Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Women's Issues: Amplifying the voices of women in Kosovo

A groundbreaking survey of Kosovar women, the first since the negotiations over Kosovo’s final status began, was released today by Women for Women International and the Public International Law & Policy Group in association with American University.

The survey paints a vivid and surprising portrait of Kosovo in transition that dispels the prevailing notions that all Kosovars are ready to take up arms against each other, and that defining Kosovo as an independent country will solve the day-to-day struggles of life in Kosovo.

The results of the survey of more than 1,600 Kosovar women are found in a report entitled “Stronger Women, Stronger Nations: Amplifying the Voices of Women in
Kosovo.” Among the key results:

* 80% of women surveyed feel that minorities should be able to stay in Kosovo with no restrictions, indicating strong support for a tolerant, multi-ethnic society.

* 84.3% of women surveyed describe their opportunities for employment as poor or non-existent.

* More than twice as many women cite unemployment as the reason for their dissatisfaction as those who cite uncertainty over Kosovo’s status.

* 89% of Kosovar women are optimistic about the future

Women for Women International’s founder and CEO, Zainab Salbi says, “There is a duality to war –while men continue to steer the front-line discussion, it is the women who lead the discussion of war on the back lines, ensuring that there is food to eat and water to drink, and preserving the seeds of hope so that they may take root in a peaceful future.

Once the fighting ends, it is the women who pick up the pieces of their families and mend the social fabric of their communities.”

In Kosovo, women are indeed poised to lead the back-line peace-building efforts, particularly around minority integration. Not only do the vast majority of women (79.8%) feel that minorities should be able to stay in Kosovo with no restrictions, but 63.6% of women can imagine themselves working with a woman of another ethnic group.

As one woman surveyed said, “In every democratic country, there are minority groups and they live equally, so it must happen in Kosovo as well, and I think in fact it is happening. We have to live with them, work and learn with them.”

Further, Kosovar women prioritize the back-line concern of unemployment that leads to communal instability over the status of political independence. When asked specifically about the Kosovo-Serbia relationship, women favor independence. But when women are asked more generally about the situation in Kosovo, their top priorities are the day-to-day realities of unemployment and other economic issues, rather than the status of Kosovo’s relationship with Serbia.

Finally, the survey also found that, despite increasing tensions around the issue of independence and ongoing reports that violence is bound to ensue, most women surveyed said they believe the situation in Kosovo will be better a year from now.

“The women of Kosovo are optimistic because they have to be. They’ve suffered so much in the past and they’ve been waiting and dreaming for something to change,” explains Hamide Latifi, Director of Women for Women International’s Kosovo. She continues, “Hope creates leaders, mobilizes support and ignites change - all of which Kosovo desperately needs right now.”

Zainab Salbi reinforces the need to listen to the women. “If hope is ever to be transformed into sustainable peace, women must be involved in setting Kosovo’s political agenda, not just in symbolic ways, but through full participation at every level – from the family dinner table to community councils to the UN, she says.

Source: Women For Women International (Press Release)