When Ilirjana Gafurri, a political party activist from Peja, Kosovo, won a seat on her local council six years ago, she became an advocate for issues such as better health care and women’s equality in her community. But Gafurri had to struggle to make her voice heard in the predominantly male body, where women are often perceived as being passive or not as qualified.
To improve her political skills and gear up for reelection, Gafurri attended the USAID-supported Week of Women (WoW) event held March 25-29, 2013, in the capital, Prishtina. She joined more than 100 Kosovo women from business, political parties, parliament, local government, the media and civil society to talk about women’s political careers, how parties are organized, making the decision to run for office, and running successful campaigns.
"Empowering women is not a personal empowerment,” said President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga at the conference opening. “It is how you empower your country.”
Even though Kosovo is led by a female president, women continue to face economic, political and social disadvantages. In politics, their representation is seen more as a requirement for political parties than a benefit. This often discourages women from running for office.
To address the issue, the National Democratic Institute, with support from USAID, hosted the first WoW in 2012. The goal was to create a network for women leaders and help them gain skills to further their careers. This year’s WoW focused on elections, with an emphasis on local polls, which are planned for the fall.
During WoW, Gafurri focused on preparing for public speeches, message development, policy development and how to become valuable to political parties.
“I still feel very nervous when talking to a crowd, and I do that [as part of] my work as a counselor. But now I know that I can manage that, and have already started seeing a difference. If there is one thing I learned at the Week of Women, it is: Do not stop!" says Gafurri.
Women from different ethnicities and ages from across the country participated in the five-day event, co-hosted by participants from last year—including teachers, lawyers, political party members, journalists, academics and NGO representatives—with assistance from the Kosovo Assembly’s Women’s Caucus.
“It is not like you can meet these women every day,” said Gafurri. “Networking with them will definitely help me in the future.”
Last updated: October 14, 2014