From: Alice Taylor
OMSA Conducts Albania’s Very First LGBTI Equality Training With Youth Political Forums

According to survey results from members of Youth Political Forums, parties are still not ready to welcome LGBTI members in their ranks and they believe they will lose voters if they have LGBTI members.

These were the findings of a survey conducted on the individuals following training with the youth members of political parties by Open Mind Spectrum Albania (OMSA). The first of its kind in the country, the training directed at this target group was designed to provide sensitization and to make them aware of the needs of the LGBTI community in Albania.

Arber Kodra, OMSA Director and one of the leading LGBTI activists in Tirana said: “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.”

Accompanying Kodra in the training is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law in Tirana Ersida Teliti who has a deep understanding of LGBTI rights.

The training took place during November in Durres, Shkoder, and Korce with members of the youth wing of the Socialist Party, Democratic Party, and LSI. Following these sessions, OMSA plans to continue with more of the same events in other cities throughout the country.

WhatsApp Image 2020 12 07 at 10.15.05 AM
Etleva Tare (in the middle), representative from the Regional Office of the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination in the City of Korça.

The initiative, called “Albania LGBTI Civic Engagement Programme: Politics and Representation for the Advancement of the Rights of the LGBTI Community in Albania” was carried out with the cooperation of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the financial support of the National Democratic Institute.

It was first launched on 4 February 2020 at the Centre for Openness and Dialogue at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tirana. The current training is a consequence of the findings of a report: LGBTI Albanians Respond: Politics and Representation.  The current working programme, including the training, stems from the findings and recommendations highlighted by the report.

Other conclusions found that participants were embarrassed to even read the title of the training and agenda, they were quick to prejudge, homophobia was present regardless of education level, and they had zero knowledge of laws and legal frameworks relating to discrimination and rights of LGBTI people. The general attitude towards LGBTI people was “we do not exclude them but we do not include them.”

Despite a number of laws and frameworks in Albania, designed to protect and afford equality to LGBTI people, they lack enforcement. Furthermore, LGBTI individuals are largely not represented in political or authoritative positions.

Kodra said:

“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.”

They hope to encourage political parties to aim for greater diversity within their structures and to explain that supporting equality for LGBTI doesn’t have to mean that votes are lost. Rather, it represents a commitment to support all Albanians.

OMSA said that. despite promised assistance from various ministries, there is still work to be done.

“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.”