March 19, 2016 | Saturday

The importance of gender equality in the EU integration process (07/12/2015)

By Samuel Žbogar, Head of EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative published in Sbunker

The European Union has recognised equality between women and men as a fundamental value and is committed to advancing gender equality.

It stands to reason that every society, every organisation should use the full potential of both men and women. This is a question of fairness, as equal opportunities and equal recognition for all should be guaranteed. However, gender equality also makes economic sense. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. International studies have consistently shown that the greater the opportunities for women to engage in business, large and small, the greater the economic benefit for all. As the International Labour Organisation pointed out recently, there is a positive link between more female management and better business performance. No one can afford to miss out on talent and economies underperform if they exclude 50% of the population.

Despite having a female President, Kosovo’s women remain largely under-represented in decision-making at national and local level.

In Kosovo, this situation is unfortunately especially dire. According to the data obtained from the Country Gender Profile, women’s employment rate is approximately 18%, the lowest in Europe, compared to 55% of employed men. Out of 10 women, only one is in formal employment, while one more is looking for a job. The other 8 have dropped out of the labour market completely. Gender discrimination, traditional gender roles, carrying the burden of childcare and household work means women often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs. Effective implementation of women’s rights to inheritance remains limited, despite the fact that according to the law there should be no difference between women and men.

Domestic violence remains problematic in Kosovo. A recent report on Domestic Violence prepared by Kosovo Women’s Network concludes that 62% of Kosovars report to having experienced domestic violence during their lifetime. 41% of women say they experienced such violence in the last year.

What the EU pursues at home, we promote also abroad.

For the European Union, gender is a cross-cutting issue. The EU adopted an operational Gender Action Plan that sets very clear objectives to address gender equality in all our activities. One of these specific objectives is to place gender equality systematically on the agenda of dialogue with partner countries. With this in mind, we have been working closely with the Kosovo Government, with the Assembly and with civil society to address these issues. Locally in Kosovo one very concrete tool is our Stabilisation and Association Process Dialogues on Justice, Freedom and Security. At the next meeting, in January 2016, we will again raise the issues I mentioned above and press the Government to deliver on its commitments.

In May 2015, the Kosovo Assembly adopted the package of human rights laws, including a new law on gender equality. This is a good law. It is now time to make sure it is implemented in full. This requires action by the Government and advocacy by civil society. It requires women in Kosovo to continue to demand their rights are respected: to fight for them, to speak out and not to be satisfied with empty words. The EU will continue to provide support.

In the end let me conclude with the words of Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, “Progress on women’s rights is progress on human rights. Societies that give women an equal chance to prosper and participate freely in social, political and economic life are more peaceful and more prosperous. This is why the European Union has promoted gender equality from its very beginnings – both at home and abroad. Helping women and girls advance is part of the EU’s DNA”.