“Women as drivers of the local economy”: steps forward but still much to do

The conference “Women as drivers of the local economy” was held today at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. The central topic of the Conference was how to see rural women as economic potential as well as to understand different kinds of support programs needed for their affirmation.

Secretary of State at the Ministry of Labour Dušanka Golubović has highlighted that the empowerment of women from rural areas should be reflected through specific measures emphasising the visibility of their work. As an example of this, Golubović has underlined the project of revitalization of the Stapar carpet, which started in 2016. In her word, at the beginning of the project there was only one old woman who knew how to weave. Still, thanks to the efforts of many players, the local association was established, which made it possible to organize trainings, equipment procurement, and also through public tenders it was also possible for these women to acquire quality fabrics.

By the words of the State Secretary, this is one of the examples of supporting women in rural areas and enabling them to spend their time creatively and to some extent have economic independence. Golubović has stated that a major part of these associations is women in older age, and this is why is important to continue encouraging “contemporary interpretation of the traditional”, so that young women also become part of the process.

Commissioner for the Protection of Equality Brankica Janković has stated that although empowerment of women from rural areas is taking a bigger part recently, the position of women in rural areas today is even more difficult due to the fact that most part of young women from rural areas are moving to urban areas. Yet, a vast part of agricultural holdings today survive thanks to women, and this is why systemic activities are needed in order to empower women from rural areas, emphasized Janković. Janković and Golubović have agreed that the systematic approach is of crucial importance when it comes to the reconstruction of gender roles; this, in the first place, means joint action of different parts of society, such as government institutions, NGOs and media.

Jovanović: Women are pillars and carriers of the rural economy

“Women are pillars and carriers of the rural economy”, highlighted President of the Etno mreža (Ethno Network) Violeta Jovanović adding that the support of coordinating bodies for gender equality as well as UN support is extremely important in this process.

Jovanović underlined that empowering women from rural areas should be public and systematic, adding that other goals of Etno mreža currently are related to fiscalization and e-invoices and adequate trainings, as well as opening of Ethno Gallery in Belgrade which would enable affirmation and visibility of Etno mreža and its efforts in the capital of Serbia.

As good examples of women empowerment in rural areas, mayor of Knjaževac Milan Đokić highlighted activities which municipality of Knjaževac takes, such as providing free space to work, organizing trainings and summer schools and pottery fairs.

Member of board of directors of ANEM Veran Matić has highlighted that the position of women in rural areas has not improved proportionally in the last 40 years with respect to the improvements which have influenced other aspects of life. As the main constraint which women from rural areas experience, Matić emphasized the lack of information when it comes to the methods that can improve their position. Matić has reminded that on the National Day of Giving which was yesterday, 90% of participants were women. This is why, in his words, women who certainly are more philanthropic, should be empowered to take part in making decisions.

Director of the UN Women agency Milana Rikanović and Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Coordinating Body for Gender Equality Prof. Zorana Mihajlović have both emphasized once again the necessity for organized and coordinated activities when it comes to women’s support. As a concrete measure, Mihajlović stated that the creation of a joint Action plan for the empowerment of women in rural areas is needed in order to make women in rural areas feel more economically independent.

Minister Mihajlović thanked Etno Mreža and UN Women, as well as the present Canadian and Great Britain ambassadors for their support in the field of gender equality and violence against women.

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