Balkan Women Build Bridges for Peace

Kosovafinal Last month, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia amid much controversy. While the mainstream media turned a glaring spotlight on the continuing conflicts and controversies, the work of groups striving for peace and justice in the region remains in the shadows. Yet groups like Global Fund grantees, the Kosova Women’s Network (KWN) and the Women in Black-Belgrade (WIB), are key leaders in the struggle to realize peace, reconciliation and healing in the Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia).

In a recent LA Times article that detailed a long history of violence against women, Igabelle Rogova, head of the Kosova Women's Network, noted that one of the tasks of a newly independent Kosova will be ensuring that women have full rights. She explained that they are already good mechanisms on gender equality on paper, but the challenge will be ensuring that these mechanisms are implemented.

In September 2007 the KWN and WIB, organized the second annual Women's Peace Coalition conference in Struga, Macedonia. Titled "Through Women's Solidarity to a Just Peace," this annual conference serves as a dynamic forum for women to build bridges between the two nations and, above all, voice their commitment and requests for a peaceful resolution.

The Coalition is result of a decade of solidarity, support and cooperation between activists from autonomous women’s groups in Kosovo and Serbia. The WPC advocates for a just and lasting peace, the inclusion of women as equal partners in peace-building processes, the participation of women in peace processes and peace negotiations, and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. More than 60 activists representing groups from Kosova and Serbia came together this year.  In describing the extent of collaboration and support among the participants, and many other women, Stasa Zajovic of WIB writes “These (past years) were not separate encounters among a few of us, therefore, this was not an exception or a one of a kind instance – this is a coalition!”

Originally, KWN was an informal network of women’s groups and organizations from various regions of Kosova that formed to ensure “a greater say by women in the rebuilding of Kosova.” Today, KWN has grown into a vibrant network that advocates on behalf of all Kosovar women at the local, regional, and international level.  Representing the interests of over 85 women’s organizations of all ethnic groups from throughout Kosova, KWN is a leader among civil society organizations in Kosova and throughout the region. WIB too has been at the forefront of resisting “militarism, war, sexism, and nationalism. In short, all aspects of violence towards and discrimination against women and all those people different ethnically, religiously, culturally, sexually, ideologically.”

In addition to this critical initiative, there are several other women's groups in the region working for peace. The Regional Women’s Lobby for Peace, Security and Justice in South-East Europe, founded in 2006, comprises women who are civil society activists and democratic political party activists from the Balkans. It advocates for peace, security, and stability in southeastern Europe. Many of the women involved in this coalition are partners – advisors, grantees, and friends. Furthermore, there are women’s groups, both in Kosovo and Serbia, that the Global Fund has supported, which are focused on vital cross-ethnic work and collaboration. Some of these groups are – Hareja, Impuls, Kosovar Gender Studies Center, and the Women Committee for Protection and Human Rights in Obilic Town. 

Web resources:
Kosova Women's Network

Women in Black Belgrade

Kosovar Gender Studies Center

Read more about the KWN and WIB conference


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