Kosovo youth committed to advancing gender equality

September 16, 2022
Photos by Xhemajl Sllovinja for UNDP Kosovo


In a room filled with young people, we were greeted by energy and enthusiasm. The pioneering Youth Forum brought together 60 young people from diverse backgrounds and communities across Kosovo¹ under the theme "Challenging gender norms". 

The Youth Forum organized by UNDP Kosovo, in cooperation with the Kosovo Centre for Gender Studies, was a unique opportunity for young people to come together to express their concerns and desires – turning them into a concrete action plan on how to improve gender equality.


In all their diversity, the young people had their say on how they see the future of girls and women – and gender equality – in Kosovo. As we found out, they have a lot to share!


As everywhere in the world, also in Kosovo, there are many challenges when it comes to effectively involving youth in planning and decision-making. At the same time, the greatest wealth of Kosovo is precisely its young population - with nearly half of the population 25 years or under and 19% between 15-24 years. 

Through this Forum, UNDP wanted to create a space for the young people to express their views on how to address gender inequality and advocate for women’s rights. The goal was to formulate a plan for action and change through learning, exchange of opinions, and informed deliberation. All with the aim of envisaging a gender-equal Kosovo, driven by the goal of a sustainable future these young people aspire to attain. 


Young people participating in this Forum feel very passionate about ensuring a sustainable future and consider gender equality as a condition for a better life. 

One of the participants, Blend Bllaca, 22, joined us from Gjilane/Gnjilane. He is a true advocate for gender equality: “Coming to this forum changed my perception about ‘other people’s’ problems. When I heard about the issues of some minority groups it made me think how unfair it is when it comes to how girls and women are treated. Simply, we are not talking enough about gender equality, and what suffering inequality can bring!”, said Blend. “It is excellent that you are asking for our opinion - because this is now our world and we should shape it”, he continued with confidence.  “Many young people here have raised the issue of adding sexual education in the official curriculum which would contribute to advancing gender equality, as well as equality in other spheres of life”, he said.


The Youth Forum also provided a safe space for young people, particularly young women and girls, to discuss particular challenges and opportunities openly, and more importantly in relation to their local communities. 

One of the young women who took part in this Forum is Xheneta Adic from Lipjan/Lipljan. “We are still facing early marriages, weak education and poor healthcare. I am an activist of the NGO “Mediatore Terenit” and we are actively out there, dealing with stereotypes within the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in the municipality of Lipjan/LIpljan. Being “out there” is the way to combat all these stereotypes. In my community, women are certainly not treated the same as men and we are far from equality. But I am a fighter, and I will fight for my status in the family and beyond. I am planning to apply to study law and make concrete contribution to women’s rights”, said Xheneta.  


The sessions provided interactive training on advancing and promoting gender equality, with a focus on tackling issues like gender stereotypes and harmful social norms, discrimination, gender-based violence and sexual harassment. With the support of professionals from respective fields, stakeholders and practitioners, the participants from all regions of Kosovo and communities were introduced to concepts and activities to build their knowledge and awareness on gender equality. 

Djordje Markovic, activist of the “Gracanica Innovation Center” made it very clear that these kinds of events are an excellent opportunity for youth to learn new things and expand their knowledge: “I would also invite UNDP and other partners to come to our small municipality and organize similar youth events in the future. My general view is that young people in Kosovo, irrespective of their ethnicity and beliefs, face similar problems. The lack of employment opportunities is the cause of many problems and leads to emigration of Kosovo youth. The weak economy also deepens gender inequality and I think that strengthening women-led businesses and the economy in general is the key towards successful development and equality”, said Djordje. 


These hard-working Millennials have shown the will and have demonstrated serious knowledge on the importance of gender equality, and we believe that on their path to successful careers they will also become gender equality advocates. The quality of their recommendations indicates how committed and ambitious they are in their approach to this cause.

Among the main topics and issues addressed during the three weekends of collaborative learning, deliberation and decision-making, the following recommendations were formulated:

📌increase awareness on reproductive and sexual health among young people by including sexual education in the school curriculum
 📌develop and design structural plans for the improvement and building of infrastructure and facilities (schools, public buildings, workplaces) that guarantee access for people with disabilities that are safe for women and girls including women and girls with disabilities.
 📌functionalize easy and effective reporting channels for the victims of sexual harassment and sexual crimes
 📌enhance efforts to create gender-sensitive and inclusive school textbooks that remove gender stereotypes in terms of content, language and pedagogy, and that include gender equality in its learning objectives 
 📌increase safety for women and girls in public spaces by improving street lighting and installing CCTV cameras in public spaces
 📌increase safety in schools by establishing gender-responsive Safety School Councils/Bodies to be able to effectively report and deal with issues like bullying, cyber-bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment and violence
 📌enhance efforts to develop gender-sensitive mechanisms that monitor and control the media to tackle harmful gender norms, stereotyping, discrimination and objectification of women  
 📌strengthen the capacity of regional employment offices and establish career guidance centers to advance gender equality, reduce stereotyping in employment, vocational training/education and improve opportunities for young women to access STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers  


To ensure follow-up, the forum has selected a Youth Panel comprised of 16 diverse and bright young women and men activists to continue this journey by overseeing the recommendations of the forum with support from UNDP, and our partner, the Kosovo Gender Studies Center (KGSC), in cooperation with other actors.


The Youth Forum on Gender Equality was organized as part of a project financed by the UNDP Funding Window on Governance, Crisis, Peacebuilding and Resilience supported by Denmark, Luxemburg, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland with flexible contributions, as well as Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.


¹ - References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).