Ambassador Florian Raunig:
"A substantial representation of women in decision-making is essential for any country that wants to reach its full potential. Albania has made remarkable progress particularly by increasing the number of women in government to 30 per cent. However, there are still challenges ahead as women make up only about 12 per cent of local councilors and only one per cent of mayors are women. The recently-approved amendments to the Electoral Code, which not only bring the Code in compliance with the new territorial division, but also strengthen the gender quota provisions, are fundamentally important and an important milestone to ensuring women's increased participation in Albanian political and public life. The amendments set a 50% gender quota for each party list of local councillors - one in every two consecutive names should belong to each gender. If the list fails to meet this requirement, it will be rejected. This initiative of the Alliance of Women Members of Parliament is very laudable. The broad cross-party support evidenced in the Assembly is hopefully an indication that the Albanian political class is serious about dealing with the issue of gender equality in politics. In the run-up to the 2015 local elections, the Presence has intensified efforts to promote gender equality and empower women to fully participate in public and political life. The Presence is building women's capacity to stand as candidates in the elections and encouraging the full implementation of the gender quota in the Electoral Code - both in letter and spirit. We need to go beyond capacity-building, however, and change the mentality that women cannot be good politicians. There are a number of examples of strong, successful women politicians in Albania contained in the publication we are launching today, which should inspire and encourage other women to stand as candidates, and voters to give them their trust. The book contains interviews with nine women from across the political spectrum who have made a career in Albanian public and political life either at the national or local level. Most have been actively involved in various Presence activities aimed at promoting women's engagement in politics. These are women like Etleva Tare, a civil society activist of Egyptian origin, Nirvana Lekaj, a municipal councillor in Shkodra and Majlinda Bufi, a member of the Albanian Assembly, who will share some of their thoughts with us today. Each of the women interviewed in the book is an agent of change, not only increasing participation of women in politics in Albania, but actively working for the good of their communities. Some of them became involved in politics while working closely with the National Platform for Women, a network established in 2010 as part of the OSCE Presence's "Women in Governance" project. All of them have faced challenges and obstacles in attempting to enter the world of politics, as well as during in their political careers. With the challenges have come remarkable successes, however, thanks to their dedication, perseverance, and in many cases timely support from others. Their experiences will hopefully encourage other women to see that they can make a valuable contribution to improving life in Albania; to trust in their abilities; and to stand as candidates in the upcoming elections."