“The role of women in representing the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo”

Ndriqim Imeri, Winner of the Essay Competition

When one’s writes on the role and influences that women representing Kosovo people have, it’s impossible to miss the historical perspective. Unfortunately, the historical discrimination of women was and remains one of the biggest and longest crises of humanity, not just in our society but around the world. Although gender equality has finally triumphed in some European countries, such a thing remains far from happening in our country.

The biggest and perhaps the most difficult challenge our society has faced already. While Western countries reached their values ​​through cultural evolution and managed to create conditions for legal norms to be adopted onto social behaviours, the opposite has been imposed in our case. Considering our history, during which Kosovo’s land and society have never been self-governed, the cultural level of our society was quite low. As the effect of such a cultural level, the undoubtedly patriarchal spirit has remained, which prevailed for centuries and still exists as a mentality for a relatively large portion of the Kosovo citizens. To improve this situation, the competent institutions have established the norms of a high democratic level, the role of which extends to the “education” of the citizens as well. Discrimination of Kosovar women in all areas, and especially in politics, and the need for a necessary improvement of such a situation has undoubtedly entered into the process of civic “education”

The Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, as the highest legal and political act of the country, has the principle of gender equality incorporated by special legal provisions, as well as by establishing this principle as one of the basic pillars on which the constitutional spirit is created.[1] The participation of Kosovar women into legislative bodies, both at a central and local level, is specifically regulated by the Law on General Elections which guarantees the participation of 30% of women in the Assembly.[2] The law encourages and ensures at least a minimum number of women in political representation, though what is worrisome is the real role and impact those women can have, in a country that was for a long time misgoverned by men.[3] The gender quota, that guarantees women’s participation in politics, has two dimensions. The first one is its formal or legal dimension, identified as a legal norm, and the second is its material side, which must result in or be the product of the formal dimension.[4] Unfortunately, for us, the results derived from legal norms remain negative. 

We often note that women who represent us are being used as “puppets,” mostly for election campaigns, through which we are being lied about the existence of diversity and gender equality, while subsequently the very same ones that “promote” such “equality” constantly place men within decision-making bodies. In short, Kosovar women in politics and popular representation are just numbers required by the law rather than names that can make the long-awaited change of our society.

The patriarchal mentality of a relatively large portion of society represents another source of superficial character for women’s participation in Kosovo politics. Statistics show that in the elections held following the declaration of independence, the relation between the number of votes women receive compared to men, and their participation (on average) according to the electoral lists is very disproportional. In both central and local elections, the most voted politicians within the respective electoral lists are men. Often, women that win the seats as the people’s representative have fewer votes than many men who fail to win those seats. Unfortunately, this shows the dark side of this issue as well. What can be said is that Kosovo citizens do not believe that Kosovar women cannot make political representation worth mentioning. After 12 years as an independent state, the gender quota remains the only guarantee that women will be included in the representation of the citizens of Kosovo. And the fact that the gender quota remains the only undoubted guarantee is that only one municipality in Kosovo has been governed by a woman, and just for one term, throughout its state history. Furthermore, in addition to such a disadvantaged position of women in the legislature, Kosovar women face systematic discrimination in the executive branch, as well. Almost all of Kosovo’s government cabinets were dominated by men, compared to women, in terms of leading state departments. Kosovar women have the necessary will, desire, education and professionalism to provide their contribution, role and influence for bringing change for the better in a country misgoverned by men. Nevertheless, they face discrimination and categorization, be it from their political colleagues or from Kosovo’s citizens who have not yet found “trust” in them. Hence, for women’s participation and role in politics to be relevant, women politicians need to gain more civic trust.

The civic trust issue, that women enjoy little compared to men, remains a problem that has its roots stretched perhaps in primary education, within the patriarchal spirit which escorted us while growing up, through the education system, etc. All these accounts have influenced the creation of the misperception of Kosovar citizens on the participation of women in politics. Even though these problems are still quite obvious, in recent years we see small sparks that make us hope that women in Kosovar politics will finally gain the place they deserve. Although not as a whole, on an individual scale we’ve seen a small increase in the numbers of votes that women receive in elections during recent years. This increase in votes can serve as the parameter which shows that the Kosovo citizens have slowly begun to trust women as their political representation.

We are all witnessing discrimination of women in Kosovo society in all areas of life, including politics, and we’re convinced that the improvement of this situation should occur. As a start, for the forthcoming triumph of gender equality to occur, women need to ensure civic trust for their higher participation in politics, which would affect the cultural transformation of society as a whole. Gender equality in politics, both in participation and influence, would serve as a clear indicator of gender equality – even in the lowest levels of the state-social hierarchy, both in the public and in the private sector. As the witnesses of minimal improvement of women’s position in politics and representation of  Kosovo citizens, we should sober up, and to encourage and stimulate other actions and processes that would eventually affect the empowerment of women in decision-making and representation. Constitutional amendments, that would increase gender quota, will probably be the right idea for further stimulation of this just started change.

In the states governed by women, there is a high level of social welfare. This is what countries like Germany or Finland are showing to us, and sooner or later women will inevitably govern our country as well. The change has started, although the road ahead will be very long.

Disclaimer: The views and analysis in this report are solely of the author and do not reflect the views of the donors.

The original version of this essay is written in Albanian and translated into English and Serbian. We have attempted to provide an accurate translation of the original essay. However, due to variations for alternative words or phrases to be used in place of the original language, differences may exist.

This activity is part of the Project “Gender Equality in Kosovo: Empowering of Women and Girls – A call for Change” funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) – an initiative of the Government of Canada.

[1] Kosovo’s Constitution https://gzk.rks-gov.net/ActDetail.aspx?ActID=3702
[2] Law NR. 03/L-073 for General Elections https://gzk.rks-gov.net/ActDetail.aspx?ActID=2544
[3] Balkans Policy Research group, Women in Politics: Gender (In)Equality in politics and decision-makinghttps://balkansgroup.org/en/women-in-politics-gender-inequality-in-politics-and-decision-making-4/
[4] Ibid, 7

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