Tirana, 16 December 2020 - Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA), is holding the first ever Initiative in Albania on political participation and representation of LGBTI people, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and with the financial support of the National Democratic Institute.
The "LGBTI Civic Engagement Program: Politics and Representation, for the Advancement of the Rights of the LGBTI Community in Albania" was firstly launched the 4thof February 2020, at the premises of Center for Openness and Dialogue of the Prime Minister's office. Arbër Kodra, OMSA Director, and in the group of the oldest LGBTI activist in Albania, is organizing these activities. During the months of August, September and October preparatory meetings were held with Youth Political Forums in Tirana. It is the first one of its kind in Albania with this target group. It came as one of the recommendations of the study on “LGBTI Albanians respond: politics and representation”, prepared by OMSA in 2018.
The perfect timing is that we are prior to the elections that will happen in April 2021. Sensitization trainings have been held with youth forums of Albania's major political parties. In November, trainings were held with FRPD, FRESSH and LRI in the cities of Durres, Shkoder and Korce, with the active participation and engagement of experts in the political life of Albania in order to get more in depth knowledge on LGBTI people and their needs. Party readiness and understanding is an essential step in achieving full equality and inclusion for LGBTI people because parties would need to support LGBTI people within their structures or as future candidates. Together with Arbër is also working the Expert Mrs. Ersida Teliti, who is an associate professor at the Faculty of Law in Tirana, but also with a wide Knowledge in LGBTI Rights. All of this for us is a tremendous change, that has never happened before. And we will continue with the cities in all Albania in order to have a full country coverage.
Despite of the legal progress in Albania on this issue, such as the National Action Plan on LGBTI People in the Republic of Albania, 2016-2020, the Resolution on the rights of the LGBTI People, and the Anti-Discrimination Law adopted by the Albanian Parliament, and other important achievements, we are providing a brief description of the situation with status and rights for LGBTI people in the country. The goal is to start the conversation with the political system in the country around and set the framework for a longer and richer discussion, and how we can work together to help each other to achieve our shared goal: which is to have a country that works for everyone in Albania, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics. We are explaining on how political parties can benefit from a greater diversity within their structures, how supporting equality for LGBTI people does not mean losing votes, also we heard of steps parties are taken to fully represent Albanian diversity and their questions and concerns. Talking on how political parties can benefit from a greater diversity within their structures, how supporting equality for LGBTI people does not mean losing votes, talking of steps that parties are taken to fully represent Albanian diversity and their questions and concerns. There are several measures and recommendations to be taken, from the state and institutions, LGBTI organizations and international organizations.
The LGBTI community in Albania often faces discrimination manifested in different forms. During our work we have tried to address a number of related issues with government officials from respective ministries. Despite their promised assistance, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done concerning the LGBTI community in Albania. At the moment, OMSA is trying to build the necessary capacity and resources to respond to the growing challenges the community faces, be them medical emergencies, cases of school bullying, family violence and political participation. Currently, our main strategy is to advocate for further support from government agencies, health care institutions and schools when faced with LGBTI discrimination.
Why the activity happened:
All of this for us is a tremendous change, that has never happened before. This is the first-ever activities happened in Albania, in order to sensitize and inform the politics about the LGBTI Issues and Political participation of the LGBTI People in Albania. Firstly, we prepared the ground in order to create the possibilities and the safe space for the LGBTI Community to participate politically. The community is still not out. If we don’t prepare the ground then we are nowhere. So, this has to come step by step. The political system in Albania does not have the right information regarding LGBTI terms and the LGBTI in politics, and this lack of information is very apparent. It is very important that we opened this broader dialogue and to encourage political structures to engage in the promotion of LGBTI political participation.
Just as political parties consider how policies impact women, people with disabilities, migrants, youth, etc., they should analyze how any proposal would benefit or affect the LGBTI population. At the same time, through multiple private conversations with several politicians, youth political forums, there is a certain consensus that there is the need to provide to the political system and elected officials with the opportunity to learn more about LGBTI issues, so they can become better allies. And through our activities we did so, and we saw that the only thing they knew was only the LGBT terms, but this also in non-positive perception.
The LGBTI Civic Engagement Program, comes as a direct need of Parties Youth Forums and current party officials to be part of the legislative and executive structures. Lack of information is accompanied by misperception of the situation, underestimation of the vote of the LGBTI community, as well as their lack of involvement in the political programs, or their right to be elected. The lack of official statistical data regarding the full number of members of the LGBTI community affects their underestimation as a potential community, where their vote is valid and has weight. In this context, the right to vote is underestimated, consequently the right to be voted, so the right to be elected is almost incalculable in the discussions of political parties.
In this context, they do not see LGBTI rights as part of political discourse or that such an issue is sensitive, divisive or mobilizing to voters. By this logic, they think that LGBTI voters generally behave politically as their parents or close family members, mainly as a result of the process of political socialization in the family. So, this community has a larger number of votes, their own and of the respective families.
There is a lot to do on the involvement of LGBTI Community in political parties. The non-formal education should be present from low levels to higher levels in a party. We should work together with the leaders in order to raise awareness to all the political community. The changes should come as cross work from youth and elders.
The feedback given from the participants of Durrës, Shkodër and Korçë, give the idea to the organizers to elaborate more these trainings and find out the Cities for the next trainings.
Some of recommendations pointed out are:
- Civil society organisations should organize more trainings.
- More information should be given on the role and impact of LGBTI community in society.
- The education on human rights should start at high schools or even before.
- Political parties should create their vision and attitude towards LGBTI Community, not having an indefinite staying.
- LGBTI Community should be identified.
- Political Parties should have the numbers of LGBTI Community votes, in order to involve them.
- LGBTI Community should have their own party. (Especially recommended for Mr. Kodra and the expert trainer).
- It is still early to work on this issue, as we still have problem on women representation.
- It is still early to work on LGBTI Community political involvement. They recommended to sensitize firstly the community and the society in general, through similar and more trainings like this.
- The politicians should divide their role while giving interviews on LGBTI issues.
Vote for Equality Albania – Vote for Equality website as an advocacy tool.
Vote for Equality as an advocacy tool - The Vote for Equality is a voter education and advocacy tool that analyzes and provides public information on the inclusion of LGBTI issues into the party platforms. The web can be used to monitor the inclusion efforts of the parties. It can also be used to help garner support from progressive voters. Also, it can be used as an accountability measure in order to make sure that the officials stick to any promises they made to the LGBTI community.
Specifically, each party’s and candidate’s stance on LGBTI issues will be displayed in a non-biased manner, so that voters can utilize the information to educate themselves. The analysis will not explicitly endorse any specific candidate.
This action will promote informed voting among the LGBTI population and the general public, and reinforce the commitment of political parties to include the needs of LGBTI people in their programs. It will showcase the LGBTI movement as a cohesive group of informed voters that parties should be strongly considering as a voter base. This will encourage them to be supportive of inclusive policies and to welcome and accept more LGBTI leaders within their structures.