Strengthening Women’s Leadership in a Post-Conflict Environment
The right and capacity of women to participate fully in their communities is key to Kosovo’s democratic and economic development. While women have begun to move into more leadership and entrepreneurial positions within the province’s traditional society, their continued empowerment requires additional efforts, especially in rural areas. Access to real decision-making opportunities, especially political office, governing institutions and political parties, continues to elude women.
In response, Partners and Partners-Kosovo developed a Women’s Leadership Program that sought to build Kosovar women’s capacity in team building, communication, advocacy, and networking skills. Partners-Kosovo targeted some of the province’s neediest municipalities for participants, based on unemployment, severity of impact by war, and relative involvement in civic life. The selected municipalities included Lypian/Lipjan, Besiana/Podujeva, Therandë/Suhareka and Drenas/Gllogovc. The Center then conducted numerous presentations in schools and in women’s NGOs in these municipalities, resulting in a plethora of applicants for the program.
Next, Partners and Partners-Kosovo designed a series of four skill-building trainings in 2001 and 2002. The trainings included 20-25 women, ranging from NGO activists to students to private sector employees, and focused on providing communication, organizational development, conflict management, and other skills necessary to succeed as social change leaders in their organizations and communities. Partners utilized experts from its Georgian and Polish Centers to conduct the trainings and share their experiences from similar women’s leadership initiatives in their own countries. The four trainings provided skills in the following areas:
- Team building, assertiveness, and presentation
- Facilitation, brainstorming, decision-making, and project planning
- Conflict management, including effective communication, negotiation, and mediation
- Organizational development, including facilitation, structure, time management, and financial management
Following these trainings, the women returned to their home communities and utilized their skills in a range of activities and educational campaigns aimed at improving the status of women, combating domestic violence and illiteracy, and promoting the right to education for teenage girls. Highlights from these activities included:
The Podujeva participants, who are activists from an NGO called Women in Action, conducted a series of lectures on women’s issues in two high schools that included more than 870 students. The group also gave a lecture series, “Against Domestic Violence,” in cooperation with the Red Cross and World Vision, and discussed their work on a radio program exclusively for women at the local station “Vizioni.”
The Gllogovc group led a series of lectures in six villages, entitled “The Right to Education,” targeting girls with only a primary school education. 146 girls attended these lectures, and the group planned to continue the series pending additional funds.
The Lipjan participants organized a “Campaign for Education” for approximately 95 illiterate women in six villages, who then began to learn to read and write. Using their project design skills from Partners’ training, the Lipjan group also was able to raise funds for additional equipment for their NGO.
The Suhareka group utilized its skills to further a range of entrepreneurial efforts, including securing new office furniture and supplies from the Austrian KFOR and establishing a chicken farm for women rural workers.
- Participants from the NGO “Aureola” in Drenas shared their skills and training materials with six primary school directors, and collaborated with them on a “Campaign for Education” that included 70 girls from six villages.
In addition, the participants developed a plan to meet regularly every month to share information, discuss ideas for new projects, and collaborate on future projects.
Building on its work and relationships from the training series, Partners-Poland secured additional funds to bring many of the Kosovar participants to Poland for a study tour. The women received additional training, met with community leaders, and made site visits to relevant organizations. This study tour was an unprecedented event in the lives of most of the women, many of whom had never traveled beyond their village, let alone to a foreign country. With the knowledge gained from the study tour, the participants returned home to share their skills with others, and to continue their work for women’s education and against domestic violence in their communities. The Kosovars learned invaluable lessons and models from their Polish counterparts, benefiting from the knowledge and experience of another transitioning country.