June 23, 2023 | Friday

Flutura Balaj: Bridging Activism, Art, and Science

Born and raised in Istog, a small city in Kosovo, Flutura Balaj has defied and questioned the limitations imposed by traditional gender roles for as long as she can remember.

Hailing from a region where patriarchal norms prevail and feminist discussions are limited, Flutura has firsthand experience of the oppression faced by women and girls, which is entrenched in normalized attitudes and everyday language.

Growing up, she encountered phrases like “Ishalla t’lind djale” (May you give birth to a boy) and “Ai osht djale, osht ma ndryshe” (He’s a boy, he’s different), which initially seemed like harmless banter. She soon realized the underlying danger of such beliefs, as they perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and contribute to discrimination and violence against women.

It was particularly her family that paved the way for her feminist awareness and observations, fostering her aspirations and encouraging her to dream big from a young age. In their family discussions, they never alluded to the limitations she may encounter due to her gender. Her mother’s fierce determination to combat the gender injustices of her surroundings has propelled Flutura on a journey of advocacy for the upbringing of little girls in the same way she was raised.

Having completed her primary education at the Elementary School “Hasan Prishtina” and continuing on to the American School of Kosova as a scholarship recipient for three years, Flutura went on to pursue her studies in Physics, Earth and Environmental Sciences as a scholarship recipient at Jacobs University Bremen. Currently, she is on the verge of completing her master’s degree in Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Padova. Her future plans include pursuing a Ph.D. in Europe, focusing on the study of exoplanets or compact objects such as black holes and neutron stars.

However, Flutura’s engagement in the artistic scene of Prishtina has been just as impactful as her scientific pursuits. From the age of 16, she started captivating audiences with slam poetry performances, using her voice to shed light on gender-related issues. Her involvement in the world of documentary filmmaking within the framework of Dokufest has allowed her to create her first documentary film “Shtojzovalle,” exploring the extraordinary power and resilience of girls and women in Kosovo. Through her documentary, she witnessed the transformative power of art in changing perspectives and instilling self-confidence in those who have felt marginalized.

Since her time in Kosovo is very limited, she cannot be part of women’s rights activities the way she would want to. She still tries her best to be involved in advocacy and attend trainings and workshops that she likes. One such participation was in the project led by EULEX and NGO Assist Kosovo on “Empowerment of youth against gender-based violence.”

Reflecting on her experiences, Flutura envisions an ideal future where young girls have the freedom to ask themselves, “What do I want to do?” rather than being confined by societal expectations. She envisions continuing her activism through her art, encouraging women to pursue diverse paths. Her aspirations include becoming a professor, empowering future generations through education, and challenging gender disparities within academic institutions.