President Jahjaga’s speech at the opening of the “Am I equal in Kosovar Society” Conference

It is a pleasure to be here with you today at the launching of the “ Am I equal in Kosovar society” conference, which aims to bring forward the many problems faced by women every day throughout their lives, making us think about the role of women in society, realization of their rights and the expectations of the society of this very role.

Honourable representatives of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo,
Honourable Deputy Minister Çelaj,
Honourable European Parliament representative Ms. Lunacek,
Honourable USAID Head of Mission,
And especially all you dear friends;

It is a pleasure to be here with you today at the launching of the “ Am I equal in Kosovar society” conference, which aims to bring forward the many problems faced by women every day throughout their lives, making us think about the role of women in society, realization of their rights and the expectations of the society of this very role.

But what I consider to be most important is that the question posed by this conference makes us question ourselves on whether we are doing enough in order to guarantee equal rights of women and girls in our society.

Without hesitation I say that we are NOT. Women and girls are still not treated equally in the society. It is true that we have built an advanced legal infrastructure but there is much more left to do, as society and as institutions, to enliven the legislation in practice, and only then confidently say YES, women and girls are equal in our society.

In every post I have held, I have considered women’s participation and empowerment of her role as crucial to the advancement of our society. I have seen it not only implementation of rights stemming from the laws and the Constitution of the country, or just a moral obligation, but I have seen women’s participation as a key to the general advancement of our society. And you have heard me often say that investment in women is not only investment in an individual, but it is an investment in a family and in society, and is an investment into the progress of our state.

I have been a witness of many important changes brought by women’s participation in sectors usually reserved for men, as are the sectors of security, politics, economy, media and many others.

Above all, I saw the important role which women played during the times of war, in peace building, renewal of the society and building of our state. Her role was a consisting part of all processes we have gone through.

I saw and continue to see changes and progress brought forward by greater and greater participation of women and girls in every field of life, change which encourages me to continue to work more each day, with unwavering dedication towards fully guaranteeing the fulfilment of their rights and their equal participation in our society.

Traversings of a woman towards the fulfilment of her equal rights is not easy. Barriers which arise from the expectations of her family, the community and the society as a whole are many, and we know this better than anyone.

Even though we have identified some of them, issues which will also be touched upon in this conference as well, we have not done enough to recognize them, to challenge them and to eliminate them.

Let us be clear, these barriers do not only slow women’s advancement and limit the role which they play in the society, but they also at the same time slow the speed of our general advancement and limit the progress of the whole society.

Therefore, initiatives like this one are more than necessary to bring to surface the many barriers and challenges faced by women in both public and private life, in order to in unison, women and men, representatives of different sectors of society, recognize them and to jointly engage in their dissolution.

I congratulate the organizers of this conference and I express my confidence that this project will achieve to bring together even more supporters and advance the necessary changes which will guarantee the respect for equal rights of women and girls.

Dear Friends,
Honourable participants,

I have been and I remain a staunch supporter of establishment of institutional, legal and social mechanisms which bring to the guaranteeing of fulfilment of rights of women and girls as un contestable. Not only as an individual choice but as a civic and institutional responsibility and obligation.

In this sense, led by this spirit, in October of 2012, together with many of our partners, we organised the Women’s Global Summit, the first of its kind in the region, supported by many allies, US Embassy and USAID, which resulted with Prishtina Principles, which reconfirm the direct connection of the general advancement of our societies with the guaranteeing of the security of women, with their participation in decision making tables in both local and central level, with their participation in the labour market, with access to property and property rights, with right to education and  professional development and above all to ask for legal, institutional and social recognition for the war crime of sexual abuse exercised on hundreds of thousands of women, upon our mothers, our daughters and upon our sisters.

It was these principles which became the guideline of my engagement and determination in strengthening of the role of women in society, and building of close cooperation with institutions and representatives of various sectors.

And I can tell you with deepest conviction that change of women’s position will come by conducting an open institutional and social debate, and in building jointly a system of values, in which fulfilment and guaranteeing of equal rights of women and girls becomes an integral part of each cell of our society.

Non participation or low participation of women is present in every field of life, we see that every day. Women face challenges in different fields of life, which in turn create a chain reaction in her readiness or non readiness to ask for her rights.

Reasons for this reality are different, but what characterizes all these reason is that they are all unjustly imposed upon women and girls by the family, the society, community and lack of necessary institutional mechanism.

Denial of women’s rights is not a private issue, gender based domestic violence is not a private issue, sexual violence as a tool of war exercised upon hundreds of thousands of women is not a private issue, but an issue on which we need to get ourselves organised in order to properly address it as a society.

It belongs to all of us to condemn and prevent sexual violence on women, as members of the society and as institutions, by offering of necessary mechanisms for the penalization of perpetrators and rehabilitation of victims, and to, with the help of the media, publish and condemn such crimes.

Gender based crimes are not less important, so let us treat them with the seriousness and strength prescribed by the law.

Dear friends,

We as a society have made considerable steps in advancing of the role of women in society, but this progress still remains low, particularly when we turn back and look at the figures which show women’s participation in labour market, in education, in politics and access to healthcare services or in justice.

Despite all of this, we are becoming more and more aware of the reality that advancement of the role of women, as half of the society, is connected to general advancement of the society which touches upon each citizen regardless.

We are also becoming more and more aware that our allies in the establishment of rule of law and order, in fighting of the negative social phenomena as is corruption, must be the women, who have demonstrated to be less corrupted and much more responsible for the tasks they take upon themselves to accomplish, facts these also supported by various local and international research.

Today we are more open to discussing of subjects which were until not long ago were considered as taboo subjects, such as sexual violence during the war, a crime committed heinously upon our society, upon our sisters.

Therefore I am convinced that together, as society and institutions, determined and lead by the highest principles for the respect of equal human rights irrespective of gender, we will build necessary legal, institutional and social mechanisms, which will guarantee protection and fulfilment of the rights of women and girls in our society.

It is not easy, and we know this best, but we also know that it is not impossible and together we can make it.

In me you have always had a strong supporter and ally in promotion and advancement of the role of the women in every cell of our society, because women’s participation can not only be proved by women’s participation in decision making tables in both central and local levels, not only with her participation in labour market, not only by her participation in property and inheritance, not only by access to justice, which has been the necessary approach so far, but with the right to education. Because, as you know best, present day statistics in Kosovo show that women are still leading the illiteracy tables in the country. This must change, and this change must be made by us, because our society, as all other advanced societies around the world. Needs transformation, and best and fastest transformation is through investment in women, and I have therefore decided to, in the coming days, address the Government of Kosovo, and request that they establish a separate fund for the education of girls and women.

Thank you and I wish you lots of success.