Discussions on sexual and reproductive health issues continue to provoke debate in Albanian society. Lack of information and prejudice on these issues are among the main problems. It results that young people are unprepared for the future because such issues are not discussed within the family, causing a chain of problems, given that information not received from the family will definitely be obtained from another source that may or may not be accurate. Reports show that 85% of teens say they talk “rarely” or “never” with their families about sexual and reproductive health issues.
“Together for Life”, financially supported by the French Embassy, presented on May 31, 2022 the findings of the report “Sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescents in Albania.” The association brought together in a joint roundtable all state and non-state actors that focus their work on young people and addressing issues related to sexual and reproductive rights in Albania. The purpose of the report was to provide updated data and recommendations to improve the access of public institutions and civil society to the sexual and reproductive health activities of young people in the country.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and the Ministry of Health, as well as representatives of international organizations: Council of Europe, UNFPA, UN Women, etc. Representatives of the Swiss Embassy in Albania, who have been supporting the health system in the country for years, were also part of the meeting. In the discussions were involved all the participants: “We have very good curricula”, stated the representatives of the Ministry of Education, while the parents requested that sexual and reproductive health, due to its importance, to be compulsory and not an optional subject in the schools, while demanding that the school be more active to give students the knowledge they need, while complaining that currently the school does not play this role and students come out unprepared in their knowledge of sexual and reproductive health. Representatives of the Ministry of Education stated that it is very important for parents themselves to raise their voices on these issues that are taboo even among teachers themselves. “We have encountered difficulties with teachers who teach sexual and reproductive health subjects. It is necessary to have trainings for them “, said the director of the high school “Partizani” in Tirana, asking the civil society to apply in projects that give teachers the opportunity to increase their capacities.
Present at the meeting, Her Excellency Elisabeth BARSACQ, Ambassador of France in Albania, in her greeting speech highlighted that “it is important for everyone to have full access to quality health services, as well as to be informed, as information is the key to solving many problems, including access to modern methods of contraception without facing discrimination or hardships”. Representatives of health institutions praised the report, calling it valuable and necessary for the current situation. The experts who drafted the report stated that it must be acknowledged that the lack of information does not benefit anyone, neither the parent, nor the child, nor the society. It is necessary for children to be educated and this education to come from reliable sources: family, school, doctor.
Sexual and reproductive health issues continue to be taboo within the Albanian family, but also within society: parents do not talk to their children, teachers have their limitations and of course, most of them have the same psychology as their parents, which means that they have difficult to speak, are prejudiced and unprepared to communicate with students in terms of sexual and reproductive health. Thus, although the school is the main source of information for adolescents, the information obtained is insufficient, causing young people to turn to the Internet, as well as to friends, who in the meantime also have not received information from reliable sources and are in the same situation. Also, in Albania there is a lack of understanding within the Albanian population about sexual harassment and sexual violence (or harassment and violence as a broad term) and also a widespread stigma towards victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence. As a patriarchal society, woman, girl is seen as a weak being who must serve and obey the opposite sex. So many young girls and women are not able to understand when they should feel violated or harassed and what the different forms of violation, harassment or bullying are. Information on these issues will enable young people to have the right information, the right mindset and to be healthy partners and parents of the tomorrow. It should be understood that when talking about sexual and reproductive health issues we are not dealing with personal issues, but with a very important social issue.