The Global Progressive Forum, in cooperation with the S&D Group, the CEE Network for Gender Issues and Party of European Socialists (PES) Women organizeda seminar entitled “Making the EU enlargement process deliver for Western Balkan women” in Korcula, Croatia on 24 August 2018. The event brought together women politicians from the Western Balkans and from the European Parliament, as well as men supporters.
For the workshop on “Gendering Employment and Social Policies: EU Accession and work/life balance”, they invited Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) Lead Researcher Nicole Farnsworth to present the situation in the region. Focusing on Kosovo, she spoke about key challenges to women’s participation in the labour force, where only 1.3 in 10 women are employed officially. She discussed the informal employment of women without contracts, Kosovo’s problematic maternity leave provisions, the related discrimination in hiring and the unavailability of childcare, among other issues. She suggested policy amendments related to non-transferable maternity, paternity and parental leave; improved social services, particularly available, affordable, quality child and elderly care; and better education that challenges traditional gender norms that keep women at home and put too much pressure on men as “breadwinners”. She also called for: better attention to how taxation impacts women and men differently; a gendered “do no harm” approach in addressing the informal economy; and flexible working hours. To Members of the European Parliament, she recommended continued political pressure for Western Balkan countries to further gender equality as a prerequisite for EU accession; to ensure gender mainstreaming in the implementation of all IPA programming; and to support specific efforts to further gender quality, such as supporting the institutionalization of accessible, affordable, quality childcare and pre-school.
The presentation was informed by KWN’s prior work on parental leave provisions, childcare accessibility, gender budgeting for social welfare and monitoring of the European Union’s (EU) implementation of the EU Gender Action Plan II, as well as current regional research related to gender-based discrimination and labour (forthcoming 2019), supported by the European Union.
Maja Stajcic Riza Aragon, Senior Programme Officer from the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation also had a presentation on “Women’s Rights in the Western Balkans”, drawing from their research. She spoke about the importance of recognizing the expertise of women’s rights activists; defending them amid shrinking space, including government attempts to silence vocal activists; meaningfully involving activists in policy discussions; and providing long-term institutional financial support for their work, which has proven to contribute to lasting change.
Other important issues discussed during the seminar included access to affordable abortions; the impact of fascist populist policies on women’s rights; and the dangers to women’s rights affiliated with the state capture in several countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The European Parliament supported KWN’s participation in this event. The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation provided the opportunity for parliamentarians to become familiar with KWN’s work and expertise on these issues, through prior speaking engagements in Brussels.
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