REGIONAL CONFERENCE – ““Women in decision-making at local level / Role of women mayors as potential agents of change” – 07 November 2016 – Tetovo, Macedonia
On November 7th 2016, in Tetovo, Macedonia, the Regional Women’s Lobby for Peace, Security and Justice in South East Europe (RWL SEE) in close partnership and with funding support from UN Women and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Prishtina, Kosovo, held the regional conference on “Women in decision-making at local level / Role of women mayors as potential agents of change” with a special focus on women mayors from the 7 focus countries of RWL SEE: Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The Conference convened a group of 70 diverse politicians, ministers, mayors, experts, civil society representatives and RWLSEE members from the region of Southeastern Europe and beyond. The Conference was attended by women mayors from Western Balkan countries who shared their insights and experiences in local governance as well as challenges they face as women mayors.
The Conference was chaired by the RWLSEE Chair, Minister Edita Tahiri and welcoming remarks were
offered by the Head of UN Women Kosovo Ms. Flora Macula, Minister from the Ministry of Local Self Government of Macedonia Ms. Siret Elezi and Tetova mayor Teuta Arifi, as well as from Mr. Per Strand Sjaastad, Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy of Kosovo and Louisa Vinton, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Macedonia.
In a very constructive and rich debate, the participants came together to look at different aspects of the role of women mayors in making cities a better place to live, in line with European standards, as well as working for empowering women in government at the local and central level. Participants succeeded in exploring the local drivers in developing strategies for the development of cities, women empowerment, peace, justice and reconciliation through strengthened regional cooperation and dialogue.
The conference reached its aims in a remarkable manner, where particular objectives were to empower women’s leadership at the local level by emphasizing the role of women mayors as important agents of change in the areas of gender equality, political empowerment and interethnic harmony, as well as improving their regional cooperation. Apart from discussing how to ensure women access to local public services and regional cooperation of women mayors, talks focused on how women can reform their cities to make progress in European Integration in their countries and women’s role in promoting tolerance and preventing and countering violent extremism in the Region of Southeast Europe.
By enabling discussion platform and dialogue between women in politics, women mayors and representatives of CSOs around the chosen conference topics, the RWLSEE aimed also to mainstream gender balance policies into local policymaking to ensure equity and effectiveness in planning, budgeting, service provision and government oversight.
After a dynamic and constructive debate during the conference, the participants jointly adopted a Conference Declaration outlining key recommendations and calling for:
- All participants shared common understanding that the position of women has improved compared to the past, however a lot more needs to be done for reaching the goal of full equality of women and men in decision making levels. The quota for women in government has been supported while they confirmed commitment to continue to work for empowerment of women.
- All participating country representatives to continue networking and strengthening regional cooperation among mayors and other relevant stakeholders.
- Launching an agreed initiative for a regional network of women mayors in the Western Balkans, proposed by RWLSEE based on its model. This regional network / Association of women mayors will serve as platform for exchange of experience and mutual reinforcement and inspiration for them, which can contribute to increasing the participation of women in politics at local and national levels.
- Continuing support of RWL SEE and woman mayors to address the concerns regarding the issues of violent extremism in the region.
- Support of the IWPG declaration of peace and continuous collaboration.
The Regional Women’s Lobby for Peace, Security and Justice in Southeast Europe (RWLSEE) represents a successful model of regional cooperation in the construction of peace that can be used as a model for peace processes in other regions of the world. It advocates for sustainable peace, democracy, justice, security and reconciliation in post conflict countries; respect for different cultural values; and the creation of a new future for the region.