Visit to Roma community in Giljan, Kosovo

“Newborn” it says with proud and big letters, painted with the flags of all the states that have recognized Kosovo, on the monument in the centre of the capital Pristina. For that is exactly what Kosovo is, newborn and on her way forward as a country and identity. The air is filled with vehicle emissions and I can feel a dim smell of lignite from Kosovo’s main energy source, the lignite power plant located just outside Pristina. Dust from the endless road constructions flows in the air as Pristina´s young inhabitants move back and forth between a wide range of cafées and restaurants. The street ahead of me is suddenly filled with laughing, eating, teasing and nonstop talking kids, bubbly of joy, on their way back to school after a lunch break.

The country, with an area of 11000 km², is sandwiched in Balkan between four countries in southern Europe, north of Macedonia and south of Serbia and is estimated to be one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Women at the streets of Gjilan

Women at the streets of Gjilan

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Presenting Armenian civil society 1325 report in New York

With the mission of presenting the first ever civil society monitoring report on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the organisations Society Without Violence and Women’s Resource Centre were selected to represent Armenian civil society in New York last week.

Anna Arutshyan, Society Without Violence and Emmicki Roos, Operation 1325, outside the office of the Armenian mission to the UN. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Christina Hagner.

Anna Arutshyan, Society Without Violence and Emmicki Roos, Operation 1325, outside the office of the Armenian mission to the UN. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Christina Hagner.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988. In 1994, with the involvement of the Minsk Group, a ceasefire was achieved. Since then the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is defined as a frozen conflict.

Armenia being a very patriarchal society and experiencing several hardships at this time (the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Armenia, blockade and an earthquake) totally neglected the issue of sexual and gender-based violence during the conflict and post-conflict period. But the war seriously affected women living in the southern part of Armenia, who were directly involved in the conflict.

In 2013 a monitoring group for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (mainly consisting of women’s groups) was established in Armenia. Thanks to the involvement of the expert Emmicki Roos from Operation 1325, and with support of Kvinna till Kvinna, it was possible for this group to launch the first ever civil society monitoring report in Armenia. I would say, that quite a few challenges arose when trying to produce this report, since Armenia does not have a National Action Plan (NAP) under the UNSCR 1325, which made the collection of necessary data quite hard.

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The Green Mountain

“Gendering the Egyptian Revolution” was not an easy subject to talk about. We had to tell the stories of women who fought before the revolution, who paved the way to things to happen” Doa Abdelaal Mohamed Mostafa. Photo: CURE

When I first got the invitation from Marija to attend PitchWise 2013 in Sarajevo I sat for 10 minutes starring at my screen. I had millions of thoughts in my head, which included of course issuing the visa, taking days off from work, but what topped my thoughts was how come I still feel this pain when I hear or read the name of the city.

Back in the 1990’s when I was an undergraduate student in Cairo University, the war in what is known then as Yugoslavia was one of the preferable topics for our professors to discuss. I remembered the endless discussions, the papers and the exams but mostly the pain.

What we were discussing was WAR, people dying, tortured and raped. The fear that thousands of women lived in and faced was scary for me. In a war, you are a killing machine or a victim nothing in between and either this or that you seize to be a human and your instinct to survive suppress any other feelings.

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Inclusion of LGBT persons – a question of women’s solidarity

LGBT workshop

Workshop in Bosnia on how to make organizations within the women’s movement accessible to all women. Photo: Lejla Huremovic and Marija Vuletic

– I think I will have to marry a gay man and pretend that it is my life, because my parents would never accept that I am lesbian.

– I would love to be able to tell my mother about my partner, but I don´t think she would ever accept that.

– My father is ok but my mother ignores it and pretends she doesn´t know about it.

The past days, I have heard these words been said in Bosnia and Herzegovina by lesbian women. I was invited to participate in a three-day partner meeting of Kvinna till Kvinna in the town of Doboj, where women’s and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) organizations from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered to discuss how to work together against multiple discrimination of women. The main focus of the meeting was how to make organizations within the women´s movement accessible to all women.

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Not split in Split, but very much united!

During one of the sessions in Split. Girls from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kosovo and Serbia

7-10 June, we – Sevda Jahangirova, from YUVA, Azerbaijan and Elvira Meliksetyan from WRC, Armenia, and together from Young Women Network South Caucasus, were invited to take part in the regional meeting in Split, Croatia. There we had a chance to meet women from Kosovo and Serbia and discuss the chance of creating the similar network in Balkans. Apart from that we discussed a diversity of topics: diverse themes, such as feminist solidarity, feminist curiosity, the role of power in the organization, LGBT rights and challenges that people from LGBT community face in Balkans and Caucasus, meeting activists from Croatian Association LORI.

We are both similar and different…

Sevda: The situation on different problems is different in both regions. For example, if in Caucasus the LGBT rights are more sensitive issue in Balkans human rights defenders and LGBT community can have a safe pride parade. Also as far as I observed and some participants mentioned as a region we are more open to cooperate but women from Balkans need to get stronger to widen the cooperation.

Elvira: I notified that domestic violence is an important issue to fight against for both regions. The women are supposed to be under the control of their husbands. Some girls are brought up in a very conservative way. The boys, vice a versa, are given a power and freedom.

Sevda: In both regions there are still the same problems as gender based violence, domestic violence, the enemy image which is created by misinformation spread in society. In both regions women role in conflict resolution is at the same level not so high.

Elvira: Seemed that for the both regions the misinformation, stereotypes and prejudices were among the main causes for hate-speech movement in the region. Though the activists were active in breaking them, still they are minority.

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