Albania Will Succeed When A Woman Will Become The Prime Minister

Women / July 25, 2014

Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu në Vesionin Shqip

Dava works as a nurse in the Lezha public hospital. She has worked there for years. By now she is used to getting laid off from time to time, because of the shifts of power from one party to the next. No professional motives were ever involved. Maybe it happens just because her ideas don’t exactly match with those of the ones in power. She is quick to mention her concern right at the beginning, noting that Albania will enter the path to progress only when professionals are not fired every time the country holds new elections. That’s because Albania badly needs professionals, regardless of their party affiliation.
Dava Rusta is a strong, straightforward woman. She says she has had to suffer the consequences thereof. She doesn’t want to change though. Many people want to be free because they miss freedom, but Dava cherishes the freedom she has in herself. She doesn’t hesitate to speak out about what she thinks, and her truths are of the kind that make you think for a while. She doesn’t speak the words of a politician; her language is plain, spoken out in the language of a person who is never out of touch with the people. “If you want to take a walk with me across Lezha, you will need more than two hours, even though it takes just five minutes to cross if from one corner to the other”, she says.

How did you engage in politics? What were your challenges, your supporters, and your opponents?

I engaged somehow unconsciously in politics. I used to support the Socialist Party, and I always will. At the outset, I helped with the organisation of political campaigns, and then I became an election commissioner. In 2005 I was elected as the head of a party section. Later on I became the head of the SP women forum for the Lezha municipality, and then I was appointed party secretary. In 2011 I was elected as a municipal councillor. In 2012 I was elected in the SP national assembly. At present I am a municipal councillor for the Socialist Movement for Integration.
Maybe someone can consider that it was a mistake to pass from one party to another. All I can say is that it was a tough choice to make, because I am a convinced Socialist. My whole family is Socialist, to the point that we jokingly claim that even our cats’ DNA tests would reveal they’re Socialist cats.
The decision to pass over to SMI came as a result of my frustration with the actions of my party leader regarding the selection of the candidates who would stand for the elections in Lezha. I expressed my opinion in a face to face discussion with Chair Rama.
I told him that in my opinion it was not right to import candidates from outside, because Lezha has plenty of capable young persons, who have contributed to their town. You are aware how the elections turned out in Lezha for the SP. Lezha has always given the right answer to every party.
I am a bit fanatic about politics. I love the SP, I just want to see in it only honest and open people. I don’t want to see in the SP those who come in only to reap the fruits of the victory. I appreciate only those who have sown the seed of victory, who have watered the tree of victory. I am a realist too. I know that if you are straightforward in politics, you will have to pay for it, but I am ready to do it. I might behave differently if I wanted, but I don’t want to.
I don’t want to play games with people; I know that those who play games just play themselves out at the end. Maybe the political climate in Albania is not favourable yet, but I am convinced that Albania will enter into the path of progress when the position of the Prime Minister is taken by a woman.

How do you see the environmental situation in Albania? What should change?

Starting from Lezha, I wouldn’t say the situation is normal, yet I can still see that steps are taken in the right direction. Lezha implemented a pilot project aimed at changing people’s attitudes towards the environment and at providing some external improvements.
Albania doesn’t have a long-term environmental plan that would remain in force regardless of who is in power. Those who take control tend to start from scratch, by destroying what is left by those who were in power.
Property relations are very much controlled by power relationships. What frightens me is the fact that we tend to give our resources away. The historical Lezha castle would generate sufficient income for most of the Lezha people, if we invested there wisely and sufficiently.
Our cities, in general, don’t look like they are in a good shape. It just takes a glimpse from the air to find out how poorly planned and designed Albanian towns are. One needs to be a bit of a patriot, in order to be able to worry about the environmental situation in one’s country. We still need to learn how to be patriotic in this regard. This is how we’ll learn how to preserve our environment, so as not to offer it to the best bidder.

What is your take on gender equality? Who are the supporters of the cause, who are the opponents?

Women make the tougher opponents to the cause. I know it, as a woman with a long political career. When I took office as the head of the women’s forum, I started out with only 12 members in my organization. At the end, I had over 280. As the forum’s leader I told the women I wanted each of them to feel as a leader, but the hierarchy recognises only one chairperson. When the time was ripe for me to resign, I acted accordingly; yet, at that time, I had to learn that in Albania resignation is perceived as an act of weakness, not as a message of humility.
To me, it does not make sense to be a woman who is not supportive of other women.
In this regard I have to say this: if I had not participated in the OSCE Presence training on women in politics, I would have abandoned politics altogether, because I would not have been able to figure out what the side conditions were that affect women’s participation.
Unluckily, we lack people who sincerely engage in their work. Therefore I insist on the importance of professionals. Many leaders use women politically. The “quota women” are often forced to say what the leaders put in their mouths. Those who don’t agree to do it are cut off.

Where will Albania be in the next four years? What are the challenges, the weaknesses, and the strengths?

We are bound to remain hopeful. Recently I was involved in an IDRA project, so I’ll give to you the response a young man gave to me when I interviewed him. I asked him about the future, and he told me: “It can only get better; it can’t get worse!” So I learned that we’ve reached the bottom. I consider a major challenge for Albania to get a woman as a Prime Minister. We should have an open-list electoral system, in which parties propose names, which are freely voted by the people. That would make a good start.
We don’t need those who buy their way into the Parliament as our representatives. A good politician is not a good public speaker. A good politician is a person who sees the right way to do things. Albania has plenty of challenges ahead. We suffered from the global crisis. At the international level, not everyone is Albania’s friend. At times, I think we have been already sold out, and we know nothing about it.
Once I was talking to an old man, who told me that we Albanians sell ourselves out very cheaply. I don’t want to believe this, but maybe it’s true. We need to unify all sides of the political spectrum, towards a greater goal. Political organisations are not warring parties, we should debate about ideas, and we should be able to honour the best idea. This doesn’t mean we should shoot the looser. One should shake hands with the opponent at the end of the contest, rather than swear that one’s hatred against him will be perpetual.
I happened to visit a village close to Lezha once. The village’s name is Malecaj. I wondered how far that village was from what we consider civilization. People were extremely poor, they had no potable water, and they washed their laundry by hand. I asked them how they considered their living conditions, and they responded that they considered them as average. I think we should work hard to make people understand at least what extreme poverty is.

What issues lie closer to your heart in the political and social dimension?

The cause of gender equality lies very close to my heart. This is the reason why I engaged in politics. Women are heavily discriminated against. Maybe much of the discrimination is self-discrimination, deeply entrenched in us.
In Albania you still happen to see that when a baby boy is born, the family celebrates, and when a girl child is born, there is no such celebration. I am a free person; to me there exist two sorts of freedoms: the freedom to feel free, that is, to be a free person, and the freedom to do the things I like. I want women to be free. I have suffered gender-based prejudice since I was in high school. My own mother wanted me to be always escorted by my little brother. I felt so humiliated by her lack of trust in me. Now I understand her as being deeply conditioned by tradition.
But I don’t want that tradition to persist. Women have to start out by looking deep into themselves in order to be able to change things. There’s no reason why women should have a 30% quota in the party lists. 50% would be fairer.

Who is the woman or man who particularly inspires you?

On the women’s side, I am inspired by Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel. Yet in Merkel I would like to see more of a woman, as far as her outer appearance is concerned. I saw something fragile, feminine, in Eglantina Gjermeni. I also appreciate Ermelinda Meksi for what she stands for, for her capacities. I would like to see her in the position of Prime Minister.
I think men tend to look at things from a certain distance; women see things in their vicinity and are quick to understand. Maybe this understanding of the tough environment somehow causes capable women to stay away from active politics.
On the men’s side I like Pandeli Majko’s way of doing politics. He is not aggressive; he’s not tough, not resentful. He was a very proper Prime Minister. Another man I really appreciate is my father-in-law. He is a great friend to me. He supported me with everything he could, a real gentleman. I got engaged when I was only 18. My family was a bit afraid I would be locked at home and fail to go to university. My father-in-law insisted upon me getting a university education.
If I happen to come home late and my husband asks me where I’ve been, my father-in-law responds: “She had things to do”. One is lucky to have such persons close to oneself.

Empowering Women in Politics

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Irena Shabani
Is an Albanian freelance journalist and human rights activist specialising in investigative journalism. She co-founded Panorama, the leading newspaper in Albania, where she served as managing editor from 2002 to 2003. Prior to Panorama she was a journalist at Shekulli and Gazeta Shqiptare and has been part of the Albanian Human Rights Group from its beginning. She has collaborated on programmes for the International Research and Exchanges Board, investigating topics involving crime and political corruption and continues to collaborates with foreign organisations and local media focused on social problems and minority rights.

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This post also exists in English Ajo punon si infermiere në spitalin e Lezhës, ka punuar aty prej vitesh, është mësuar...

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