13 June 2019, Luxembourg – The Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) participated in the stakeholder conference held in connection with the first ever EU-Western Balkans Ministerial meeting on employment and social affairs.
The EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), responsible for EU policy on employment, social affairs, skills, labour mobility and the related EU funding programmes, today hosted a conference for stakeholders from civil society and social partners (e.g., trade unions) from the Western Balkans and EU to discuss their role, contribution and recommendations for the road forward for enhancing employment, developing social policies and furthering their implementation.
As a representative of women’s rights groups collaborating to address gender-based discrimination in labour in the Western Balkance, KWN’s Program Director / Lead Researcher, Nicole Farnsworth, said that “gender equality must be treated as part of the‘Fundamentals First’ Agenda of the EU”; gender equality is an essential part of reforms in all sectors, and not a separate issue to come after other reforms. Specifically, in terms of social policy, the economic and social situation in the region cannot be improved without tackling gender inequalities. She noted that an interrelated social policy issue is the lack of accessible childcare and preschool education. Investing in these would create jobs, enable more women to work, improve children’s educational outcomes and thus future job prospects.
“Last but far from least, social policies need to better address gender-based violence,” she said. “Adequate state resources must be allocated for: temporary social housing; better social services; case management; trauma-sensitive vocational training and employment programs; and institutionalization of appropriate training for social service providers”.
The European Commission presented in February 2018 the Communication on “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans”. The strategy calls for reinforcing the social dimension in the Western Balkans and increasing the focus on employment and social reforms, based on the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
According to DG EMPL, social partners and civil society have a key role to play in the design and implementation of the policies affecting each and every citizen. This commitment was reiterated by representatives of the European Commission during the Stakeholder Conference.
“If we want to implement policies, we need people on the ground to implement these policies and take them forward,” stated Joost Korte, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission, calling for the engagement of citizens in contributing to the EU Accession process.
This conference provided a space for an exchange between stakeholders, including participants of the Ministerial meeting, civil society and social partners regarding future cooperation. The senior level conference involved participants from the government administrations of the Western Balkans, social partners’ representatives from the Western Balkans and EU level organisations, government experts from EU Member States, civil society umbrella organisations from the Western Balkans and the EU, and regional and international organisations.
KWN utilized the opportunity to share some of the main findings from its research on gender-based discrimination and labour in the region, supported by the EU and Sida, and conducted together with its partners Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC) in Albania, Helsinški parlament gradana Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Research in Action (Reactor) in North Macedonia, Centar za ženska prava / Women’s Rights Center in Montenegro and The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Serbia.
KWN also used the opportunity raise issues that other partner women’s rights organizations in the region have emphasized previously as part of advocacy supported by the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.