Kosovo women lambast exclusion from men-only dialogue

Twenty years after a key UN resolution called for women to take up keep roles in peace building processes, women remain shut out of Kosovo’s all-male team handling the dialogue with Serbia.

Marking the 20th anniversary of UN 1325 resolution, which calls for the participation of women in decision-making in peacebuilding processes, Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Kosovo, said that women worldwide were still being excluded from negotiating processes. 

“If we are to achieve just, inclusive and peaceful societies, women’s priorities must be at the heart of peace and negotiation processes,” Tanin said.

However, women remain largely excluded from the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and the country that Tanin reports on to the United Nations. 

In recent years, the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has been dominated by men in terms of its representation, and Kosovo’s current negotiating team is entirely composed of men. 

The Kosovo Women Network, KWN, has criticised the local authorities on this, and has also complained to the European Union about the absence of women in key negotiating processes.

Majlinda Behrami, a researcher at KWN, called the lack of women’s representation in the dialogue with Serbia unacceptable, claiming that UN 1325 resolution had been sidelined in the case of Kosovo.

“Women are considered the most affected group from the conflict [with Serbia in the 1990s],” Behrami told Prishtina Insight, arguing that women must as a result be part of the roundtables when issues that aim for peace are discussed.

Vlora Nushi, head of UN Women in Kosovo, told Prishtina Insight that Kosovo’s institutions should aim for gender equality in the key positions in the Brussels-led dialogue, in both the key and technical teams.

“Kosovo institutions should redouble efforts to uphold their responsibility to implement obligations deriving from resolution 1325 as well as the Law on Gender Equality, as women have been underrepresented in the senior political positions but also in the Brussels Dialogue, including as technical experts as well as in public consultations regarding the content of the negotiations and the dialogue,” Nushi said.

Women have not always been absent from the negotiations, however. At the beginning of the dialogue, from 2011 to 2017, Edita Tahiri was the country’s chief negotiator in the dialogue.

Prishtina Insight asked Tahiri to comment on the importance of women participating in the dialogue now, but she did not respond by the time of publication.

“What has been missing among women in [Kosovo] politics is the sense of solidarity between each other,” Behrami said. “Women in politics must unite and become a strong voice in order to make changes in an environment that men have historically [run], and address women’s demands.”

The absence of women from the dialogue was brought home in 2018, when the Kosovo Assembly selected an all-male 11-member negotiating team. 

In June 2020, the Agency for Gender Equality that operates within the Kosovo government approved a Program for Gender Equality 2020-2024, which foresaw an increased role for women in the dialogue.

The following month, however, the government appointed Skender Hyseni as a Coordinator on the dialogue, and all his assistants were men as well.

KWN’s Behrami says that it is important that, besides including women in leading positions in the dialogue, the government also includes women in the technical roles, as there are enough competent women to assume such roles.

“There have been many incompetent men who took up positions [in the dialogue] like people who lead municipalities, and these have been ridiculous actions on the part of the government,” Behrami said.

Prishtina Insight asked the government about the non-inclusion of women in the dialogue, and how it was ensuring it is accomplishing the obligations it signed in June, but received no answer by the time of publication.

The European Union has pointed out the underrepresentation of women in peace processes worldwide. However, when contacted by Prishtina Insight about whether the EU had demanded the inclusion of more women in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue it received no answer by the time of publication.

Deeply rooted problem in a patriarchal society 

The head of UN Women in Kosovo said women could not be excluded from the process owing to the important historical role they had played in the past conflict.

“Women in Kosovo are not passive bystanders or only victims or targets,” Nushi said. “They have historically and continue to have a role as active agents in peacebuilding, policy making and recovery processes,” Nushi said.

Behrami agreed, but said that the role of women in Kosovo’s history had been routinely downplayed. 

“The history of women and girls is not recognised [in Kosovo]. The lack of recognition and the denial of their contribution has fed the idea that women have done nothing in the past … The patriarchal shield is very strong,” Behrami said.

“The government must have the inclusion of women [in focus], be it in representation or in the content of the dialogue,” she added.

“More than 20 years after the war we continue to repeat the same demands,” she continued, lamenting “a failure to address the demands of women who were the most affected front in the war”.

10/11/2020 - 09:54

10 November 2020 - 09:54

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.