Remarks by the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Madam Atifete Jahjaga at the “WEEK OF WOMEN” Organized by national Democratic Institute

I’m delighted to be here with you today to share my vision for the importance of women’s engagement in all the decision-making circles in Kosovo.

Honorable friends,

Honorable participants,

I’m delighted to be here with you today to share my vision for the importance of women’s engagement in all the decision-making circles in Kosovo.

In these past 11 months, I have been asked many times: what are the challenges of a woman president as they lead and represent their country?

My challenges are the challenges of Presidents regardless of gender, but in most of the cases they are the same as the challenges that many of you face in your professional capacities.

To be the first woman President in the region and to represent a country with clear objectives as well as represent a new generation of leaders is an additional responsibility. But it is a responsibility that gives full meaning to the engagement of each one of us in the public sphere.

This has to do with serving as an inspiration to our youth, especially to young women, so that they join the public service and give their remarkable contribution to the state-building process of our country.

Last week, while I was in New York participating in the Women in the World summit that gathered about 2,000 participants, I insisted that no society is secure if its members, women in particular, are not secure. The security for the woman means security for the child, the family and the whole society.

What we have learned through this time in our meetings with different women from across the world is that a country can prosper only if women prosper.  A country can prosper if the woman is educated, employed and economically empowered. Woman’s right to be represented with dignity in the society is essential to the development of this society, and all of us – men and women – have individual responsibilities to build the vision for our family and our country. 

If we aspire a just and safe society, the role of the woman in the decision-making process, including the drafting and implementing of policies, is key.

The presence of the woman as an equal member of the society is tightly knit with the progress of our society and our country.

We should never doubt whether women can be leaders and leading examples for the general wellbeing of the society, because our country and the world has already benefited tremendously from their leadership and participation, regardless of the relatively low number of women holding public office.

Let me name two examples from the international scene – two friends of Kosovo, the US Secretary of State Madam Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. They are among the first women leaders in the world that through their diplomatic abilities and brave decisions have influenced major changes in the political reality of the world, by paving the way to democracy in countries under totalitarian systems.

Simultaneously, they have worked hard in creating strong bonds between women involved in different areas, promoting partnerships at the local and central level between the public and the private sector and the civil society.

As Secretary Clinton says: “When we invest in women, we’re not just investing in one individual. We are investing in families, and we are investing in the next generation, we are investing in the community and the country.”

In Kosovo our work and our responsibility as a society toward the woman is far from being over.  The woman in Kosovo continues to be in a difficult and unfavorable position, continuously hit by poverty and the pains of a life with major deficiencies. To improve her position and narrow the space for her discrimination, we must give a major push to the emancipation and the education of the Kosovar woman, as an undeniable human right.

Statistical research conducted in Kosovo during this decade shows that the woman in Kosovo continues to be the main victim of the transition period; the number of the illiterate women is 10 percent higher than that of the men from the same age group and of similar socio-economic background.

Today, I want all of us to speak with one voice for all those women whose voice remains unheard and whose experience has not been taken into account.

I want us to speak jointly for the entrepreneurial woman, the woman who is a strong business leader. And we have very good examples of women in business throughout Kosovo, which goes to show that the empowerment of the woman is key to the general development.

In our country, women members of parliament of the Republic of Kosovo have proved through their hard and tireless work how much we’re in need of partnership and teamwork.

The problems that we face today, whether it’s the gender inequality, the lack of resources and capacities or poverty, cannot be resolved in isolation or by one leader. We are witnesses how Kosovo women parliamentarians often cross party lines and go beyond their political beliefs and worked jointly within our institutions. For that they have my admiration.

Honorable guests,

It is not my aim to determine whether women or men are better at governing because we are created as equal. My goal is to highlight the positive impact the presence of women in leadership and women in top business companies have on our state and the need for their presence in public sphere. Just as women take care of their families, the nucleus of the society, in the same way they can lead and take decision for the welfare of the state and the society.

Numerous studies have recently shown that women leaders are more democratic and inclusive in decision-making and have more interpersonal skills, which are crucial in diplomacy.
In our journey towards public service careers, we have all encountered strong and inspiring women, who have supported us and made sure we reached the goal.
And, now that we are represented in the executive and legislative institutions – which were inaccessible to women for a while - we have an obligation to help other women on this path.
Women in Kosovo, before and after the war, during the period of transition and through the state-building process, remain symbols of peace, tolerance, reconciliation but also driving forces in the development of Kosovo.
We continue to demonstrate that we remain committed as a society to build an equal and fair system in all levels.

In the last elections, 35% of members of parliament represented at the local and central level were women. This is a significant success considering that today women in the world constitute only 16.4 % at the legislative level.
However, this trend of gender quotas cannot become self-congratulatory. In order to ensure gender equality we need to democratize the political parties, build the state upon the principles of the rule of law, a place where no one is above the law and where decision-making responds to citizens’ interests, and last but not least the creation of a society with equal opportunities for all citizens.

My experience so far has taught me that these efforts imply changes in the organization culture, in the way we perceive the development of women in the family and work, providing opportunities for career development, as well as providing opportunities for education and mentoring, in order for women to open their way in taking strategic positions without ever doubting their leadership skills.

My dear friends,

Becoming more aware day after day of the essential role we play in the family, community, society and leadership, I encourage each one of you to never stop aspiring, to serve as models for other women in your family and beyond, by becoming an example for young girls, the leaders of tomorrow.

The participation of women in all processes of the society is essential for our local and global success, no matter where we live.
Let us consider our meeting as a good opportunity to act for the common good of the society as a whole. Let us create better chances that every woman in Kosovo is treated with respect and dignity and for every man and women to feel equal.

Let us create a safer environment for all, especially for women, in order to move beyond words to build the vision of the free world, which we all want to see, for the benefit of future generations.

Thank you all for all your hard work. And let me finish this speech by quoting my friend, former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women!”