“Do women speak with a different voice in Kosovo’s politics?”

Loresa Statovci, Winner of the Essay Competition

Imagine living in a country in Southeastern Europe, with an estimated population of 1.8 million people. This is a developing, post-conflict country with youth composing the majority of population (53% of the population being under 25 years old). You want to be a policymaker, as such, you completed your Master Studies in Political Science. After throwing your graduation cap, you started working as a waiter to get additional income for you and your family, and you consider this to be completely fine; after all there was no scripture guaranteeing that you would get a job in policy making immediately after graduation.

After coming back from work, you turn on your TV and you see your friend from high school who is now Political Advisor to the Prime-Minister and you think to yourself, isn’t he completing his Bachelor studies in Food Engineering?

Suddenly, your friend; who has dual citizenship, calls and in very enthusiastic terms notifies you that he found two tickets to go to Paris, to visit the place that marked the beginning of European Union which happens to be your main field of interest, and all that with the price of a sweatshirt. You complement his energy. You are so thrilled that finally something is going your way, until a thought knocks your head- you have no visa to travel to Europe.

Now, imagine all this scenario but in the shoes of a woman.

The controversy in Kosovo politics lays in the fact that in one hand the term ‘social inclusiveness’ constitutes an immense part of political discourse, while ironically on the other hand, social injustice together with the marginalization of women go hand in hand in every sphere.

The participation of women in policy-making in Kosovo is granted by Law Nr. 05/L-020 on Gender Equality. This law suggests that ‘equal gender representation in all legislative, executive and judicial branches as well as other public institutions is achieved when minimal representation (50%) is guaranteed for both genders, including their governing and decision making bodies’[1]. A synopsis of how the law works in practice can be extracted from a study, completed in 2015 by Kosovo Gender Studies Center, according to which, 28% of employees working in the municipalities of Kosovo were women at the time. Only 5.2% of governing positions in the Government were led by women, whereas in the Parliament, women chaired only 19 out of 52 leading positions. [2]

Absence of women in the decision-making positions can be a result of the persistence of gender roles, as a result of which, the role of a ‘politician’ is assigned to men and men only. Stereotypes revolve around the idea that men are born better leaders than women. The concept ‘sharing is caring’ is not common in Kosovar households. Childcare and housework are regularly assigned to women, which cooperatively with the short maternity leave, creates obstacles for the promotion of women in decision making positions.

It can be argued that the political system in Kosovo is based in meritocracy, therefore it is construed that people who acquire public votes and reach affirmation from the majority are those who “colonize” leading positions. That would be a rightful claim if we would be talking of a fair electoral campaign in which women have equivalent opportunities with men to present the program of the party, their governing strategies and/or leading capabilities. Nevertheless, the opposite is proved when in 2017, 810speakers who spoke in electoral public gatherings in Kosovo, were men (89%) and 217 (21%) were women, whereas only 10% of the audience in these meetings were women.[3] This fact demonstrates ‘the path to discrimination’ of women, which has its roots in the internal structures of the political party and that never fails to transmit to state level decision making bodies.

One of the strategies that political parties in Kosovo commonly use in order to multiply their supporters, is that they try to generate an undisputed public opinion belief that the specific political party is working according to the European values. Considering this fact, it is not so surprising that political parties are willing to apply law Nr. 03/L-073, suggesting that 30% of the members of a political party ought to be women. The pitfall here is that the position of women inside of the political parties is not regulated nor is intra-party democracy[4]. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the role of women in political parties will be substantial and not simply formal.

This brings us once more to the controversial debate that exists with regards to quotas; a specific number or percentage of seats that belong to the underrepresented groups.[5]

According to Viviane Rering, a former European Commissioner, you do not need to like quotas, all you need to do is observe the results that they bring. Nevertheless, there are others who believe that quotas are discriminatory itself, since they influence voters’ judgement as well as avert the parties to elect their best representatives.[6] Both sides agree that the real problem lays in the millennial patriarchy that serves as a disincentive to women aspiration of joining politics, nevertheless, they disagree whether quotas are the mean that the political community should use to tackle this problem.

Another concerning fact is low participation of women in the dialogue and mediation processes. If you check the news, the number of women who are very active in the peace building process is encouraging. Then again, when it comes to the involvement of women in the mediation and dialogue processes, that activism that used to be inspiring turns into being almost invisible. Kosovo can pretend that is good in these terms only if Bosnia is its benchmark. One can argue this, if taking into account the fact that there were no women in the Dayton negotiation tables in 1995 but there was a woman in the Rambouillet discussions in the same year.[7] The fact that former-Chief of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia was a woman initially was thought as the completion of a milestone towards women integration in peacebuilding.

Consequently, activists for women rights are not involved in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, although there were numerous requests from CSOs made in that direction.[8] The Kosovo-Serbia dialogue delegation was formed in 2018. No woman was part of that delegation[9]. This imprudent decision of Kosovo’s government conveys the message that peace can be built, even if views of half of the population are excluded from the negotiation table.

The progress of women’s representation and participation should be systematic and permanent. Kosovo’s political history has shown that the same women who achieved to become members of the parliament via quotas, overcame their competition and got elected by the public vote later in their political career. This shows that if advancement of women is the goal of both the society and institutions, quotas become irrelevant and needless. The only safe period to remove quotas is when they become unnecessary and in order to achieve that, there is a prerequisite that suggests irreversible advancement of women in politics.

Equal participation of women in politics is a pivotal step to the consolidation of democracy. Women’s participation in decision making ought to start from the family, to continue inside the political party and proceed to the highest decision making levels of the state.

Equal representation in decision making is not simply a goal but is the only way to be responsive to all citizens’ needs. It is an illusion to believe that one can address needs of every citizen and still have half of the population not adequately represented.

Some of the advantages of women inclusion in decision-making are their responsiveness to diverse communities and their needs, advancement of the peacebuilding process , prosperity of key development factors (health and education), and attention dedicated to the underrepresented groups (other women and minorities). [10]

To conclude, women should participate in politics because there is no effective democracy without their partaking. As women compose half of the world’s population, institutions cannot be fully legitimate if they do not include all groups that comprise the society and it is delusional to assume that there is democracy without institutional legitimacy. The word democracy itself means ‘the rule of people’ but it is impossible for people to rule if half of them are not even claimed. Men can also be feminists and in many cases they advocate for equal rights, however, women legislate in a different way that highlights the importance of women and minorities empowerment.

Women have been marginalized for a long time, due to this they tend to bring issues that concern under-represented communities at the table of discussion, solve them and foster equity. The latter is key to prosperity and as such, more effort is required in terms of assuring that women are not speaking with a different, more inferior voice, in Kosovo’s politics.

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

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] https://gzk.rks-gov.net/ActDocumentDetail.aspx?ActID=10923
[2] http://www.kgscenter.net/site/assets/files/1458/3__pjesemarrja_e_grave_ne_vendimmarrje_ne_kosove.pdf
[3] https://telegrafi.com/dnv-shqetesuese-perfshirja-e-femijeve-ne-fushate-zgjedhore/
[4] http://www.cpc-ks.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/AdemBeha_MesStabilitetitDemokratizimit.pdf
[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/opinion/germany-wants-more-women-in-politics-but-quotas-are-a-bad-idea.html
[7] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271857009_Women_Political_Decision-Making_and_Peace-Building
[8] https://womensnetwork.org/sq/grate-aktiviste-nga-kosova-dhe-serbia-diskutojne-per-perfshirjen-e-grave-ne-dialogun-kosove-serbi/
[9] https://kallxo.com/gjate/analize/per-kosoven-bisedimet-me-serbine-jane-pune-e-burrave/
[10] https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/why-we-need-more-women-in-politics

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