LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
ERA's Regional Annual Conference
"OUR RIGHTS, YOUR FUTURE"
7-9 November 2019, Tirana, Albania
REGISTRATIONS ARE NOW CLOSE
ERA's regional annual conference is one of the biggest LGBTI+ events in the Balkans and Turkey. The event is attended by more than 160 participants coming from ERA's membership, state institutions, human rights institutions and equality bodies, international community, academia, media and allies and supporters of the community. The upcoming conference planned to take place in Tirana on 7-9 November will provide participants with opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, dialogue and cooperation among different stakeholders. While across Europe LGBTI rights are seeing stagnation and in some cases even regress, the Western Balkans region continue to show strong dynamism with regards to LGBTI rights. This year, for the first time ever Prides took place in Skopje and Sarajevo. Legal improvements however are yet to happen and Turkey continues to remain a challenging and difficult place for LGBTI community and the LGBTI movement as such. Some of the main challenges the LGBTI community still faces in our region are lack of implementation of laws and policies, lack of legislation pertaining to gender identity, lack of protection from discrimination for intersex persons, low visibility of the LGBTI community and persistent negative attitudes which often translate into hate speech, harassment and physical violence, high vulnerability of LGBTI persons in smaller communities and with lower income, multiple forms of discrimination for many members of society etc.
This conference will aim to address those issues, as well as those relating to the needs and challenges of trans and intersex communities, LBTQI+ women, the recent HIV epidemic among GMT persons, sustainability of the LGBTI movements, needs and issues of rainbow families in the Balkans etc.
While legal rights of LGBTI persons in Albania have improved to some degree in the last ten years, they are still far from complete. Same-sex couples have no legal rights whatsoever and trans citizens cannot legally change their gender. In fact, with the exception of legal protection from discrimination on grounds of gender identity, trans persons are completely invisible in Albanian law. Protection from discrimination based on sex characteristics is not provided either. Public attitudes towards LGBTI persons are still negative, and acceptance of LGBTI persons remains low. The current government let by the Socialist Party has been criticized for completely ignoring LGBTI rights as no significant change in law and policy has taken place in the last six years. A National LGBT Action Plan 2016-2020 has not been implemented sufficiently and in 2018 a public debate against LGBTI lectures in high schools took place which forced the government to become even more withdrawn on LGBTI rights.
Meanwhile, regular reports from the LGBTI movement in the country reveal a challenging and problematic situation for the community against what is perceived as poor performance by state institutions and service providers to do their job.
LGBTI organisations have significantly increased their efforts to serve the community with their most basic needs including legal aid, health services, psycho-social support, shelter, arts and culture etc. A lot more efforts have been made in empowering the community and the movement as well as increase awareness among the general public. Alliances and cooperation with the rest of civil society have also created some leverage for the many needs both community and movement has. In the last few years efforts are being made to engage local governments on LGBTI rights.
This reality makes it clear that the government and state institutions need to stop hiding behind action plans and sporadic statements of support and work effectively with LGBTI organisations and other stakeholders in order to set clear and tangible goals that can be achieved in the next few years that could significantly improve the legal and social status of LGBTI persons.
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is home to approximately 800.000 citizens and is home to a growing and vibrant LGBTI community. All LGBTI organisations are based in the capital and unfortunately no organisations operate on this topic outside of the capital. This is a huge challenge when it comes to understanding and tackling the needs and issues of the LGBTI community in many other cities as well as smaller settlements where LGBTI people live in complete hiding and invisibility. Tirana does not have any official LGBTI bars, clubs or venues but several venues are known to be “LGBTI friendly”. Organisations hold regular LGBTI parties and events and the community is always in need for more events and activities. LGBTI cultural and social events are very common in the last 10 years, especially in Tirana and the media is generally open to the LGBTI subject providing a great opportunity for the organisations to advocate and raise awareness.
The ERA conference in Tirana will be hosted in close cooperation and partnership with our members there. See more about our co-hosts and partners below.
5-6 November Strategic and coordinating meeting of trans and intersex activists in the Western Balkans and Turkey: Venue: Tirana International Hotel Blue Room
This strategic meeting will be led by trans and intersex members of ERA’s steering board and activists from the region. Main aims are to empower trans and intersex youth and grassroots activists from the region, address well-being of trans and intersex activists and communities, define local, national, regional and international trans and intersex related priorities, including how to best align the work of ERA with that of its members and finally to define fundraising challenges, priorities and actions for the trans and intersex movements in the region. (event is designed to be attended only by self-identified trans and intersex persons);
5 November, 19:00 - 21:00 Screening of film "Until porn do us part": Venue: Kinema "Agimi", Blv. Zhan'Dark
The fourth feature-length documentary by multi-hyphenate Portuguese filmmaker Jorge Pelicano, is a touching and often poignant observational film about a mother who is having a hard time coping with the fact that her son is a gay porn star. Having just world-premiered in Johlava's Opus Bonum competition, the documentary uses a very intimate set-up to tell a story about a traditional family, communication in the age of the internet, and ultimately, acceptance and forgiveness. The films screened during the week of ERA’s conference are part of the Queer Film Days (QFD) Albania - a program about films which refuse to be invisible and boldly tell stories that create new cultural space. The QFD are organized in collaboration with the main organizers Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA), Stichting Art.1and the International Human Rights Film Festival Albania (IHRFFA). The QFD are part of the Youth Artivists for Change (YAC) project supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
6 November: Women loving Women” Caucus meeting: Venue: Tirana International Hotel Metropol Room
This caucus meeting is organized and will be led by women who love women. The main aim of this caucus is to map the existing gaps in LBTIQ+ politics, specific fundraising challenges, visibility and representation, to define what needsto change for LBTIQ+ women to be empowered and how women who love women can take more common actions within the ERA region and createsynergieswith other movements and networks across the wider European region. The event will be attended by ERA members from across the region, women loving women based in Albania and representatives of EL*C EuroCentralAsian Lesbian Community.
6 November 19:00: Exhibition: “Trans Balkan” and ERA conference openning ceremony: Venue Europe House Tirana
Aleksandar Crnogorac brings to Tirana, his exhibition “Trans Balkan”. Through a series of documentary photographs, the artist aims to raise the visibility of trans people in the Western Balkans region. Next to every portrait is a biography of each individual with a personal quote, which gives an insight into the struggles trans people have to overcome and the discrimination and stigmatisation they have to face every day. The exhibition, is an opportunity for trans people to speak their mind and emphasize the importance of understanding problems they have to deal with.
Opening ceremony of the conference will be greeted by:
7 November: ERA Annual General Assembly Venue: Tirana International Hotel, Metropol Room
The Annual General Assembly, is one of the key annual events of the association where the most important issues and topics are discussed and decided for. The General Assembly is a venue of true political and democratic engagement and participation of activists from 9 countries of the ERA region. The assembly is also attended by members of the Advisory Board which is made of approximately 20 individuals from across the world who provide very valuable inputs and help to the association. This year, 2/3 of the day will be organized in the form of workshops in order to discuss several issues concerning the region. (event open only to ERA members and participants who have registered as observers);
7 November, 19:00 pm: Screening of Award Winning Film "Rafiki": Venue "Kinema Millenium"
Rafiki (Swahili for "friend") is a 2018 Kenyan drama film directed by Wanuri Kahiu.Rafiki is the story of romance that grows between two young women, Kena and Ziki, amidst family and political pressures around LGBT rights in Kenya. The film had its international premiere in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. it was the first Kenyan film to be screened at the festival. The films screened during the week of ERA’s conference are part of the Queer Film Days (QFD) Albania - a program about films which refuse to be invisible and boldly tell stories that create new cultural space. The QFD are organized in collaboration with the main organizers Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA), Stichting Art.1and the International Human Rights Film Festival Albania (IHRFFA). The QFD are part of the Youth Artivists for Change (YAC) project supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
8-9 November, 09:00-17:00 ERA Annual Conference Venue: Tirana International Hotel, Consortium Room
TRAVEL & REIMBURSEMENT
For all participants whose travel costs are being covered by ERA, and who are arriving and leaving Tiranaby plane, pick up has been arranged with local taxi company. Someone will be waiting for you at the arrivals lounge.
Please be informed that we are not arranging pick up and return to the airportfor participants whose travel costs are not covered by us.
For all other participants coming to Tiranaby public transport or private vehicles whose travel costs are covered by ERA please keep in mind the following information:
- ERA will cover costs of public transport (bus, train etc.);
- ERA will cover cost of travel by personal vehicle to Tirana and return (reimbursement ofcosts by car is 0.10 EUR per kilometer ViaMichelin- Toll costs are not included in this amount);
- ERA will NOT cover other forms of travel arrangements such as taxi, rent a car, trips made in first class etc.
Please be kindly reminded that you are responsible for your own travel insurance.
For further reference please find in ERA’s travel reimbursement policy.
Getting around Tirana
Whenever you need a ride somewhere, please ask the hotel reception or someone from our staff to call a taxi for you.
Simultaneous interpretation will be provided in the conferences main halland other smaller rooms in Turkish and English;
For all your social media posts, statuses, pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. please use the following hashtags: #ERACon2019and #LGBTIAlbania
For security reasons please make sure you ask permission of others before posting their pictures or names on your social media.
Local currency is the Albanian Lek (ALL). Exchange offices are available all around the city. Please make sure that exchange office does not take commission and that you ask for receipt.
The conference is being planned and implemented in partnership with our member organisations in Albania Alliance against Discrimination LGBT, PRO LGBT, Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA),PINK Embassy, LGBT Shelter “Streha”and AAPLWHand additional partner organisation Stichting Art 1.from the Netherlands.
This conference is supported by the European Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania, the Western Balkans Fund, Europe House, Give Out UK, Open Society Foundation and Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO).