Kosovo’s Female Leaders: Alleviating Gender-Based Poverty

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SEATTLE, Washington — On February 2020, Kosovo elected several women to political office, and women now hold prominent positions in government, ranging from economic development to education. With more women in leadership positions, policies focused on improving gender-based poverty are now taking greater importance. Current female leaders have also worked with the U.N. to advance programs that encourage the next generation of girls to engage more in politics and learn technical skills to tackle Kosovo’s issues of gender inequality and poverty. Here are some ways Kosovan female leaders are breaking the gender divide and placing importance on poverty reduction.

Women Elected to Parliament

In February 2020, Kosovo’s elections placed six women in positions of political leadership, an unprecedented win in breaking the gender divide in Kosovo’s political sphere. Vjosa Osmani became the first female Speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo. The other five women were elected to prominent positions in government where they will oversee departments of economic affairs, justice, culture, education and local government. Osmani and other female ministers have voiced the importance of tackling long-term gender and poverty inequalities in these various spheres. With the highest number of Kosovan women in politics today since the country’s liberation, these issues of gender-based poverty will finally gain greater political attention.

Addressing Domestic Violence

One way Kosovo’s female leaders have advanced policies that empower women is through spreading awareness about violence against women. In partnership with U.N. Women, a campaign named Report Violence, Save Lives! was launched in May 2020 to address the rise of domestic violence amid the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders. Several female political leaders spoke about the importance of this issue, including Chairwomen Osmani and Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu.

So far, this campaign has impacted more than 1 million people through social media by providing resources to affected individuals and acknowledging the work that still needs to be done to improve the quality of life for women. Osmani also mentioned that the newly formed government plans to build shelters and offer protection for underprivileged women and children affected by domestic violence.

Addressing Unemployment

Kosovo’s new female ministers also plan to tackle issues surrounding the low rates of employed women. According to the World Bank, in 2018, almost 82% of women in Kosovo were unemployed, one of the worst rates in the European region. Some reasons for the high unemployment rate for Kosovan women include limited access to child care and discrimination in the workplace.

Kosovo’s new government plans to alleviate some of these restrictions, and one example is making maternity leave easier for women. Women who take maternity leave in Kosovo often face discrimination. Kosovo’s female leaders aim to increase the number of labor inspectors from fewer than 10 to 400 to reduce discrimination against pregnant women and provide them with more assistance.

Preparing Girls to Influence Change

Not only have more women entered the political sphere in Kosovo, but they are also working with the U.N. to encourage young women to learn skills that will prepare them for a career in politics. In 2019, female members of Kosovo’s parliament laid out a 2019-2021 Draft Strategy and Action Plan to make headway in breaking gender inequality in politics. The campaign members met with young women in workshop settings to discuss how equality in politics can be achieved. Following these conversations, female leaders then constructed a structural framework that serves as a guide for future women leaders in politics.

U.N. Women has also worked with girls in Kosovo to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship in technology and science, which are often male-dominated. For example, in 2019, the U.N. Women’s office in Kosovo organized the Girls Innovate for Change workshop that taught more than 50 girls valuable skills such as coding and web development. Instructors emphasized how women’s involvement in technology advancements would help Kosovo meet their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With Kosovo’s female leaders in politics, programs like this will take greater importance to break the gender divide and involve girls and women in poverty reduction efforts.

Looking Ahead

In 2020, Kosovo made headway in breaking the gender divide in its political sphere. With the incorporation of influential female leaders, Kosovo is beginning to place importance on issues of gender-based poverty, including unemployment and domestic violence issues that affect women. Kosovo’s female leaders in politics are also working to raise the next generation of young women in politics and providing many with industry skills that allow them to influence change. As Kosovo’s new parliament addresses these issues, there is hope for more progress in addressing Kosovo’s gender-based poverty issues.

—Anita Durairaj
Photo: Flickr

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