In Kosovo, three organisations are showing what women can do when given the chance to lead


Three organisations in Kosovo are showing that they can thrive in their respective spaces and can rise to the top, when women are given the chance to lead.

Three organisations are collaborating to power the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) supported Kosovo Trustbuilding Platform, physically distanced by pandemic public health measures, but united by the cause of peacebuilding in Kosovo. They share one similarity —they are all led by, and majorly comprised of, women.

With a higher number of women in decision-making positions, Open Data Kosovo, New Social Initiative, and Alternativna have joined a rising trend in civil society to increase female representation.

Launched in 2019, the Kosovo Trustbuilding Platform showcases empowering stories and highlights local changemakers’ contributions to building trust in Kosovo. It provides a space for meaningful cross-community exchanges with a strong commitment to gender equality.

“These women-led NGOs are leaders in their fields — with Open Data Kosovo (ODK) bringing technical expertise, New Social Initiative (NSI) their strong record of dialogue and network-building, and Alternativna their ability to tell grassroots stories that need to be heard,” says Sarah Schaffer, head of the Dialogue and Reconciliation Unit at UNMIK.

Pushing boundaries

“Collaborating with high quality experts and entrepreneurs has eased implementation of action and contributed to delivering more effective products, all while sharing a common goal,” adds ODK Executive Director Blerta Thaçi. “Pushing boundaries and putting women at the forefront, she noted, are key to Kosovo’s future, especially its tech industry, “particularly for girls from rural communities.”

The organisation, which works on open data, digital transformation, capacity and community building is no stranger to pushing boundaries itself. Challenging gender-norms in the tech space, 90 per cent of ODK’s permanent staff is women. They also offer mentoring to young coders as they start their journeys, many of whom are women.

“With less than 20 per cent of working-age women employed in Kosovo, the labour market is missing the energy, durability, and creativity of the female perspective,” says NSI Executive Director Jovana Radosavljević. “Let us not only acknowledge the immense efforts of our mothers, teachers, colleagues, but take action to help young women find employment and make a mark easier than how we did,” she underscored.

Through NSI, the platform contributed to Covid-19 response efforts early on, promoting public service content in local languages and highlighting innovative grassroots efforts to encourage solidarity and social connectivity in a time of need.

“The platform’s success has been possible because the three organisations share one narrative: empowering others to participate,” says Ms Schaffer.

Action for change

Alternativna’s editorial team believe that art and culture are what make everyday life different, but they are also a means of action for change. “We strive to amplify the voices of women where possible,” says an Alternativna editor. “Empowering female artists and storytellers is essentially empowering all women.”

During its “Trustbuilding Champions” social media campaign, the platform recognised and featured more than 100 trustbuilding champions from all ethnicities and corners of Kosovo. Of all featured champions, 64 per cent were women from diverse sectors of Kosovo society, highlighting the role of women in building sustainable peace as well as activism from the LGBTQI community.

“As the world gears up for post-pandemic recovery, there is a need to seize this opportunity to “build back better” by creating more inclusive societies,” says Schaffer.

“The collaboration between Open Data Kosovo, New Social Initiative, and Alternativna is evidence that inter-ethnic exchanges built on complementary talents and passions can work. More importantly, however, it is testament to how organisations can thrive in their respective spaces and can rise to the top, when women are given the chance to lead.”

In the IT Competitiveness Index, part of Emerging Europe’s recently published The Future of IT report, Kosovo overall ranked 18th of the 23 countries in the emerging Europe region, ahead of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.

However, when it comes to IT talent, the country ranks sixth, ahead of better-known IT destinations such as Romania, Estonia and Lithuania.

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