May 27, 2021 | Thursday

Marginalized groups: From burden to resource – Brikena Avdyli

Marginalized groups are often viewed as a burden. Being at a disadvantaged position in the society, affirmative measures and designated support through different social assistance schemes are necessary to help them achieve a level playing field. While many feel discriminated by affirmative actions, these tools are not the problem. The main problem is that the measures to empower marginalized groups are taken separately from other measures, and in most cases they are not even priority. In the face of matters like economic difficulties, threats to security and public health, and geo-political issues, the general approach has been that marginalized groups can wait.

It is important to understand that while empowerment of marginalized groups is generally treated separately from other issues, they are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary. Failure to respond to needs and ensure that all voices are heard and included in all fields has consequences that trickle down in almost everything – economy, security, overall progress, and peace.

Traditionally, inclusion of marginalized groups has been viewed through three perspectives – as a mean to respect human rights, as a legal requirement, and as a platform to improve one’s image. While the first perspective is the main argument used publically, the other two are the reasons why we have at least some diversity in our society. Yet, aside from being the right thing to do, there are numerous benefits to inclusion of marginalized groups that should offer different entities further incentive to increase their efforts to be more inclusive.

Inclusion of marginalized groups in design and development of policies and programs ensures more effective solutions to issues faced in all fields. When more issues are addressed properly by the government, there is increased satisfaction with their performance, which in turn is converted to increased electoral support. In the private sector, diversity and inclusion has a direct impact in increasing productivity, effectiveness, innovation and creativity, which in turn helps companies capture new markets and expand their operations. There’s continuous evidence that inclusion is not just a good deed to help the vulnerable, but an investment with a high return for the society as a whole.

In Kosovo, we have had some progress in our efforts for diversity and inclusion, but there is so much more that can be done. The key is to ensure that empowerment efforts focus on lifting people up, giving them agency and independence. Support in the form of aid and social assistance is not sufficient to empower persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable groups. These means offer immediate relief, which is not sustainable. Often, it even creates a dependency that becomes a vicious cycle.     

Empowering marginalized groups, with a focus on women and youth, is at the heart of the Jahjaga Foundation. We work to increase capacities and offer opportunities to marginalized groups that enable them to become financially independent, which is particularly important for survivors of gender-based violence, who often go back to abuse because of lack of alternatives. Through different programs, we also work to change the narrative about marginalized groups, from weak and dependent, to strong, resilient, and capable to contribute in their communities and society. We also continuously focus on the benefits of diversity and inclusion, as a mean of engaging different stakeholders in such efforts. This multi-dimensional approach is designed to lift up individuals from marginalized groups and enable them to make the shift from dependent of care to resources that can bring the necessary changes.

We cannot have considerable progress without marginalized groups. We need them to achieve the development we long for. As such, their inclusion in all fields is not a burden for us to carry, nor a “selfless good deed”. It is a form of engaging more resources in working for the future we want, and for that reason, we cannot afford to leave marginalized groups waiting until other issues are resolved.

Brikena Avdyli – Executive Director Jahjaga Foundation