Women from disadvantaged communities in Albania are now one click away from legal and psychological counselling
70 women from disadvantaged groups in Albania, including women with disabilities, Roma women and women from LGBTQI+ community, were provided with smartphones and internet packages to report about violence if needed and access services. The Vodafone Albania Foundation in collaboration with Albanian Disability Rights Foundation (ADRF) provided the smartphones, which are equipped with a mobile application to report violence called BrightSky, which was launched last year by Vodafone and available for download nationally in Albania. A key aim of this effort is to boost safety among women with disabilities, Roma and Egyptian women as well as LGBTI persons and to boost their technology literacy. This support was provided under UN Women’s regional programme on ending violence against women in the Western Balkan and Turkey, funded by the European Union.
“The use of online interactive platforms, together with other mobile apps, increase the chances of women from marginalized groups who are survivors of violence, to easily access legal and psychological counselling services,” said Blerta Çani, the Executive Director of the ADRF. This initiative is particularly important during the ongoing pandemic, which has brought with it a noticeable rise in specific indicators associated with violence against women and exacerbated existing tensions and safety issues for many women in Albania. Almost 80 per cent of women UN Women interviewed in 2021 reported that intimate partner violence worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 30 per cent thought physical harm, abuse and harassment had gotten worse.
Participating women will also benefit from training sessions developed by the Government of Albania and Vodafone to show them how to use the BrightSky app and get more technology savvy.
“The mission of technology should be to improve people's lives; to be democratic and accessible to all; to establish communication bridges; to create opportunities and hope. This is where Brightsky comes in – a virtual application that enables women, or members of a marginalized group, to communicate, to have information on their rights, and to know that what is happening to them is not fair or normal,” said Jonida Lakuriqi, the Legal and External Affairs Director at the Vodafone Foundation.
“This is a fantastic partnership that should be seen as the future. It brings together the public sector, private companies and UN Women, who can bring experience and knowledge,” said Hubert Perr, the Head of Cooperation at EU Delegation in Albania.
ADRF, Aleanca LGBT and Roma Women's Rights Center coordinated the dissemination of mobile phones to the participating women These organizations are working in five municipalities: Tirana, Lezha, Korca, Vlora and Fier, to raise awareness among disadvantaged communities to report violence and give better access to available specialized services through increased tech literacy and use of online platforms to report violence.
The 70 participating women were selected in these municipalities in cooperation with field activists as well as the Coordinated Referral Mechanism against Domestic Violence and partner organizations working in the community.
Pranvera Uku, Head of the Social Services Sector at the Municipality of Lezha, said they identified women who had little or no access to information technology. “By giving them mobile phones, with specific applications, we have given a voice and more opportunities to women and girls from these communities to report gender-based and domestic violence, but also a way to reach out and use the services available to them,” says Uku.
Lule Cakaj, an activist from Fier living with a disability works every day with women and young girls with disabilities. She says that “this group is abused by their family and by society at large every minute of the day.”
“The situation for most of them is extremely miserable. They often live without a proper education or access to services, they are unemployed and in economic difficulties, without hope and completely dependent on their family members, who, so far, have turned out to be the most frequent abusers. Having a telephone, which is a means of communication and information, is a luxury for these women and girls. We selected the beneficiaries very carefully, from the poorest to the ones with more issues. I hope they have a chance to speak out even when we are not close to them. I hope they have the courage to step out of their comfort zone and speak out and report abuse,” says Cakaj.
The launching event also aimed at mobilizing local and central government institutions, as well as other stakeholders, to establish comprehensive, accessible, and inclusive services, which respond to the needs of women and girls from disadvantaged groups.