Supporting Women’s Inclusion and Value Chain Development in Albania
USAID engages at the local level to strengthen communities and build resiliency.

By Erald Lamja

Women are present in all Albanian value chains and markets carrying out important functions. Although both the public and private sectors have numerous opportunities to increase market potential by becoming more inclusive, there are still many barriers which keep them from doing so. Gender-sensitive value chain analyses (GSVCA) and subsequent market development provide a viable path to overcome many of these barriers, unlocking the full potential of the Albanian economy.

These approaches go beyond meeting quotas for participation and strive to “level the playing field”, giving women and men the same chance of economic success. This may include measures such as increasing women’s access to finance, providing childcare to enable women to work outside the home, or formalizing revenue activities which were previously not recognized. However, this does not mean that GSVCA is geared only towards women, but that all types of sectoral development initiatives must be designed and resourced to consider and address the different situation, position, and needs of women and men.

The explicit objective of gender-sensitive value chain and market system development is to identify and promote ‘win-win’ scenarios that guarantee market sustainability. These are development opportunities that address problems in a value chain while also addressing gender inequalities in and along this chain. Potential gender-responsive ‘win-win’ scenarios are designed to simultaneously increase productivity and reduce insecurity and vulnerability of women and men. Having established that GSVCA is important, the question arises, “How do we do it?”. Practically-speaking, GSVCA is a many-pronged approach and involves actions at the   macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of engagement.

Actions at the macro-level, such as policy and programming for sustainable market development, require commitments to changing the current ‘status quo’ of inequality between women and men, and a political acknowledgement that gender inequality has significant negative impacts on growth. National leadership must show the political will to support gender-sensitive approaches in sectoral development by committing both resources and personnel.

A coordinated effort across sectors to enhance the impact of policies on equality between women and men is crucial to ensure a unified approach. In addition to policy changes, a commitment to thorough data collection, monitoring, and reporting must be pursued. Meaningful engagement by local government and development practitioners in economic development requires dedicating human resources and technical support for the identification, collection, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of sex-disaggregated data related to all aspects of private sector development and economic growth.

This vital data is currently lacking in Albania and would provide great insight to aid inclusive development moving forward. Finally, national schemes for enterprise development must pursue a more inclusive approach by identifying and targeting less visible actors in value chains. Providing effective support to these (often informal) groups allows them to access and benefit more broadly from the schemes currently in place.

In Albania, as elsewhere, municipal support for gender-sensitive approaches to value chains and market development is key to effectively connecting national policies to local stakeholders. At the meso-level, this can be realized by providing trainings on gender-sensitive approaches and mobilizing organizations involved in supporting underrepresented groups.

Municipal officials can engage in GSVCA and market development in alignment with tourism initiatives or regional-origin certification programs. Women’s existing multiple roles and responsibilities must be considered so as not to increase their burden of time and further disadvantage their ability to access economic opportunities.

Finally, municipalities can support the creation of production clusters to both ensure the quality of products and enable women to take advantage of economies of scale (for example, supporting the creation of a honey processing facility). Overall, these meso-level initiatives should promote economic growth in conjunction with women’s economic inclusion, thereby opening the door for transformative actions and the rebalancing of unequal gender norms.

Finally, at the micro-level, actors, organisations, and institutions providing supporting functions in local economic development need the practical skills and tools to adequately address gender inequalities in enterprise and market development. Reaching out to less visible and vocal contributors in value chains and markets and understanding their roles and potential to improve livelihoods through value chain development is an integral part of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of markets and, therefore, key to sustainable and inclusive local economic development. At a micro-level, actors can use a value chain and market development process that is adapted to their needs and available resources.

Key gender-sensitive upgrading strategies for all levels of development are those that build on women’s roles by formalizing their traditional tasks and create space for women through stimulating entrepreneurship. By organizing for change, actors can address gender discrimination at its root causes within households and communities: Both women and men must organize for change. This entails interventions throughout the chain, targeted at breaking down structural constraints, as well as supporting human agency (confidence, self-esteem, skills, and capacity development). Lastly, as a strategy which targets the whole chain, practitioners can adopt standards, certifications, and labels. This approach is unique, as it connects to the consumer and targets the chain context—setting the standard for who participates in the chain and how.

There are many moving pieces to these interventions, and all of them require a strong foundation in gender-sensitive practices. To that end, PLGP has created a Briefing Paper: “Gender-Sensitive Approaches in Value Chain Development” as well as a “Guide for Practitioners and Interested Stakeholders for Women Inclusion and Value Chain Development in Albania.” When utilized in tandem, these documents provide the educational resources needed to move forward with more inclusive and impactful economic development in Albania.

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