Women Empowerment Talks: “Women in the security institutions”

25 November 2020

On 20 November 2020, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) EULEX launched the first in a series of “Women Empowerment Talks”, focusing on the topic of women’s empowerment in the security institutions.

EULEX’s Gender Advisor, Chiara Tagliani, and the Mission’s Transition Coordinator, Alina Laura Matache, hosted a very interesting panel of women in leading positions in the security sector: Zyrafete Imeraj, President of Women Association in Kosovo Correctional Service, Elmina Mahmuti, Regional Director of the Kosovo Police, and Ritva Hannele Vahakoski, Head of EULEX Correctional Unit. The panelists discussed a host of issues, including the advantages and the challenges that women who work in the security institutions face on daily basis.

“Women in decision-making positions is a synonym for a country’s democratic development,” said Zyrafete Imeraj, adding: “One of the advantages is that there are already women who are employed in security institutions. However, the representation of women in this sector is still low and this remains a continuous challenge in the Kosovo Correctional Service and in all security institutions.” Imeraj also believes that it is crucial to encourage women to apply and develop their careers in the security institutions, because currently women are not motivated nor supported enough to further advance their careers. 

According to Colonel Elmina Mahmuti, the position of women in the Kosovo Police is better as the number of women wo work with the Kosovo Police has been steadily increasing in the past years and a number of women have been promoted in different positions. However, this is still not at a satisfactory level. “Women represent only 15% of the Kosovo Police team. We need to continue increasing the number of women in different sectors of the police and to also motivate women to develop their careers,” said Colonel Mahmuti. The Kosovo Police representative illustrated their successful strategy for recruiting more women through various outreach activities with communities in Kosovo. This resulted in an increase in the number of women applicants from 418 in 2013 to more than 2000 applicants in 2018.

Ritva Hannele Vahakoski said that there needs to be a shift in the mentality and more gender diversity when it comes to jobs that women and men traditionally do. “The challenge is that even now, in 2020, the security sector is male dominated. It is often claimed that women are physically weaker. However, it needs to be highlighted that it is not a matter of gender, but rather a matter of personality, as there are equally good women and men working in the security sector,” emphasized Vahakoski. 

But, how can women support and empower each other and advance the position of women in the security sector? 

All panelists agreed that women should be united in order to pave the way for each other, but also for other women who aspire to a career in the security sector. The panelists also stressed the importance of Women’s Associations in the security sector, as well as the workshops and training courses which tremendously support women in their career paths in this challenging sector. The importance of lobbying among young girls to pursue a career in the security sector was seen as crucial by all panelists.

The “Women’s Empowerment Talks” are part of EULEX’s activities to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.