UN family in Montenegro and the UK Embassy opened a dialogue on the women public engagement opportunities

Podgorica, 10 March – The women’s public participation in Montenegro and possibilities of concrete actions to increase it were in the very focus of the working breakfast: “Increasing the public participation of women in Montenegro”, organized by the United Nations Family in Montenegro and the UK Embassy in Podgorica.

The working breakfast with women ambassadors in Montenegro and representatives of NGOs dealing with gender equality issues opened a new chapter of dialogue on how best to encourage the increased participation of women in society and the political sphere in Montenegro. Through an open and direct discussion, participants exchanged their views and suggestions on major challenges and the best means for reaching such goal, while the organizers committed to include participants’ remarks into account in their future work.

The event, hosted by the British Ambassador to Montenegro, H.E. Kate Knight-Sands, and co-chairs of the UN Working Group on Gender and Human Rights Ms. Kristine Blokhus (UNDP) and Ms. Katja Saha (UNHCR), was organized on the occasion of the 100th anniversary observance of International Women’s Day.

The British Ambassador to Montenegro, H.E. Kate Knight-Sands presented the history of the struggle for women’s political rights in UK, as well as the resistance women had faced in pursuing their political freedoms. ”It is not that long ago that, in the UK, the diplomatic service was not considered a suitable place for a woman unless you were a housemaid or a “Lady Typewriter”. Well I’m glad to say things have moved on in diplomatic circles. We have many women diplomats now, though still not well represented at the highest levels; and indeed Montenegro has a number of women Ambassadors. Much has been achieved in the last 100 years. But, as the UK Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday, in many parts of the world, women are still campaigning for the rights and opportunities that they were denied in 1911 and are still denied now – the right to work, vote, hold public office, to live their lives free of discrimination and to have full access to the education and opportunity that is their birthright.” – said Knight-Sands.

”It is clear that women in Montenegro are active in many walks of public life. There is no shortage of women’s leadership potential, but still in all walks of life, men dominate decision-making positions. While women graduate from university in higher numbers than men, it is the men who find themselves in the top positions.” – said co-chair of the UN Working Group on Gender and Human Rights Ms. Kristine Blokhus in her opening speech, reffering to the gender equality as the vital indicator of Millenium Development Goal 3. She emphasized the need to look beyond elections and the political process, and to examine the overall participation of women in public life. ”The idea of asking you, our NGO colleagues, to bring us your concrete ideas and contributions, is intended to be the start of an ongoing dialogue.” – said Ms. Blokhus.

The representatives of NGOs acknowledged some positive changes that have happened during last 10-15 years, like having women in the Parliament, adoption of several laws relevant to gender issues (Law on Gender Equality, Law on Protection from Family Violence), usage of gender sensitive language, gender issues being part of school curricula within the subject of civil education.

The NGO representatives underlined that the existing legal and institutional frameworks need to be put in practice, stressing that the laws are not being implemented, many of the women members of Parliament are not gender sensitive themselves, the teachers are not trained to teach about gender issues, etc. Participants also referred to the problem of lack of fundings to NGOs dealing with gender issues, highlighting that the international funds significantly decreased, while the local ones are insufficiently available to the women NGOs.

The representative of the Delegation of EU in Montenegro, Eva Maria Herms stated that EUD has the program for social inclusion, but has not yet accepted any of the projects proposals of the NGOs dealing with gender issues. She has suggested meeting and discussing the propositions and concrete project proposals.

The NGOs reminded that they have drafted several project proposals on educating both women and men about women’s participation in political life, introducing quota, amending the Law on Gender Equality, implementing the existing legislation, and proposed introducing of the Ombudsman on women rights.

The organizers have encouraged all the participants to continue proactive approach in their struggle for increasing public participation of women in Montenegrin society.

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. The day was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.