Women’s Emancipation in Socialist Albania


From:  New Albania:  A Small Country.  A Great Contribution. (1980)

Originally published by the USA – Albania Friendship Association.

The emancipation and advancement of women are glorious achievements of Socialist Albania.

Before liberation, the suppression of women was brutal, despite the fact that in the national folklore of Albania the woman was often treated as a dignified figure, represented in lovely colors and with special tenderness, particularly as a mother. In reality, the woman was divested of every economic right. She could not have a say in family gatherings, nor could she have a voice in the marriage of her sons and daughters. When a young bride, she did not have the right to call her husband by his first name, but had to speak of him as “he”. In some areas, women, no matter how young, were addressed as “old women” by their husbands. When travelling, the husband would ride while his wife had to follow behind him on foot. The “lashrope”, from the bride’s dowry that parents had to give their daughters, would be carried along by them when fetching water, going to the mountains for firewood, laboring in the fields or taking wheat to the mill. lt was a symbol of medieval backwardness and feudal cruelty toward women.

Women were assigned separate places apart from the men, both in the church and in the mosque. Even at home they had their separate place in the waiting room where, from latticed windows, they were permitted to watch their husbands celebrating at weddings or other family celebrations. Even on mourning days men and women did not come together.

Muslim women had their heads covered with a kerchief and, in the towns, they wrapped themselves in veils or black cloaks. In the towns Christian women also veiled their faces.

In some regions whenever a woman was spoken ill of, after having her hair cut off, she would then be mounted backward on an ass and paraded through the streets. An old canon said, “The husband is entitled to beat his wife, to bind her in chains when she defies his word and order.”

Young women not only had nothing to say about their marriages but they were often sold, even when infants, for future betrothals. Women had a personal name, but after they were married, they were referred to as so-and-so’s wife, so that their names fell into disuse.

And since descent in the female line did not count, their names were not considered worth remembering.

lt was against this background of centuries-old tradition, based on the unwritten laws of the canons, that the Communist Party issued the call to women to join the partisan forces of the national liberation war to drive out the fascist invaders. Albanian women had on occasions over the years fought alongside their men for freedom from national oppression, but the mass response to the Party’s call was epoch-making.

The fascists and traitors to the country left nothing undone to estrange women from the Party, the National Liberation Front and the partisan army. Women were persecuted, imprisoned, deported, tortured and even hanged. But nothing shook them. They stood united in revolutionary combat around the Communist Party of Albania. They saw in the program of the CPA, at long last, the path for their own liberation.

Women joined the Communist Party, where they were assigned to posts of responsibility in the partisan detachments. They were commanders and commissars, and secretaries of Party cells. Of the partisan army of 70,000, – 6,000 were women. Today too, they are cadres in the armed forces.

Thus, they played a leading role in their emancipation. After liberation, the strength, bravery, maturity and patriotism of the Albanian women burst out with unexampled, ever-increasing vigor. The Party had set up women’s councils everywhere, and the Anti-Fascist Women’s Union was set up in 1944. The magazine, “Albanian Woman”, became a powerful force in the mobilization of women. Today, the Women’s Union of Albania is a strong organization, having 600,000 members.

It plays an important role in the political, economic and social life of the country. lt held its 9th Congress in 1982 and delegations from various women’s organizations from 17 countries were present.

What was the path the Communists set out for the women? They said that there were two basic preconditions for the emancipation of women:

The first was that she must be freed from wage slavery. As with all working people, without this, women would still face class oppression and all the ills of capitalism: insecurity, unemployment, inflation, imperialist wars, household bondage, lack of public care for her children, etc. The people’s revolution in Albania has long since abolished wage slavery, so this first condition has been fully met.

The second pre-condition was that women engage in productive social Labor. This provides the economic and social basis for equality, allowing women to be independent and equal participants in the struggle for socialist construction. This condition has also been fully met.

Women have, for several years now, comprised 46% of the work force. This latter condition had to be organized.

At the time of liberation women were not prepared for industrial work, aside from some training in handicrafts.

They had to have their self-confidence built up after centuries of being considered mainly chattel. They were 90% illiterate. Today they are active in every field of industry and agriculture that is not injurious to their health. Half of all students are women and girls, and they are being educated in all the various fields of learning, including higher education.

The main ongoing tasks for the complete emancipation of women are to continually raise the participation of women on an equal basis with men in social productive labor and in the whole political and social life of the country, to deliver women from the drudgery of household chores, and to strengthen and promote relations of democracy and equality in the family.

Housework will not be completely eliminated for individuals until it is completely socialized, which requires a higher level of industrialization than Albania has attained at this time. But an educational campaign is being waged for the sharing of household tasks by the entire family. lt is even written into law. The Code of the Family, enacted in June, 1982, calls for the equal rights and duties of family members and requires that “spouses assist each other in the fulfillment of all family and social tasks.” Increasing numbers of bakeries, laundries, and dining halls are being built. Electricity is available over the entire country and more household appliances are steadily being supplied. Considerable funds have been laid out by the state for women to be able to attend schools, courses, to take part in various political and cultural-artistic activities, or to lighten the burden of child rearing and household work by setting up social institutions and extending the service network to the remotest village. Albanian mothers have free health care, generous maternity leave, birth clinics and nurseries and kindergartens for children, including child care centers at most work places.

Both education and legal action are used to overcome backward attitudes toward women, fitted to suit the time, place and concrete conditions of every region. Hangovers from the past have been more pronounced in the more remote mountainous areas. Persuasion and education are given priority over legal action.

In 1967, a plenum of the Central Committee of the PLA was held on just two questions, one of which was “On the Further Deepening of the Struggle for the Complete Emancipation of Women.” In that same year, Enver Hoxha said in a speech,

“The Party and the whole country should rise to their feet, burn the backward canons and crush anyone who would dare trample on the sacred law of the Party on the protection of the rights of women and young girls.”

After that speech, many infant betrothals were dissolved voluntarily by the parents. Now it is written into law that no marriages can take place without the consent of the two parties involved, and penal action is taken against violation of this law.

A further example of the educational work done is that Enver Hoxha has recommended that family income be handled by wives. He said,

“Having money in her keep, the wife will not only manage it better, but she will also have equal voice in the discussions with her husband.”

The new Constitution of Albania adopted in December, 1976, states:

“Equal pay is guaranteed for equal work.”

“No restriction or privilege is recognized on the

rights and duties of citizens on account of sex.”

“The woman enjoys equal rights with man in work, pay, holiday, social security, education, in all social and political activity, as well as in the family.”

Under the conditions in Albania, the participation of women in the entire life of the country has become an objective necessity. The efforts, the physical and mental energies of women, too, are necessary to promote the increasing revolution, to strengthen the people’s state power and further democratize it through the line of the masses. The efforts of women are necessary too, for the strengthening and defense of the homeland against any enemy through the training of the entire population.

Comrade Enver Hoxha has raised before the whole society that “the Party and the working dass should measure the advance toward the complete construction of socialist society with the deepening and progress of the women’s revolution within our (i.e. Albania’s) proletarian revolution. If the women lag behind, then the revolution marks time.”

But the tremendous advances made by women in Albania are attested to by their ever-increasing role in the entire life of the country. Today women comprise 30% of the membership of the Party of Labor of Albania. They make up 30% of the deputies to the People’s Assembly, the highest government body in the Land. They are 41 % of the People’s Councils at all levels, 30% of the Higher Court, and some 44% of the Leaders of the organizations of the masses. Certainly, in no other country in modern history have women attained such a high degree of participation in the social and political life of the nation.

Categories: Albania, History, Women and LGBTQIA+

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