, UN Women Albania’s Public Finance Management Consultant. “So, our first proposal was to ask that they extend these schemes to women, and to specify which women they should target. We suggested a redesign of the subsidy scheme based on the RGA findings.”
The Ministry has since increased the number of women beneficiaries of existing schemes, and promised to review the subsidy scheme and increase funding in the future.
Albania is currently in the process of developing its mid-term budget for 2022–24 so UN Women also took the opportunity to pair the RGA data with gender-responsive budgeting proposals and financial report findings.
“The philosophy is changing, slowly but surely, that gender equality should be higher on the priority agenda and even the Government has been doing the PR for this,” says Opre. “I’m a finance guy so I think the numbers will speak for themselves.”
And they do. Funding for gender equality programmes increased by 45% from 2020 to 2021, up from USD 348 million to 506 million.
“We are in a framework of performance and results-based budgeting,” explains Opre. “It requires a lot of effort and reliable and timely information so we dearly love more information from multiple sources. We cannot rely only on information from within. Maybe organizations have conflicts of interest or don’t want to report numbers that might harm them. … So, we need independent sources of data and why not to have the help of prestigious organizations [like UN Women].”
Beyond shaping national spending, UN Women Albania shared the RGA findings within the UN just as its Socioeconomic Recovery Plan was being developed. It then presented them to Albania’s Donor Coordination Working Group on Gender and used them to substantiate Albania’s application to the Global COVID-19 Multi-Partner Trust Fund.
Bulku says the Office had been trying for years to fund a gender equality facility but decided to tweak the proposal to focus more on local women’s economic empowerment, especially in rural areas, which the RGA showed were most affected. Since then, USD 700,000 in funding has been secured for a joint programme with UNFPA.
To increase public awareness and uptake of the RGA, UN Women Albania presented its key findings online as infographics and shared them with its Media Forum – a group of journalists it convenes regularly. The data were cited by at least a dozen media outlets and the Office received several invitations to present the data in discussions or debates.
UN Women Albania is also now running a series of workshops with all 11 line ministries to discuss how to use the RGA results.
UN Women’s Regional Advisor on Gender Statistics for Europe and Central Asia, Ala Negruta, helped develop the RGA questionnaire and methodology alongside UN Women Albania’s statistical expert Ani Plaku, who supervised the data collection and conducted the analysis. The assessment was funded by the regional Women Count programme and two UN Joint Programmes.
About the author: Jen Ross is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of UN experience, including with UN-ECLAC, OHCHR and UN Women.