Filed under: Gender equality Governance Human rights and rule of law

In a big grass field full of young people, a girl puts her hands up to catch a football ball

Despite good progress, gender equality is still not fully achieved in Kosovo

Good news for human rights in Kosovo, in particular for gender equality.

In September, the Assembly of Kosovo approved a report on monitoring the Law on Gender Equality. The Report was unanimously supported by all parliamentary groups (receiving 89 votes pro, and no votes against or abstentions).

Gender equality, in terms of employment opportunities and decision-making, was measured across central and local institutions, a process which involved the public university, civil society, public enterprise boards, political parties and the media.

The report contains a set of ten recommendations, while a few of them are technical the more substantial ones include:

  • Including a gender perspective in all policies, projects and programmes, at all levels of governance
  • Involving gender affairs as part of municipal decision making, as well as in the drafting and implementation of development policies
  • Cooperating at a higher level on gender policies – between the Agency for Gender Equality and local governments
  • Increasing involvement of gender affairs officers in selection committees and panels in the course of staff recruitment procedures to ensure gender equality
  • Specifying regular budgetary lines for gender policies, and supervising their implementation at both local and central levels
  • Including gender equality sensitivity indicators in sector strategies in order to achieve gender equality in both employment and decision-making, at central and local levels

The findings and recommendations are timely – the Agency for Gender Equality (AGE) is finalizing the redrafting of the existing law. Including the recommendations in the new law will mean that the legislative and the executive branches of the government will be required to do more than simply pay lip service to gender equality.

Gender responsive budgeting will force the central and municipal government to ensure men and women benefit equally from public finances, whether it is grants, agricultural or small business development funds, from capital investments in public infrastructure, or social services.

Most of the legislation in Kosovo is progressive and of good quality, however, its implementation is another story.

The same is true with the law on gender equality. Technically, the current law on gender equality is being implemented but the level of implementation is far from satisfactory.

Official stats:

  • The unemployment rate for women at 55.5 percent (it’s 40.5 percent for men)
  • 49.4 percent of women work in the public sector
  • 33.3 percent of Kosovo’s Assembly are women (thanks to a required quota)
  • 8.3 percent of households are headed by a woman.
  • More worrying, only 27.3 percent of women have graduated from higher secondary education (the rate for men is 60.6 percent).
An english teacher i nher classroom

English teacher in Kosovo

This is the first time that the implementation of the law has been monitored since it came into effect in 2004.

In transitional countries the concept of gender equality may seem irrelevant, however, with this attitude, half of Kosovo’s population ends up marginalized from all major aspects of life. Research by the Kosovar Centre for Gender Studies (published on 18 October) states that 53 percent of women still have not decided who they will vote for.

Men hold the vast majority of leadership positions, both in the government and industry. This means that women’s voices are not heard equally, if at all, in the decisions that affect our lives. In 38 municipalities, there are over 320 directorates, however, only 20 women hold the post of a director.

Until the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry resigned to pursue municipal elections, Kosovo had five women in top government positions. Out of 22 central government institutions (line ministries), including the Assembly and the Presidency, there are now four.

Personally, I have only come across four women who are running for upcoming mayoral elections in November. There might be even ten or fifteen, however – Kosovo elections will be held in 38 municipalities.

A strong legal and institutional framework, which includes the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women in the Constitution, the Kosovo Program for Gender Equality, the anti-discrimination law, the domestic violence law, and the labour law, amongst others, are no guarantee that women are treated as equals and that equal opportunities are presented to them.

For example the Law on Inheritance regulates, without discrimination, the right to inheritance by women. Although equal before the law, many women in Kosovo still do not inherit property, and transfer it to a male relative, usually a brother. The transfer does not always happen willingly, it is simply something that it is expected of women.

There needs to be a mental shift in how we, women, perceive ourselves, before we can expect men to change their perception about us.

We are homemakers, breadwinners, guardians and educators of future generations.

We’re not wonder women, and don’t want to be. We do, however, want our rightful place. We’ve earned it.

Do you know about any campaigns that helped with a more cultural shift, that in turn led to better respect for the spirit of the law?