UNOPS

Voices: Looking through the "lens of gender" in Serbia

“Implementing changes takes time; time to overcome stereotypes, time to overcome prejudices and time to understand what equality really means.” - Ana Nedeljkovic, UNOPS Programme Assistant

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​"I have worked with EU PROGRES in Serbia since 2012. The programme, funded by the European Union and the Government of Switzerland and implemented by UNOPS, aims to contribute to enhanced stability and socio-economic development in south and southwest Serbia. Working on more than 260 projects in cooperation with 25 municipalities, the breadth of what EU PROGRES covers is extensive.

"Building good governance is a long-term process that is deeply linked with gender equality, an important cross-cutting aspect of the EU PROGRES programme. Good governance works to increase the participation of citizens, politicians and institutions in community decision-making, and the equal participation of women and girls is an essential part of this.

"The EU PROGRES Gender Equality Project aims to contribute to women's empowerment, skills development and also raise awareness on women's health and gender-equality issues. So far, the project has made significant strides towards addressing issues of gender inequality in south and southwest Serbia. Through advocacy efforts, we have helped establish various local mechanisms for gender equality in 21 municipalities, and a further seven have allocated funding for gender councils. This helps municipalities organize concrete activities to improve gender equality on a local level. UNOPS has also provided training on gender mainstreaming in projects.

Novi Pazar Serbia Good governance Street activity as part of a good governance campaign 'I want...because I live here' funded by the European Union and the Government of Switzerland. Photo: UNOPS

"EU PROGRES has also awarded thirty-five grants to different projects that tackle a range of issues, from health, prevention of violence, economic empowerment and female entrepreneurship to increased political representation. The programme has also equipped maternity wards and medical institutions with better facilities to deal with women’s health issues, and mobilized awareness raising campaigns on women’s health issues.

"Despite these successes, the project has not been without its challenges. I have stumbled on complex issues and social problems. The biggest challenge I have faced is the traditional perception of women as housewives in Serbian society, which means that their potential in the workforce is often overlooked. A lack of political will has also impeded the creation of equal opportunities in all spheres of both public and private life. If nothing else, understanding the problems and implementing changes takes time; time to overcome stereotypes, time to overcome prejudices and time to understand what equality really means.

"I have many expectations of EU PROGRES, but what I strive for, more than anything, is to help develop the ability of those involved in implementing projects, from local governments to local organizations, to look at a projects through a gender lens."