Women and politics in Kosovo

The participation of women in political positions in Kosovo continues to be one of the least developed points.

According to the municipal performance report, the indicator that has the weakest point is the appointment of women in political positions, where out of 420 positions in the municipal executive staff, only 119 of them are women. The same situation has been in the past two years, 2017 and 2018, where 29 municipalities have reported that only about 30 per cent of appointees in political positions are women.

Kosovo, in all codified laws, has democratic features and is among the most advanced in the region. But even though anti-gender discrimination laws and laws aimed at increasing women’s representation in local and central government, such as the Law on Gender Equality, are formulated to stimulate women’s representation in politics, these remain mostly on paper. When laws are written but not implemented, they do not produce the social effects they intended and this can be seen in the small numbers of women participating in the Kosovo political scene, but even more in the number of women holding executive positions at the municipal level.

Although small in number, women appointed to political positions also face different cultural barriers and gender stereotypes.

Medina Brahaj, chairwoman of the municipal assembly in Shtime, points out that the prejudices she has encountered in her profession have been more severe than her professional experience.

‘I am the chairwoman of the Municipal Assembly in Shtime and the challenges, prejudices and stereotypes I have encountered, have been much more severe than my years and professional experiences. However, I did it, by working hard on myself, working continuously and proving to “men” that I am worthy of this executive position, despite my young age and moreover, regardless of the gender I have’, she explains.

While age has also been a double problem for her, in addition to gender.

‘I found that being young and woman fits two elements of prejudice, which are extremely difficult to cope with when combined together’, she says.

What proves the deprivation of women in high decision-making positions is the fact that out of 38 municipalities in Kosovo, none is led by a woman, and only two women are deputy mayors.

‘The biggest problem is that, even though you may be a successful woman who achieves her goals and expectations, you can never really aim at the top of the success pyramid. It is even harder to stay there. You can be in all kinds of other secondary positions, but it is extremely difficult to be a director, president, manager of the institution/company you are aiming for, due to the fact that you will always be underestimated by men’, says the chairwoman of the assembly of Shtime.

When we analyse which cultural and socio-economic characteristics contribute to these phenomena, we mostly face the fact that politics in Kosovo remains a reflection of the society around us.

For Fatbardha Emini, deputy minister in the Ministry of Local Government, women have more trouble walking alongside men’s success because of a male-dominated society.

‘Women who are part of politics find it difficult to move forward alongside the success of men, as we are still in a society where we have gender challenges, barriers and prejudices, and also, although the quota has brought up many successful women, it is still not the right level of women in politics’, she says.

In order to increase the number of women in leadership positions, during 2017, the DEMOS project has supported women in politics with various trainings. The trainings included topics on:

  • Knowledge about the structures and leadership of political parties, as well as recommendations on how to increase the number of women in the leadership structures of these parties.
  • Knowledge about public presentations; program, ways, advice, various practices, and the participants presented the program and received advice on where and how they should be presented.
  • Participants were assisted in developing a personal program with which women in politics aimed to compete in municipal assembly competitions.
  • Lobbying and advocacy

The trainings aim to increase awareness by achieving various benefits in today’s society and stimulating women in this field.

Then, during 2019, additional trainings have been held for women in political positions as well as for increasing women’s participation in public meetings/debates. These trainings were welcomed by the participants, where Habibe Bytyqi, gender equality officer in the municipality of Suhareka said:

‘The training course which deals with increasing women’s participation and representation was very useful and practical. The same can help our municipality in terms of increasing performance regarding the representation of women in certain positions and the participation of women in municipal decision-making processes’.

The electoral quota that specifies that 30 per cent of political positions should be held by women is being respected, but it is not a sufficient number for equal gender representation, and does not address all barriers in this area.

Over the years, the position of women as decision-makers has improved from 5.6 per cent in 2015 to 11.9 per cent of women in decision-making positions in 2018, but despite this doubled number, the percentage remains extremely small.

According to Vjollca Tërnava-Konjusha, Chairwoman of the Municipal Assembly in the Municipality of Fushe Kosova, women should be more demanding for certain positions.

‘Barriers sometimes arise from the extended family base, but we, as women, when we are professionally advanced, should be more demanding in the family and institutions to take certain positions. Practice has shown that we manage with honour, loyalty and we value the interests of citizens much more than decision-making’, she says.

A small number of women are also participating in public meetings. In the meetings held by DEMOS with the municipalities, among other things, they talked about this problem, where, according to municipalities, the reason for low participation of women in hearings is the combination of various factors, such as social norms, lack of general interest of citizens to participate, but also the mutual trust necessary for participatory decision-making.

A historic moment for all women in politics occurred in 2011, when for the first time in Kosovo, the position of president, executive representative of the state was assigned to a woman – the President Atifete Jahjaga. Also, last year, for the first time, Vjosa Osmani has been elected Speaker of the Assembly of Kosovo. These are very essential developments in the field of politics, distinguishing Kosovo as an example for other countries in the region.

But, despite these developments, there is still room for improvement.

According to the Speaker of the Assembly of Shtime, Medina Brahaj, women should work harder than men to achieve the same results.

‘Generally, women have to work harder than men to achieve the same results and gain respect and recognition. Women are often underestimated, not taken seriously, or ignored. Therefore, we have to work twice as hard to get the same results as men’, she says.

Women role models seem to have had a positive effect on motivating other people to achieve what they want. Thus, according to Medina Brahaj, women in different decision-making positions should have the responsibility to be an example for others.

‘I think that it is the main responsibility of women in power, and it is the main responsibility of all of us to be a role model for girls and young women, telling them that if a man can do it, we can do it too’, she says.

Based on answers from participants on the importance of women empowerment in politics, DEMOS receives their answers that women should be further supported in politics and political entities, in order to increase the number of women actively participating in public life.

DEMOS strongly encourages gender equality, and is therefore used as an indicator of municipal performance.