"Exhibiting You" - Story

Kosovo's Constitution Considers Women

By: Women for Women International
Submitted: 10/28/2008

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, setting into motion an invigorating process to draft a constitution, establish an independent government, and transform a citizenry previously held hostage to the horrors of war.

Women for Women International broke local taboos and traditions by forcing those in charge of the process to accept that the new nation would be incomplete without including women at the negotiating table.

Advocating for Rural Women

On February 29, the constitutional commission held a public forum in the city of Drenas to invite input into the new constitution. Although the event was billed as an open discussion, few women were invited to participate.

Hamide Latifi, Women for Women International country director in Kosovo, would not accept such an obvious oversight. She spent days trying to convince the constitutional commission that women--particularly marginalized and impoverished rural women, who are the primary participants of Women for Women International's rehabilitation programs--could not be excluded from this historic occasion.

Rural Women Make Their Voices Heard

Finally, Hamide and Women for Women International program members arranged buses and organized 250 women from all over the country to travel to the public debate in Drenas, where the constitution was also being drafted.

They spoke up at the debate and demanded that the new constitution guarantee gender equality and make special provisions for the many women widowed as a result of the war.

Many Kosovo women will remember that day as the first time rural women had the opportunity to come together and take part in discussing an important national issue.

The women had appeared as a united force; they expressed their ideas and spoke their minds, leaving a lasting impression on a process from which they had previously been excluded.

Ensuring Rights for Generations to Come

Kosovo's constitution was approved in April, 2008, and represented a milestone in the country's long and bloody journey to independence. Article Seven of the historic document ensures gender quality in all aspects of life and guarantees the provision of female participation in political, economic, social, cultural and other arenas.

The rural women, who came on buses to tell their lawmakers they cannot be overlooked, believe that their trip made all the difference.

Since 2000, Women for Women International has served almost 20,000 women in Kosovo, benefiting another 105,000 family and community members.

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