MACEDONIA: Balkan Women a Key Factor for Peace Building

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Southeast European Times
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"I have been always interested in helicopters and planes," Matic said. "I have been always interested in this adrenalin-charged and also very noble work, because we help people and we take part in defending the peace and the stability of the country."

Across the Balkans, military and security jobs typically are considered male professions. The percentage of women working in the security sector in all Balkan countries is low, and few females advance to high-responsibility positions, according to research by NGOs.

"The number of women working in the police and military in these countries varies from around 5 percent to 7 percent," Gorana Ordanovic, from Belgrade's Centre for Security Policy, told SETimes. "Figures are even lower for military. In Serbia, for example, there is little above 2 percent of women in uniform, i.e. women soldiers and officers."

The Centre for Security Policy launched a project in September with four other organisations -- the Centre for Research and Policy Making from Macedonia, the Institute for Democracy and Mediation from Albania, the NGO Women to Women from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Centre for Security Policies from Kosovo -- to increase public awareness of the need to include females in key security decisions.

The groups will compile a report detailing the challenges of introducing gender mainstreaming in the security sector in these five countries, as well as challenges in establishing closer cooperation among security professionals and decision-makers in the region.

"Very few women are working in highest positions in the security sector and have little or no influence at all on security-related decisions," Ordanovic said. "It is therefore necessary that those in charge for provision of security and prevention of violence become aware how women's security concerns differ from men's and that resolving those issues demands a different approach to security."

The number of women applying to Serbia's Military Academy has increased. Fifty-six women applied for 30 places in 2007, the first year the academy admitted women. In the 2011-12 academic year, 326 women applied for 34 places, while 996 men applied for 136 places.

The participation of women in high-ranking security positions is still considered a taboo in the Balkans. But there are exceptions, such as Macedonia's Minister for Interior Gordana Jankulovska and Montenegro's defense minister, Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic.

Women face stereotypes and prejudices, but once they make it to prominent positions, they can perform as well or better than male colleagues, said Ilinka Mitreva, the former foreign minister of Macedonia.

"When asked for the capability of women I often quote Jack Nicholson. He said, 'Women are stronger than us, smarter than us, and they don't play fair.' I think that these are specifications that show that a woman can be successful even at the highest-ranking state positions," Mitreva said with a laugh.