I Find In Edi Rama An Amazing Grace

Women / July 28, 2014

Ky postim ekziston gjithashtu në Vesionin Shqip

Back in 2003, when she was invited to enter politics, Lindita Nikolla was a high school director. Today she’s proud of her success in the SP primaries and even more so of her double victory in her municipal unit. She has good words for Margaret Thatcher, mainly for Thatcher’s will to push for reform, even though she doesn’t really stand for the policies of “The Iron Lady”. She has a message for the women and girls who want to engage in politics: “Go step by step, it’s not difficult!”

What is your take on the political environment in Albania?

I don’t believe I’ll be able to tell you anything you haven’t heard before with regard to the environment we face every day whilst engaging in politics. I share the perception of each and every sensible citizen that the policy debate is harsh, unfocused, and it has more often than not no relation to the formulation of valid alternatives.
Of course, political parties and individuals engaging in politics have greatly differing and competing visions and ideas, but at the level of public discourse, I certainly resent the use of half-truths and the dominance of the logic of defamation, which is used to detour the efforts to tackle the problems, to distort the personality of the opponent, who is a citizen like every one of us, a mother and a father like most of us.
I used to look forward to my participation in parliamentary life; maybe “rosy expectations” aren’t the right word to describe my state of mind at that time. Yet I was really looking forward to becoming a Member of Parliament. I would like to share with you that more often than not, once you’re inside the Parliament, you see that your expectations aren’t really fulfilled -as a politician, and even more so as a woman, when you have to face a myriad of lies, spelt out in a language that is really shameful to everyone.
At our level of discourse, regardless of one’s pros and cons, regardless of the issues one wants to raise, one is always prejudiced; more often than not your challenge is not the issue at hand. Unfortunately, rather than to debate issues, one has to spend time and energy to respond to invented realities, to react to mudslinging.

How did you enter politics?

Entering politics is a process. It’s not a really infinite road, but it’s still long, and it takes little steps to move ahead. In the year 2003 I received an invitation from my local branch of the Socialist Party to join its campaign for the local government elections. I did not run myself, as I didn’t feel sufficiently prepared to meet that challenge.
At that time I was the director of a high school in Tirana, and I believed a career in education was my future. Still, I positively responded to that request to contribute to the party, and I certainly did contribute for four years as a Socialist Party municipal councillor in Tirana Borough No.1.
I believe those years helped me to get to know what was going on outside the education establishment. During that time I learned the ropes. I saw what community contribution was, what the voice of the citizens sounded like out there, in the community. I became more and more aware of the responsibilities each of us has to improve our own and everyone else’s quality of life. I also got to know the structure of my constituency.
Upon completing my mandate of four years as a councillor, I participated in the one-member-one-vote contest in the primaries of 2007 that would decide the candidate who would run for the position of mayor of Borough No.1 in Tirana. My opponents were the incumbent mayor, a woman, and a very distinguished doctor, with a good reputation in the community. From the presentation of our platforms, my proposal got the most consent. This was an additional sign of the support I had from within the Socialist Party, which was confirmed in the local elections I won in February 2007.
I then served as the Mayor of Borough No.1. It was an overwhelming victory; I believe I got more votes than my party did, as more people from the local community saw in me and in my family a model of integrity, a familiar face, someone to rely on. In fact we have lived in that neighbourhood for quite a while. My husband is a member of that community since his birth; we still live in the same house in which he was born. Maybe the voters saw in me a new model of commitment of governance at the local level.
My campaign and my election as mayor came to pass at a time when the Socialist Party was leading the opposition. I served my first mandate in a situation of double opposition: the Socialist Party was in opposition at the national level; also in my borough we had less municipal councillors than DP had.
Those years gave me the best schooling in terms of local governance. During four years we managed to get only one budget approved. That situation put me to the test. I tried to do my best to avoid any interruption of services for the community, and to continue to deliver more services externally funded by projects.
At that time, my municipal unit implemented plenty of projects funded through the engagement of non-governmental organizations and donors. It was a real school of life in the full meaning of the word. It also was a new standard of governance, which, leaving modesty aside, was achieved not only because of the mayor, but also thanks to my incredible staff. We were able to set a new standard in an open, transparent institution, able to account for the services it provided. We did our best to consult our budgets with the community, and to get them approved with its consent.

Did you ever have any doubts about engaging in politics?

To be honest, at times I have reflected whether it would have been better for me to pursue another career. Yet, if I add up all the pros and cons, I believe that at the end it was worth it. Every woman that enters politics in Albania is worth it. It is important to bear in mind that we, those women who made it, aren’t necessarily the best women ever.
We are not special. All we can do is to serve as a model for other women to join, for better women to come in, so that they can do what we did, and do it even better. It’s important to dare and go out, to dare and be part of politics. It is not impossible; on the contrary, it can be nice.
It is hard, but everything that is worth its grain, especially when we take into account our young democracy, is hard. It’s so nice if more women are part of it.

What is your opinion of the positive discrimination in favour of women in politics?

Indeed an interesting question. Before I became a politician, I loudly spoke out against the gender quota. I maintained I didn’t want to be elected because of some reserved quota for women. My stance came also as a result of my double victory in the elections of 2007 and 2011. I won both contests through direct competition in a majoritarian system. In the 2013 elections I was part of the candidates’ list of the Socialist Party for Tirana.
Now I maintain that positive measures are those that can actually yield positive results in the Albanian reality. And, in this reality, the more women we can get in the parliament, the better off we are. Women’s participation in politics has been supported, also thanks to the latest amendments made to the Electoral Code with the contribution of the OSCE Presence and thanks to the lobbying of the National Platform of Women in which I participated, the 30% quota enabled women not to end up at the bottom of the list. Now, one out of three of the candidates ought to be from the opposite sex. This enables women to benefit from the quota.
If MPs relinquish their mandates, the vacant mandates go to women. These are good steps forward; on the other hand, they need to be followed up by empowering women at the decision-making level, to empower them as party activists: the more, the better. I believe that women ministers, women MPs, elected women officials at the local level, have to serve as models to show why it’s a good thing to believe in women and what women can do once they are in command.

What is your prognosis for the four years to come?

These are crucial years, closely related to the achievement of the candidate status by Albania. I believe responsibility should prevail in the four years to come, in terms of the functioning of the state institutions, of the independent institutions, not only to fully apply the democratic standards, but also to set the stage for the country’s social and economic development.
I am confident that the Government and all state institutions will work harder in order to meet the new responsibilities and to fulfil the new expectations related to Albania’s bid for full EU membership. In order to be a member, you need to be truly European.

What is the issue that lies closest to your heart?

I can’t separate my work from my passion that is education. My personal challenges are closely linked to the reform of the education sector, with the transformation of the education system into a real public service, less and less dependent on politics. Of course, good policy-making is closely linked to communication with the interest groups. I think education is a domain that pertains to all of us, so everyone has to be part of the success, but also part of a continuous monitoring of the work in progress, including the work being done by the Minister of Education.

Who were the women that inspired you?

I have found inspiration in many famous women. Margaret Thatcher, even though she is definitely not left-wing, is an inspiring personality, as far as her determination to pursue her policies is concerned, her will to push forward reforms, even though the first steps of each serious reform encounter stiff resistance and cause a lot of reactions.
Yet Thatcher was the politician who adopted drastic measures, such as the removal of the free milk for children in the schools…
I identified the inspiring part in Thatcher, at least as far as I am concerned; I certainly do not agree with the policies she implemented, yet I admire her determination and her commitment to reform. I really appreciate determination in women. In order to be determined, you don’t necessarily need to shout around, or to put yourself at all cost in the limelight.

Which are the men who inspired you?

My father was always an inspiration to me. Since I was very young I always tried to be like him, in the sense that I tried like him to be nice to other people, to reach out to other people just like he did. Politically speaking, I would single out Edi Rama as a source of inspiration for everything I achieved, from 2007 to the present.
Those who know me will also know that I don’t link this with the fact that he is now the Prime Minister of Albania. Edi Rama was the one who extended an open and sincere invitation to women and girls. He also was the one person I worked with during those four years when he was the Tirana mayor and I was the mayor of one Tirana borough. I always found in him goodwill and an incredible energy to move things forward.

Empowering Women in Politics

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Gjergj Erebara
Gjergj Erebara
Gjergj Erebara është gazetar për BIRN në Tiranë. Ai ka mbaruar studimet universitare për gazetari në Universitetin e Tiranës dhe ka master shkencor (MSC) për Histori Ekonomike nga Universiteti i Lundit. I specializuar për gazetari ekonomike,Erebara ka punuar që nga viti 1998 në disa media të shkruara dhe vizive Shqiptare, si gazetar, redaktor dhe kryeredaktor.

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Te Edi Rama Gjej Nje Miresi Te Pashoqe!

This post also exists in English Lindita Nikolla ishte drejtoreshë shkolle kur mori ftesën e parë për t’u angazhuar...

July 28, 2014