Only eight Kosovar women are representing about 50 per cent of the population in the local elections of 2017.
At only three per cent of all mayoral candidates in Kosovo’s upcoming local elections, eight Kosovar women are proposing measures that they promise to implement if they are trusted with the citizens’ votes on October 22.
The Law on Gender Equality foresees that candidate lists should represent both genders equally, and before the elections, the Kosovo Ombudsperson emphasized that the candidate lists should reflect that.
However, once again, the 2017 local elections do not show an improvement in women’s representation.
From the 204 candidates that are running to lead 38 Kosovo municipalities, only eight of them are women. At 3.9 per cent, the number actually shows a decrease from 2009, when women candidates represented 4.3 per cent of candidates, while in 2013, women were also minimally represented at 3.6 per cent.
However, in the local elections of 2013, a woman was also first elected as mayor in the Municipality of Gjakova. Mimoza Kusari-Lila, who is running for her seat once again, was the first woman to become a mayor in all of Kosovo.
The party with the most women candidates in these elections is the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, with three candidates. They were happy to use this fact and even exaggerated, claiming they were the only party who had candidates women for mayors (they are not).
It is worth noting that most of the women candidates are running in municipalities where their parties do not have strongholds or traditions of political victories.
Educated abroad with a background in business, Mimoza Kusari-Lila was one of the first leaders of the Alliance New Kosovo, AKR, and now leads the recently-established party Alternativa.
She is an incumbent, running again for the Gjakova seat against six men. One of her governing priorities for this mandate is employment, although she has been accused by her opponents for having failed to reach the employment figure of 2,000 jobs that she promised in 2013.
During the #DebatPernime mayoral debates, Kusari-Lila said she would focus on preparing new education staff for the demanding labor market.
“In the second four-year mandate, we plan to continue investments and projects that we won in the first mandate. We aim for economic development and sustainable local employment; the municipality plans to have a strong connection between professional education and the private sector. We will turn our focus to the creative industries, which will be subsidized,” Kusari-Lila said.
Arta Ahmeti-Xhylani is a jurist running for the mayor of Drenas as a candidate of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK. It’s going to be a tough race for Ahmeti-Xhylani, who is running against seven candidates, all men, especially because the town is considered a PDK bastion.
Nevertheless, Ahmeti-Xhylani has presented her goals, focusing mainly on education, youth and improving public services for Drenas citizens.
“I promise you good governance, proper administrative staff, and social wellbeing. My priority will definitely be education because it has degraded to the lowest level possible. I will do the impossible to improve conditions in health. I will also prioritize and try to give more support to the youth,” she said.
A woman is also running for mayor in the small and recently established municipality Hani i Elezit. Hyrijete Isufi is running as a candidate of the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and going up against an independent candidate that has been running the municipality since it was established in 2010.
Isufi, a math teacher, has some concrete plans for the municipality: During #DebatPernime, she promised “clean” governance and ridding the municipality of nepotism.
“I will be active to establish a government based on law and the constitutions. We will have a clean government, without nepotism and clientelism. Our program foresees concrete measures in fields such as infrastructure, local economic development, good budget management, health, education,” said Isufi.
Gonxhe Caushi is the PDK candidate for the mayor of North Mitrovica. Running in a predominantly Serb municipality, Caushi is rivaled by three men, two Serbs and an Albanian. Although since its inception the municipality has never been led by an Albanian mayor, Caushi hopes to win and revealed her solutions for specific problems in the municipality.
She is asking for the vote of North Mitrovica residents by promising development in education and emphasizing the integration of communities.
“A priority of mine will be the construction of schools, multiethnic kindergartens, because we have problems of such nature on that side,” Caushi said during a debate on TV Dukagjini.
PDK also has a female candidate in the Municipality of South Mitrovica, where it does have a history of victories.
Valdete Idrizi, a former civil society activist and the winner of the WIFTS 2016 prize for peace, is running against nine men for the South Mitrovica leadership.
The main focus of her governing platform will be women and youth, as well as public transparency about the municipality’s expenditures.
“We will have a Mitrovica of transparency and law, Mitrovica with quality education, with a development of health. Women and youth will be in focus. Citizens will know how public money is being spent and where,” Idrizi said.
She also said that she considers the sustainable economic development a priority. “My program foresees a better economic development and creating new jobs,” she said.
Peja is the only one among the 38 municipalities that has two female mayoral candidates.
Eneida Kelmendi, running for the party Fjala (The Word), is running against five men and one woman.
An economsit by profession, Kelmendi emphasized her solutions for solving economic problems in Peja.
In DebatPernime, Kelmendi said she would lower taxes for Peja residents and invest in advertising tourist opportunities of the municipality.
“I aim to return Peja’s dignity and the pride of citizens, to revive Peja’s economy through simulations and investments from diaspora, and to lower taxes. I will subsidize agriculture. Peja is a touristic center and lacks advertisement,” Kelmendi said.
Another woman running for the mayoral seat in Peja is Sabiha Shala, a candidate of PDK; the previous mayor of the municipality is from LDK.
Shala said that gender equality will be one of the main pillars of the city hall if she gets the mandate.
On #DebatPernime, Shala promised a concrete number of capital projects planned within Peja’s budget.
“We aim to implement 37 capital projects. We want a gender equality government, which the municipality has so far lacked. Among these projects, we want to provide women with competencies, internships for youth,” she said.
Another figure among the less represented communities in these elections is the candidacy of Emilja Redzepi. A Bosnian woman, Redzepi is the mayoral candidate for the seat of Prizren of Nova Demokratska Stranka (the New Democratic Party).
She is going up against eight men. On #DebatPernime, Redzepi expressed her concerns about the rights of the Bosnian community and the services offered by the municipality.
“There is no pre-school system, no kindergartens. I went to a kindergarten 40 years ago, while our [Bosnian] children today have no public kindergarten. This is one of the biggest problems in the city. Our program also foresees the water supply network, and electric power network, the removal of the sewage system from the Bistrica River,” Redzepi said.