Building a Grassroots Approach with Municipal Support
In 2019 the PLGP began to focus on one of the pillars of the Women, Peace and Security framework – the economic empowerment (enabling financial agency) of women. As with many of our other Components, this is implemented via a two-fold approach: 1) facilitating personal, local level connections between key stakeholders, and 2) instituting structural supports for change. With regards to women’s economic empowerment (WEE), the PGLP held workshops in Cerrik, Librazhd, and Pogradec to gauge the community’s perceptions on this issue.
Arben, a 58-year old unemployed man from the Egyptian community who has experienced both the Communist and post-Communist eras, took part in one of the workshops conducted by the PGLP. From a comparative perspective he noted that, “The gender gap has decreased. The male role is more oriented in domestic duties, but the incorporation of economic independence in the female gender role is still a missing link, leading to inequality and gender-based violence, especially for marginalized communities”.
Bringing together over 100 women and men from diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences painted a broad picture of women’s economic issues among our municipalities, bringing secondary effects into focus for discussion. These include issues such as early childhood forced marriage, gender-based violence, and the phenomenon of “kinship care” (when grandparents become primary caregivers for their grandchildren, in our communities usually due to migratory employment practices).
One unexpected positive result of these connection-building sessions was the employment of several women by another women-led business in Pogradec. “This was a good starting point on how the business sector can support unemployed women,” said Mukades, a local entrepreneur woman in the field of food processing. She went on to say, “I will exchange contact with those women, and I can offer employment for some of them. If you will search you will find, if you will wait for miracle to happen, your situation will be the same”. This attitude of empowerment was also echoed in Cerrik by Shqiponja, age 30, when she said, “We can’t search and expect our rights, equality, and well-being from the men, we can provide them to ourselves.”
In order to institutionalize these types of connections, the PLGP has begun work in Librazhd to establish a collaborative process by which the municipal offices for employment can communicate the needs of the business community to those job-seekers residing within their purview. The primary objective was to provide women an opportunity for active participation in local governance, ensuring their concerns and perspectives were reflected in the agenda of the local business sector, and bringing an awareness of current employment needs as well. Participants discussed challenges faced by women and those in the most vulnerable populations (such as the rural Roma and Egyptian communities) and brainstormed potential solutions within small breakout groups.
Recommendations were presented and an action plan and follow up coordination meeting were set. From the municipal side, the labor office adviser stated that based on the collaborative dialogue between the municipality and the businesses which were present in the coordination meeting, there were 30 open positions for women’s employment. Five women present in the activities will follow procedures to start working in these positions as a result of this open communication. Another beneficial outcome of the meeting was the plan to include women’s thematic issues in municipal council meetings and to open the floor for increased women’s participation as well.
Along with our Gender-Sensitive Value Chain Analysis work, these workshops, forums, and collaborative councils lay the foundation for tailored actions towards women’s economic empowerment and increased labor market participation across our partner municipalities moving forward and will provide sustainable structures beyond the life of the project as well.