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Time for Establishing Woman of the Balkans for New Politics

Sonja Licht opened this session touching upon experience from last year’s panel, where women politicians and activists from Kosovo participated in discussion with their counterparts from Serbia, demonstrating the alternative to the antagonistic political narrative and surpassing the complex political situation present at that time. Building from cornerstones of solidarity, and with the need for realization of women’s role in peace-building and stability of the WB region becoming apparent, Licht concluded that this is the right time for establishing Woman of the Balkans for New Politics Initiative. She reminded that there are certain limits and barriers, and pointed out that the Initiative such as this one needs to be realistic. Therefore, the main idea is to gather women of different profiles, women from civil societies, nongovernmental sector and different organizations around a flexible network that will be able to achieve great synergy and create new ideas for region development, but also to address a real-life issues and common topics of citizens in all WB societies on tangible level – employability of young women being one of them.

Panelists, are all members of Women of the Balkans for the New Politics Initiative, went on to give their inputs on the circumstances and reasons for establishing such movement, and to address some of the basic ideas behind it.

A Member of Parliament and former Prime minister of Republic of Slovenia, Alenka Bratušek, clamed we can’t passively accept current condition – instead, we should ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to make world a better place, or if we can do more than that. Present is crucial time for Bratušek, as she argues that EU is primarily a project of peace, in which women should play important role. Peace is not self-evident, yet it is important for each one of us. Therefore, we should secure it by implementing the rule of law and fighting for maintenance of common good and environment, regardless of ideologies and external pressure. She emphasized that men should also be included in gender equality dialogue. Politics is still predominantly male arena, but as she stressed only women can break down prejudice, and only through our own engagement. She also referenced to the saying that three corners of the house are supported by the woman, and concluded that the future is female.

Edit Harxhi, Executive Director of Albanian center for public policies, posed one of the crucial questions, what women need to do today in order to answer the global demands. She claimed that this initiative may provide us with one part of the answer, because it is an idea that moves the very roots of the society. Today we have democratically elected leaders, she continued, but those are mainly male leaders, and it’s good we also have examples of women political leaders, like here in Serbia, referencing to the current Prime Minister of Serbia. Harxhi went on to explain the goals behind the initiative, namely, the desire to accomplish new broader approach which will help us confront and overcome current democracy deformations, as well as goals of larger participation of women in politics and decision making processes, Furthermore, she pointed out the common cultural and contextual bonds, as well as shared lack of democracy – common issues that all of WB societies can build upon. Picking up on Bratušek’s final remark, Edit added that the women, in addition to being the future, are also the past and the present.

Sanda Rašković Ivić, Member of Parliament in Serbia, reviewed concrete condition of women’s position in Serbia. Acknowledging that many action plans, projects, strategies, regulations and the adopted Law on gender equality represent a significant step, she also stressed out that women don’t feel actual change, which is crucial. As main reasons for such occurrence, she identifies inadequate atmosphere in the society, lack of implementation of abovementioned documents, and discouragement of women for participating in higher politics on a more significant level. Women are not satisfied because they aren’t chosen for important positions, and even if they are, they are expected to be obedient and under control. As women, we don’t want to be rulers or oppressors, but partners with men, Rašković Ivić went on. That is why the women in politics need the support of civil society, and also because this struggle is not continuous and ongoing, it is a goal that needs to be conquered over and over again.

Nada Drobnjak, Member of Parliament and Chairwomen of Committee for gender equality in the National Assembly of Montenegro, illustrated the condition in Montenegro pointing to a saying that Montenegrin woman is always capable to talk her husband into ordering her to do what she desires. Even though there are many sayings for women encouragement, the real power is still in men’s hands. Drobnjak made an argument for this claim posing further questions, such as: can any country of our region can praise herself with the fact of having 40% of women in parliament? Or: the women did a lot for their countries in transition period, but what did their countries do for them? Dorbnjak stressed the importance of putting the common issues and problems out in the open and engaging in a debate, thus casting light over them. If we learn from each other and share our achievements and good practices, we will form a sound basis for achieving needed progress, she believes.

The last speaker of this session, Vildana Džekman, the activist of Women net in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressed out the complexity of current situation in B&H. As a woman activist, she made attempts to advocate and debate with top level policy makers in order to create changes. Soon enough she became unsatisfied, as true power distribution became apparent – in B&H women didn’t participate in constitutional reforms on any substantial level. Women were filling the roles of translators, and administrative workers, but not as decision makers or consultants. Situation in some cantons (regions) is such that there is not even a single woman in the executive branch of government. Džekman posed an important question of inclusion – how we can create new policies if we can’t hear the voice of marginalized groups, she wonders. Women should be encouraged and mobilized to discuss about economic reforms, security issues and other questions considered as high politics, which are usually reserved for just men.