The rules of the Kosovar society established over the centuries have deprived women of their fundamental rights. The man has been regarded as the head of the family, and as the person in charge for making family decisions. And so, responsibilities have fallen automatically on the man’s side. But when we talk about responsibilities, children are not listed. If the father were to express love for children, this gesture would be considered not manlike. Other ways of helping around with domestic chores cannot even be talked about. After all, this is what patriarchal societies are like. But this situation has started to change in the past years. Though we are not dealing with such an extreme perception, similar phenomena still exists. An example that shows that things are changing is documented in the photos showcased at the premises of the Innovations Lab Kosovo. Inside the hall, there are about 25 pictures of Swedish families. The Swedish government has an objective to establish gender equality. Kosovo may be far from the Swedish system, but several examples and such collaborations can nevertheless serve as models to be followed. This was part of the Campaign on Fatherhood, put together by the Young Men Initiative “Be a Man Club”. To resemble the Swedish model, this campaign has foreseen taking fathers’ pictures with their children, proving that the mentality of the Kosovar society is changing. This was organized by CARE International in the Balkans and Peer Educators Network – PEN as the implementing partner of the “Young Men Initiative” project, funded by the Swedish Embassy, the Austrian Development Agency – ADA, UNFPA and UNICEF. The event started with a panel discussion and continued with an exhibition on fatherhood as portrayed in the Swedish and Kosovar society. The main point of discussion in this panel was the commitment of fathers to child development and family life in general.
Sweden’s Deputy Ambassador Göran Paulson, who was present at the panel, on this occasion provided examples of how gender equality is ensured in his country. While in Sweden all mothers get paid maternity leave even if they are not employed, in Kosovo the first six months of maternity leave payments are made by the employer. With 70 percent of the basic salary, the following three months of maternity leave is paid by the Kosovo Government with a 50 percent compensation of the average salary in Kosovo, while the employee has the right to extend her maternity leave for another three months, during which period she doesn’t get paid. Swedish fathers receive parental leave more than any other fellow in the world. In Kosovo, the father has the right to leave for up to three weeks.
Visare Mujko-Nimani from UNFPA stressed how important it is to work in this regard even more. Including fathers in such projects can serve as a start for something great.
Besnik Leka from Care International during his speech talked about the organization’s contribution to improving the role of men in the Kosovar society: “I remember their project for the 8th of March last year. Or the girls’ soccer tournament in October last year. The Young Men Initiative has been launched for four years already in Kosovo, although it exists in some countries in the region such as Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania. During this period we worked with boys aged 14 to 18 years. The programs of this initiative have proved so successful that they have been accredited by the Ministry of Education and have started to be implemented in schools. The idea of fathers involvement in such a project was very interesting. It is a continuation of a project that has already taken shape. The courage of the fathers who have accepted to be part of the campaign without worrying about prejudices, is tremendous. Why is it important for such a campaign to be implemented and for these topics to be discussed? Because experience and previous practices have proven best that this way we yield greater results. It is not enough to mark the International Family Day with several flyers, which coincided with the launch of the campaign, but what’s important is to have interaction, debates and straightforward forms through which the barriers, mentality and prejudices are fought against. This campaign aims to raise parents’ awareness so as to talk about common values, approaches and responsibilities towards children and family in general.”
Second day: 16.05.2015
The second day of the Campaign on Fatherhood with an exhibition at the “Zahir Pajaziti” Square
Hollywood-based actress Salma Hayek, who on Saturday participated in a debate at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, called for gender equality in the film industry. Other colleagues joined her call. The British daily “The Guardian” reported on the forum organized by the magazine “Variety” and the “HeForShe” campaign by UN Women, where actresses talked about the sexist approaches exhibited by the institutions, and have called on for film studios, audiences and journalists to change their discourse.
On Saturday in Kosovo, there was a call for gender equality. Perhaps in a different form and with other messages, but this shows that such issues also preoccupy democratic societies. As a continuation of the Fatherhood campaign, which began on Friday, the 15th of Saturday, an exhibition took place on the “Zahir Pajaziti” Square in the capital of Kosovo. The photos that were exhibited a day earlier, for a certain number of people, were now unfolded in the open air. Passersby, many of them parents who were out spending the weekend with their families, had the opportunity to get acquainted with the aims of this event organized by Care International in the Balkans and Peer Educators Network – PEN as the implementing partner of the “Young Men Initiative” project. Fathers would gather and pose together with their children. Through this it was shown that it is not shame for a father to walk his daughter to the park or fix her hair, send her to school or teach her to ride a bike, and nurture her. All of these activities in the Kosovar society are considered as work that belongs to mothers, while “real men” have to deal with other stuff. Well, these are the stereotypes that this campaign challenges. An interesting and fun part of this campaign is undoubtedly its motto, or the inscription on children’s t-shirts, bags and aprons: “I’m glad you are my dad.” The volunteers of the Be a Man Club were dressed in T-shirts bearing this inscription, who’d attract even more attention from the people passing through the square. Numerous parents stopped to take photos. It is noticeable that the younger generation has broken some of the barriers that society has set over the years, but unfortunately the number of these young people is small. I have the impression that in less developed cities, not talking about rural areas, the idea of a “real man” (or rather, the ruler of the house) is still fanatically preserved. Therefore, activities such as this are necessary, with concrete examples explaining why parents should share responsibility for raising their children, but also sharing responsibilities in family planning. It is clear that the Kosovar society does not face problems and issues such as those of Hollywood actors, or other societies, but the fight against negative phenomena, starting debates about breaking prejudices, an explanation of the fundamental rights of both sexes, are our ways to become a democratic society for real.