Young women raise their voices for equality
The “Goal Diggers” step up for gender equality
It has been 27 years since the Beijing Declaration for gender equality.
However, Kosovo is far from achieving equality between the genders and, in fact, gender-based violence has increased in the past two years.
Sara Deda, a 15-year-old student of Mehmet Akif school in Gjakova, is committed to a future where she has the same rights as her peers. To achieve this, she realised she had to increase awareness of the challenges faced by girls and women in her community.
“The main challenges girls in Kosovo face are discrimination based on gender, forced marriage, and not being allowed to go to school and this is all caused by the mentality that hasn’t changed yet,” Sara said.
"However, there are many of my peers who do not know anything about gender equality.”
This is surprising, since according to the MICS 2020 survey – approximately 19% of women aged 15-19 believe that a husband is justified to beat his wife in various situations. Despite completing secondary education at the same rate as boys, according to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics girls are not getting the same opportunities to transition to the world of work, with 46% of young women in Kosovo unemployed (compared to 35% of young men). Adolescent girls are also at risk of early pregnancy, which can permanently affect their health and future.
To spread the word about gender equality, Sara and four of her peers designed the "Goal Diggers" project as part of the PODIUM program supported by UNICEF.
PODIUM is a youth skills development and empowerment program, teaches young people in Kosovo how to speak up and become change makers in their communities. It increases their knowledge of their rights and encourages them to set up their own advocacy campaigns.
Sara and her friends used their new communication skills to make a difference. They designed several brochures about gender equality, which they distributed in their schools to raise awareness. They also hosted information sessions in schools to promote open discussions about gender issues.
In these meetings, they discussed various topics related to the rights of girls and women in Kosovo with both girls and boys, including those guaranteed by the Law on Gender Equality, as well as other topics such as violence and harassment.
“We talked about the consequences of gender discrimination, how it can start with simple words, and how it can be stopped,” Sara said.
“We designed a questionnaire to measure the impact of our information sessions. The results showed that 60 per cent of students are now more open to speak about gender discrimination and they understand more about the issue.”
Sara believes this is a small but significant step towards a fairer future.
"We were motivated to take a step towards change," Sara said.