By Merita B.McCormack/ Washington DC/
The notion of “private property” was non-existent for almost five decades (1944-1991) in Albania. Women and men were equally stripped of that basic human right during Communism. The expropriation of private assets, which began as the “Agrarian Reform” and “Collectivization” in 1945, was a relatively short process that accompanied the repressive policies for the whole country, which left life long consequences with almost every Albanian. The post communist transition period, 1991-present, an ongoing process, has proven to be a difficult one, reflected by the multilevel efforts to find an acceptable and feasible solution for the restitution and compensation of lost assets, but also developing a democratic Albania at the same time.
Based on the criteria of fairness and legality, Albania’s government has put in place different mechanisms and crafted legal frameworks which aim to guarantee “the recognition of the private property right for those subjects whose property was expropriated, nationalized, confiscated or taken away through any unjustified means by the state”. (cf. Review of Legal Framework, B. Abdurrahmani, 2013). Several laws and reforms are addressing this issue, (law nr 7501, 1991, law nr. 8398, 1998 etc) while at the same time Albania’s development process in order to meet EU accession criteria, have also moved forward.
One area of focus is support to gender equality and development of women entrepreneurship. Since the notion of “private property “ was rehabilitated (1992) and the private businesses began to flourish, women entrepreneurs in Albania did not grow similarly compared to that of men entrepreneurs. This is largely attributable due to the fact that more than half of Albanian population lives in rural areas, where property is owned on a family base, the man being the head of a family serves as the legal representative. “According to INSTAT Albanian women own 25.7% out of 106 477 businesses in the country. 18% of private business managers are women” (UN WOMEN).
Given that only 6% of the farming business is owned and operated by women farmers (cf UN Women), it affects the country average of women entrepreneurs. Citing constrains in the tax system and the high level of informality of women entrepreneurs, lack of access to finance for “start up” or to expand existing businesses, gender related division of labor, lack of business practice knowledge, information, contacts and experience, the “UN WOMEN” is pressing for Albania to develop, promote and provide support for women entrepreneurship. Recognizing the need for equal development of women, the Albanian Government is committed to the issue of prioritizing support to women entrepreneurs.
The establishment and effective operating of the National Centre of Business registration (Law 9723, 2007) and the National Licensing Centre (Law Nr. 10081, 2009) serve as a gateway to the effortless process of registration and licensing the business. This removes several bureaucratic barriers to the process and eliminates time and money. A hefty filing fee and a deposit of about US $ 1000.00 is now gone.
The establishment of the “Creative Economy Fund” is another step by the Albanian Government to support and encourage women entrepreneurship. This Fund, which encompasses fifty million lekë allows for the craft tradition (cottage industry) to bloom into a profitable industry where women owned enterprises could flourish. According to Prime Minister Sali Berisha “The craft tradition in Albania is great and it intermingles into one the cultural heritage, imagination, but even the sense of business.” (Cf. Council of Ministers website, 09/12)
“The shortening of the registration process and its digitalization facilitates greatly the registration and licensing of any business”- said Ermira Babaliu, the renowned artist and business owner, who spends her time between Albania and USA.
“The problems are the Albanian mentality and the corruption. Males (sons) in the Albanian family think and believe that they are the only ones entitled to family heritage. Hence the majority of property is still registered on the male names, especially in the northern areas. Yet corruption of those who handle the process, from local to central government offices is prevalent and a big problem”.
The Albanian legislation does not provide any specific article or facilitating procedure for women owners, said Lida Kushi a construction business owner from Korça region. The same procedures for men are in place for women too. Surviving the market as a woman owner though is sometimes an unbearable Calvary. The law is not clear enough and those existing laws are not implemented in about 50% of the times. The Albanian world, especially in the provinces, is still a patriarchal one. Some NGO-s have tried to encourage the women entrepreneurship, but without much success.”
The National Strategy for Development and Integration for the period of 2013-2020 foresees programs that will continue to support women participating in the national economy as owners of private businesses and of land.