Remarks of the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Madam Atifete Jahjaga at the Women’s Leaders Session at the Eurasian Economic Summit

Dear friends, often times I have heard the saying of Melinda Gates that “a women with a voice is a strong woman”. I feel honored to be around so many strong women today.

It is with great pleasure that I address you today to share my views on a topic which is becoming ever more important – the role of women in our societies, their role in the development of our countries and their impact on global stability and prosperity.

I would like to congratulate the organizers of the conference who in the framework of this event, have dedicated a special session to women empowerment while discussing very important topics on the global challenges and opportunities we face in all parts of the world.

The world we are living in is constantly changing. We should constantly adapt to these changes by finding the best ways and means to use all the available resources we have. Empowerment of women and utilization of this human resource can aid us find the right answers and path.

It is of no surprise that the empowerment of women is becoming a topic of discussion in all corners of the globe, being in post-conflict societies or societies in transition, in developing countries or developed one. Since tons of research and data are clearly advising us to use the potential that women offer, for the level of women’s participation in a society is directly linked to the level of a country’s development.

Women do not simply represent only 50% of global population; women represent as well 50% of the global potential, talent and human capital. When women do not participate in the economic, political and social development of a country, they become an unexploited human capital and human resource. Our failure to use this valuable resource is not just towards women reflecting as well a country’s unwise economic and political choice.

The most recent research of Booz & Company which was presented as well at the last World Economic Forum by Executive Director of IMF Ms. Christine Lagarde shows that by increasing the level of women’s employment rate to that of men, we can expect an increase of GDP in United States by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in India by 27% and in Egypt by 34%.

Reaffirming what the Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has so numerously stated that “economic empowerment of women is smart economics” and what OECD reports have shown “a business priority”.

Therefore, as the latter argues, strengthening women’s role in the economic, political and social sectors of a country is fundamental to future economic growth, to generating new and innovative ideas resulting from a gender diverse larger pool of talented individuals.

Once we seriously consider the added value that women’s participation in public sector brings, we will stop looking at them through traditional and cultural lenses. We will start looking at women as indivisible part of policy making and decision making and judge them based on their competencies not through physical or gender traits, which will without any doubt, bring benefits to our economies and societies as a whole.

Empowering women is not only fair but it is the smart thing to do.

Thus it remains our choice to decide what kind of society and country we want to have and build and what kind of world we want to create and leave behind.

I would like to quote the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who said that: “democracy in any country is different, but without women democracy in any country is impossible”. Indeed we cannot talk about democracy when the voice of half of the society is not heard.

We are all aware that the ability to make decision is related to the ability of each individual. Women as men have the same abilities. Yet we are also aware that women and men are not treated equally, are not offered equal opportunities. Making women regard their role in the society as inferior. We should change this perception.

Empowerment of women is not only the right thing but also the right way towards economic development and political stability.

Indeed women in this century have been able to enjoy more rights and express their voice by voting. Nevertheless, this did not translate itself in comprehensive policies since women are not keen to take upon the chance to run for office as do men.

Participation of women in decision making processes has a multifold impact. It influences the general position of women in the society, the welfare of the family and the society itself by increasing as well the social awareness about their role.

Women’s participation in politics benefits as well the socio-economic development of the country, helps the consolidation of democracies and the increases the accountability of the institutions and the society itself towards each citizen.

We should go beyond traditional roles of male and women and create the space for women to express their interests and points of view. For women’s presence in parliaments and governments helps produce more balanced and comprehensive policies which will reflect and address the interest of every citizens of the society strengthening the democratic functions of our state.

Thus it is important to create the necessary legal framework, draft policies and mobilize the popular support to incite women to participate actively in politics and decision making.

It was in 1995 in Beijing at the U.N. Women’s Conference when the former Secretary of State, then First Lady, Hillary Clinton, declared quote: “women’s rights are human’s right, and human’s rights are women’s rights, once and for all”.

We have built so much on these inspiring words for nearly two decades. We, women, have been mobilized worldwide to bring forth the change and create opportunities for women to be allowed as agents of change in our societies.

We have been led by role models worldwide who have broken standards and set trends, who have been the voice of women worldwide surpassing race, ethnicity, culture or background.

We have seen results and we have been encouraged to push forward the change. Yet we still see that we face the same problems we did in 1995. We still face discrimination against baby girls, women and girls are violated and raped in their community, rape is still used as a weapon of war, domestic violence against women is persistent in even the most developed of societies while forced marriage or abortion are norms in many others.

We should put a stop to this. 
We should understand once and for all that violence against women is violence against society. And that the security of women is the security of the child, family and the whole society.

It was for this very reason to build on the path of triggering positive developments following the road opened by the Beijing Conference of Women two decades ago, that last October with the financial assistance of USAID, I decided to organize the International Women’s Summit “Partnership for Change: Empowering Women” in Pristina.

I had the pleasure to host many of you in Kosovo and many representatives from your countries where we discussed the imminent issues and the obstacles which women face in exercising their just position in the society.

We addressed three main issues tightly interconnected to each other, political participation and participation in decision making, economic empowerment and access to resources and women’s security and access to justice.

In all the conversation we had, we witnessed how political participation influences economic empowerment of women which in turn contributes in the security of all citizens. As former Secretary of United States Ms. Madeleine Albright put it during the Summit, “our challenge remains to find a way to move on three fronts at the same time”.

Together with the participants, representing different sectors, countries, ethnicities, ages, cultures and tradition in solidarity with women worldwide and especially those from post- conflict countries, with the aim to advance women’s security and justice, economic empowerment and political participation we drafted  a set of principles and recommendations enshrined in the document we called Pristina Principles.

Amongst others through this document we affirmed that all kinds of barriers, political, social, electoral, economic, legal and cultural, to women’s participation in society need to be removed so that women’s inalienable rights are secured.

That all kinds of opportunities, economic, political, social and cultural, need to be increased and sustained such that women can realize their individual aspirations and with men, attain gender equality.

We reaffirmed that women’s political under-representation impinges on society’s recognition of the economic, security, justice and social problems they face and government’s preparedness to address them authentically. In order to steer government policy and economic resources in ways that improve society overall, it is necessary that more women take part in public life.

Since October, the Pristina Principles document has turned into a working document for our country. With my strong support, Women Caucus of Kosovo Assembly has passed a Resolution on Pristina Principles in the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, reflecting the institutional commitment to working towards empowering women. Recognizing that by investing in women, we invest in the future of our country.   

Together with the Minister of Trade and Industry we have supported the creation of Kosovo’s Women Chamber of Commerce which will promote women’s participation in the economic sector and offer them the necessary assistance to guarantee the needed access and resources.

We are working with local and central institutions, domestic and international organizations to empower women in all corners of our country in every field and at all levels, removing once and for all the tradition of silence strengthening the role of women as important contributors in our society.              

We will continue working hard, as I know all of you will, to convey the message that by empowering women we are not only empowering an individual but we are empowering the whole society and the country itself.

Thank you!