Ambassador Jacobson's Remarks at Gender Equality Working Group
September 17, 2012
We know that engaging women as political and social actors can change policy and can make institutions more representative and effective. A growing body of evidence indicates that women bring unique experiences and contributions to discussions leading to peace and security, particularly environments that have experienced conflict, or environments where we want to prevent conflict. And this is also very relevant here in Kosovo. Kosovo does have strong laws promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. And in this respect, Kosovo is ahead of many other countries. But these laws are not always effectively monitored or enforced.
Women are very visible at the highest levels of Kosovo’s political scene. Of course there is a woman president, and women form one-third of the Assembly.
But if we look at the level below that, we see that there are not very many women in high ministry positions and there are no women mayors. If we talk about education, more Kosovo women than men are illiterate. And those women that do manage to go to university tend to specialize in such traditionally female studies as language and education. With the result that they get lower paying jobs in the future.
And when we talk about gender equality and women’s empowerment, we have to talk about employment. Unemployment is a problem for everyone in Kosovar society. But particularly for women. Only twenty-nine percent of women are represented in the labor force, and that is the lowest rate in Europe and Eurasia. The rate of female entrepreneurship is also in Kosovo the lowest in the region. Women are much less likely than men to own their own businesses. And when they do own businesses, it tends to be a micro-business, with small profit margins and with very few employees.
One the biggest impediments for women in entrepreneurship is access to credit. As the Minister mentioned, women do not have property in general, for societal and traditional reasons, so they lack the collateral to get the loans that they need. There is legislation in place to address this issue, but again implementation is a challenge.
Of course, we have to mention violence against women, human trafficking – these are serious issues throughout the Balkans.
My government, through both the Department of State and through USAID has many programs in place, as many of you know, to support the empowerment and equality of women and girls, including in education, leadership promotion, and women in business. We are glad that there is a strong show of support here today and in general for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, because only through working together on these efforts with all the comparative advantages that each of the organizations represented here today, it’s only through our joint work together that we are really going to be able to tackle this very challenging problem. Which is key in the end to Kosovo’s future development as a successful, stable and prosperous country.
I am confident though with this team working that we can achieve a lot and I thank you very much for allowing me to be part of this, and I wish you the best of luck as you go forward in your efforts to improve and strengthen donor coordination.