The Regional Women’s Lobby for Peace, Security and Justice in Southeast Europe (RWLSEE) was founded in 2006 by a group of dedicated women leaders from politics and civil society from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, FYR of Macedonia and Serbia and with support of the UN Women (then UNIFEM). The founding meeting was held in Zagreb (Croatia), which is considered a birthplace of our organization.
The RWLSEE members come from diverse backgrounds: they are politicians with leadership roles in movements for freedom, democracy and independence; members of parliaments, governments officials and civil society leaders.
Their work is dedicated to gender equality and increasing women’s participation, inﬂuencing political decision-making and peacebuilding, justice and security process and promoting cultural solidarity and mutual understanding between diﬀerent national groups, in the post-war settings in the Western Balkans.
The empowerment of women in decision-making and peacebuilding processes remains at the forefront of the RWLSEE agenda because its members believe that investing in women is necessary to support peace, democracy and development worldwide. We hope our experience can inspire and inform women living beyond Western Balkans in opening pathways for the meaningful participation of women in building peace worldwide.
The RWLSEE is an unique regional women’s peacebuilding organization as it demonstrates the power of women organizing across borders even in a diﬃcult post-war context and their capability as women leaders to succeed in building a common future agenda. This organization shows the commitment of women for whom the war became a catalyst for peacemaking and solidarity. Notwithstanding the threats of violence, injury and death, they found the strength, the ideas and worked together.
The RWLSEE members agree that together and regionally they have more impact to advance issues on peace building. A common denominator for the RWLSEE initiatives is the use of UNSCR 1325. The RWLSEE members have identiﬁed common challenges:
- Weak governance, fragile rule of law and growing corruption
- Diﬃcult economic situation, with high unemployment rates, particularly aﬀecting women; Persistent security challenges;
- Marginalization of women from political decision-making; A trend for women to revert to traditional gender roles;
- Weak prioritization of gender equality priorities in the EU accession process in the region
- Weak transitional justice and unaddressed international justice for women raped during the wars in former Yugoslavian disintegration.
RWLSEE started as a ﬂexible, horizontal and loosely-structured organization driven by a shared interest among women leaders to consolidate peace and stability in the region of the Western Balkans and to accelerate integration of all seven countries to European Union and Euro-Atlantic structures . Since its inception RWLSEE developed into an institutionalized network with an administrative structure that has a unique and important impact on peace and security agenda in the Southeast European region.
The idea to convene a group of politically engaged women in the region came from two key individuals: Osnat Lubrani, the former UNIFEM Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Flora Macula, Head of Oﬃce UNIFEM in Kosovo, who were inspired by the International Women’s Committee for a Just and Sustainable Israeli-Palestinian Peace (IWC).
In the preparation for the upcoming Kosovo status talks in Vienna-organized under the UN auspices, UN Women explored options of bringing together either the Kosova and Serb women politicians and civil society leaders or women from the entire region. Edita Tahiri, a Kosovo politician who later became the RWLSEE chair, urged for the working group to be composed of women from the entire region, namely countries founded from the dissolution of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania.
In 2005, UN Women convened a group of women leaders from the region to reﬂect about the opportunities to advocate for implementation of the UN SCR 1325. The idea of creating women’s lobby on peace, security and justice in Southeast Europe was explored by twelve women who attended the meeting. This initial meeting was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The RWLSEE is headquartered in Prishtina, Kosovo. The decision to locate it in Kosovo was related to the legal registration framework of Kosovo, as the only one among countries in the region allowing registration of an NGO with international membership.
Marieta Zace, Albania; Meliha Alic, Memnuna Zvizdic, BiH; Gordana Sobol, Biljana Kasic, Croatia; Edita Tahiri, Luljeta Vuniqi, Nekibe Kelmendi, Igballe Rugova, Teuta Sahatqija, Kosovo; Irina Pockova, North Macedonia; Nada Drobnjak, Montenegro; Sonja Biserko, Natasa Kandic, Vera Markovic, Natasa Micic, Stasa Zajovic, Liljana Radovanovic, Serbia.
Nekibe Kelmendi, Vera Marković