By Erald Lamja
Economic growth, and the markets that enable that growth, are one of the well-documented drivers in reducing poverty. Markets are the main means through which women and men participate in economic activity. However, the presumption that markets and growth are good for all does not mean that all types of economic growth lead to equal outcomes. Gender discrimination can mean that benefits and gains are concentrated among experienced participants in market systems and not those who need them most.
Women’s roles in value chains in Albania are vital for market systems development, particularly rural and agricultural value chains (VC), but increasingly also in the manufacturing sector, where women make up most workers on the factory floor.
Women and men are likely to be involved at different stages of the chain. In general, women’s roles are less visible to policy makers and development practitioners, even though they often constitute critical links at which change and/or upgrading should occur in order to bring about development of the chain.
Gender-sensitive value chain and market system development can be used as an effective framework to improve sectoral productivity and competitiveness, concomitantly reducing gender-based barriers to the full economic participation of women.
Market and value chain development initiatives should routinely take into consideration women’s multiple roles and systemic disadvantage and take advantage of opportunities for upgrading measures that actively promote transformation of gender norms and equal opportunities for women.
During July-September 2019, the USAID Planning and Local Governance Project (PLGP)/ Women, Peace & Security (WPS) and its local subcontractor Creative Business Solutions (CBS), conducted Gender Sensitive Value Chain Analyses (GSVCA) in six partner
municipalities of Bulqizë, Cërrik, Dibër, Librazhd, Kamëz and Pogradec. The findings of national and municipal sectoral research undertaken by PLGP indicate that, so far, interventions that aim at market development are missing opportunities to analyze women’s essential contribution, develop market systems that promote gender equality, and thus, enable more inclusive growth. This is particularly challenging, as women and men are likely to be involved at different stages of the chains.
Lack of gender analysis implies that large parts of the value chain, which are indispensable for upgrading, are invariably ignored, particularly homeworking and informal work. However, understanding gender-specific details is essential for explaining how value chains operate, and particularly for identifying the critical nodes at which upgrading, or change, should happen in order to bring about development of the chain as a whole.
PLGP is implementing small scale programs to improve the VCs systems in the above-mentioned locations through activities that ensure women’s engagement and empowerment in the VCs aiming at local economic development and improvement of women’s livelihoods. Such programs include: Support Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Medical and Aromatic Plants (MAP) in Bulqizë, Cërrik, and Dibër; Support Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Traditional Food and Handicrafts Value Chains in Pogradec; and, Support Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Honey Value Chain in Librazhd and Pogradec.
These activities aim at engendering a larger number of women farmers/workers/producers – particularly poor, vulnerable and marginalized women – who effectively and/or formally engage in employment or self-employment, participate in value chains and markets, earn higher incomes, and enjoy economic security. Inclusive private sector development will be achieved by (i) supporting job creation; (ii) increasing the number of poor, marginalized and vulnerable women in employment, production, processing and marketing; and (iii) enhancing productivity and competitiveness of products that these women produce.