The role of women in the modernization of the Balkans

Article published on Nov. 30, 2016
Article published on Nov. 30, 2016

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Balkan countries began a process of modernization in which women - that already had full access to education and employment during the communist regime - started to cover key positions in their countries. However, this process is not fully implemented yet.

One of the most discussed topics in the recent years, is the gender equality, that opened lot of argues about the different rights of women around the world, women position in different societies, their potential and capacity, and the opportunities that are offered to them.

Women represent half of the capacity of each society and their empowerment is of vital meaning for the development and the growth of all nations. Still, they arenot equally presented in the political, economical and social sphere, not on a global level, and neither in the Balkan countries.

Woman  postition in the countries of the former Yugoslavian countries is strongly affected by the communist regime that was in place in Yugoslavia, when women had equal rights with men. During this period, we experienced high rates of female education and employment. However, their participation in the social and political life was lower than the men's one.

“The status of the woman in the former system was determined by the general principle that man and woman should be completely equal. To not have any misunderstandings, it did not exist any difference regarding the education and the work between the two genders, and even, there weren’t male and female professions. In one period, even the maternity leave was just three months, in order the woman to be able to return to work sooner. But, regarding the politics and the influential positions, the situation was totally different. These places generally were reserved for men, while for the women were applied so-called "quotas", according to which there was an obligation for the women to be represented in at least a minimum number. That position was far from the modern concepts of gender equality for which we are talking about today. While regarding the suffrage, women in Yugoslavia had this right much earlier than many others modern countries (before Italy, Greece, Monaco, Switzerland etc.)” – says Aneta Antova-Pesheva, Owner and CEO of Ultra/Unet Group Macedonia, that in 2016 was recognized as one of the most influential woman in Macedonia by the magazine “TEA Moderna”.

Still, after the collapse of Yugoslavia, women succeeded to take over some leadership positions, such as Kolinda Grabarin 2015. Kitarovi  has become the first female president of Croatia, Borjana Kristo has been the president of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2007 until 2011, and in 2011 Atifete Jahiaga has become the first female president of Kosovo.

Nonetheless , the participation of women in the politics is way lower than the one of the men. in 2016, according to the data provided by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Slovenia has the highest quota for women in its parliament - 36,7%, followed by Serbia - 34 %, Macedonia - 33%, Bosnia Herzegovina - 21,4%, Montenegro - 18,5, Croatia - 15,2, while there is no data provided for Kosovo. In the EU, the average rate of women in the parliament of each state is 28%.

The collapse of Yugoslavia was followed by the process of the EU integration that stimulated the Balkan countries to implement programs and projects that will encourage active participation of women in every sphere of the society.

Although these countries started a processe toward the adoption of the legislation required for entering in the EU, there are still some pittfalls and women’s employment rates in the Balkan countries remain very low.

“ The situation of the women is almost identical in each Ex-Yugoslavia country. Women are represented in the politic, but still rarely. Almost nowhere they are leaders of the political parties, and everywhere appear in the second row as important decisions-makers. A lot of work need to be done to be improved their status. It is of paramount importance the networking of women in the region, which can overcome the historical tensions,the decades-old gap and oblivion of the bloody wars in the Balkans. That is why I believe that EU should work more on raising the women's capacity as well as its networking, regardless whether a Balkan country is a member or potential member waiting at the door of the EU”.

“From the period of former Yugoslavia, in the today’s modern states remained the general principle women to be treated fairly in the work and in the education. But also we still stick to the principle, women to be presented in the politic in much less number. Few months ago, at the last summit of the Western Balkans in Paris, the ministers and representatives of the chambers of all countries in the region were men, except for one woman minister of Albania.

I think that in the EU is not so, at least not in the key positions of the EU administration. In some EU countries, as Sweden, Netherlands, there are independent projects to support women's entrepreneurship. Recently, in the framework of EU, under the support of the European Commission is formed the platform WeGate for networking of the women entrepreneurs and women's organizations that are raising the issues of gender equality and entrepreneurship in all EU countries including the Balkan ones.”

Although the gender dispersion by one side can be seen asa missed opportunity, it also represents an opportunity for prosperity. Investing in women is considered as one of the most effective means for creating equality and promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth. It is an important task for the government and the private sector to create conditions that will initiate the inclusion of the women in the society on same level as the one of the men, and will lead to balance on the above mentioned numbers between the both genders in political, economical and social sphere.