Children’s rights in Albania has always been a sensitive topic, and yet not tackled as much as needed. The situation of children's rights in Albania, as a country facing severe economic challenges, is considered really weak and insufficient. Many children face a series of risks and rights violations, which negatively affect their well-being and that of their families. Poverty is a growing phenomenon especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, ethnic discrimination is reported to be quite common, child trafficking is another major concern, school dropout and the phenomenon of children outside the education system are quite visible.
While we need a moment to catch up with all the struggles that children face in Albania, we are amazed to see that every time we put children at the center, hear their needs and make an effort to improve their conditions, a step forward for all children's rights is done.
When the project “Promoting human rights through inclusive education and empowering civil society organizations” started, it wasn’t actually a start for AVSI and its partner SHIS who have been working for several years now on human rights, education and inclusiveness of children in Albania. It was the perfect project to continue this work in more remote areas, such as northern Albania regions thanks to the European Union funds.
Throughout the whole project implementation there were so many fact and elements noticed on children, youth, parents, teachers and communities. Through activities, such as trainings for teachers, we understood that they need to be trained, they request trainings as a way to help their students. They have the will and the desire to get better on their job, even if they have been working for more than 20 years in this profession. Even if their class doesn’t have much students, they still are eager to learn new techniques, apply them, and feel updated.
This project provided a great opportunity to meet parents, to raise awareness on children rights and to underline how important it is to be engaged in an unbreakable partnership ‘parent-teacher-student’. All parents were not only engaged, but they figured out that education for their kids is the most important thing to thrive. It is surprising to see parents and children so ambitious, so hardworking and eager to better themselves in areas where it is difficult to even make a phone call due to lack of service.
SHIS conducted a study to evaluate the situation of human rights in the rural areas of the districts of Puka, Malësi e Madhe and Shkodra, in the North of the country where the project was implemented. The study showed lack of infrastructure, lack of trainings for teachers, lack of inclusive entertaining activities for children, no information for parents, yet so positivity and desire to get better.
Even in so many difficulties, children love going to school, parents believe that education would bring a better future for their children, and teachers believe that education is what actually marks the beginning of a successful path for children, which is why they take responsibility of their job with students.
Even in these remote areas, the municipalities were so collaborative making it easier to draft a Local Development Plan together and to implement it. Civil Society Organizations were also actively engaged in implementing projects that focused on children’s rights and their protection. This project was expanded in different areas and with different targets: children, parents, teachers, community, schools, civil society organizations, municipalities. This is why this project conveys so many positive and noticeable results:
- 3,500 children benefited from the intervention through activities both educational and recreational.
- 75 teachers and principals were trained on new methods to implement the approach of ‘school as a community center’.
- 280 parents were informed and involved in raising-awareness campaigns on children's rights
- 25 staff members of Civil Society Organizations were trained to build capacities in project design and management.
It is not easy to sum up all the lessons learned and all the achievements of a project that lasted approximately three years. However, on February 11th we brought down the curtains in a conference, that due to the COVID-19 emergency, was held partially online, and only a small group of people were present in a conference room.
"The human rights issue - said Anna Difonzo, AVSI desk officer for Albania - is a matter of responsibility rather than a matter of law. The responsibility of adults towards the children. Thanks to the European Union trust on AVSI, SHIS, Women in Development Shkodër and all partners, we experienced an excellent chance for the empowerment and activation of this common responsibility".
During this conference, it was nice to hear motivating words from Mrs. Xheni Sinakoli, representative of the European Union Delegation in Albania. Taking in consideration all the challenges this year brought, European Union has been a big help and will continue to help Albania. Mrs. Sinakoli mentioned the satisfaction of seeing such productive and positive results coming out of this project.
Mrs. Anila Ferizaj, a representative of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth congratulated for the work done, emphasizing specifically the professionality and willingness to work for inclusiveness, in line with the expectations of the ministry as well.
Mr. Alma Tandilli, as a representative of the State Agency for the Protection of Children's Rights was impressed by the positive impact this project had on the areas it was implemented, and was hopeful that human rights and children rights will be of paramount importance in other projects, just as it was for this one.
This project has improved the situation in schools, in families and has brought to our attention that together, step by step, we can achieve great things as a society
Furthermore, the president of SHIS Mr. Eni Rika brought to our attention the 22 years of experience of this association and its main focus on promoting human dignity above everything else. As the project comes to an end, the motivation to continue working on human rights, on most remote areas and to improve society in Albania will not cease.