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I love Balkans Regional Conference empowering women in the WB6

I love Balkans Regional Conference, one of the most inclusive projects ever funded by the Western Balkans Fund with partners from all the Contracting Parties of WB Region, is currently underway in Pristina.

Influential women in politics, business, media, academic life and more are united over one goal, equal opportunities for all!

In his welcoming speech, Dr. Murra declared: “We at the Western Balkans Fund believe in equality not with words but with facts”.

As a matter of fact, from the I love Balkans Regional Conference, to the Female Leadership Camp, many projects supported by the 4 Call for Proposals tackle inequality in a large scale.

Speech of the Executive Director, Dr. Murra, as prepared for delivery

Dear Madam President Jahjaga

Dear organisers and participants

Dear Sanije

Let me start by deeply congratulating you for the successful implementation of the I Love Balkan project, funded by Western Balkans Fund and co-funded by the European Union, as part of our 4th Call for Proposals.

I want to underline that what you have done here represents the very best of what we strive for. Since 2017, we as an organisation have been sowing the roots of cooperation all around the Western Balkans.

WBF funds projects of at least three partners from three different Contracting Parties. Still, very rarely have we met an applicant able to forge an extensive, meaningful, and inclusive partnership with partners from around the Western Balkans.

For all those reasons, indeed, congratulations. Well done!

Dear Madam President Jahjaga

When you were elected in 2011, I was working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania, dealing with the Directory of Regional Affairs.

I remember very well how your election, as the first-ever women head of state in the Western Balkans, send shockwaves in the Region.

More than a decade later, I am happy to notice your legacy as President, activist and head of the Jahjaga Foundation is constantly growing.

You once said that “Women is the real hero of our families. Women are the glue holding together our communities. Women are the ones that endured the most difficult times. That makes them the real heroes of every single family”.

In our Contracting Parties, each government is pushing for full equality. I am happy to witness how fast the battle for total gender balance and equality is advancing.

However, much more remains to be done. As of 2021, only 27.5% of business owners in the Western Balkans are women, and just 14.2% of companies top managers are female.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit some of the crucial achievements in equality, and it is imperative to protect them. Our societies don’t have the luxury of a pause from the fight.

Data say that equal participation rates in entrepreneurship could raise the GDP per capita of WB6 economies by 1.5% per year by 2035.

In other words, according to the IMF, full gender equality and equal opportunities translate into the most considerable economic development imaginable, up to 35% in the next 15 years.

But the data have a significant gap. They usually scan the situation in a single country. Thanks to initiatives like this, it can be possible to have extensive cooperation between women in the Western Balkan Region. The benefits of a regional network of entrepreneurs can be even more substantial.

Dear Ladies

Dear Participants

We at the Western Balkans Fund believe in equality not with words but with facts. Our team is entirely gender-balanced.

And, since the first Call for Proposals launched by us five years ago, through our Regional Grants, we have always empowered Civil Society Organisations dealing with gender issues.

Moreover, the 4th Call for Proposals features five Kosovo projects, all closely related to equality and the promotion of equal opportunities.

Before this large Conference and the book, I look forward to receiving, we were in Kosovo for another large Conference organised by the Kosovo Institute of Media and Communication that united women in politics from around the WB6.

The innovative project implemented by IPKO Foundation aimed to improve the participation of young girls and women in the hi-tech field.

Another project, again funded by us and executed by GARMIN, focuses on the absorption and empowerment of the diaspora. The same goes for the Kosovo Chamber of Trade and Industry.

I am also proud that we will invest in the future, for example, through projects like the Female Leadership Class, which took place in Montenegro in July.

And since we celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Western Balkans Fund at the beginning of September, allow me to assure you that we, as an international organisation, will continue to fight and support your fight for many years to come.

Allow me to wrap up my intervention with a quote.

Madam Jahjaga. At St. Edwards University, they ask you what advice you will give to a younger self if travelling back in time.

And you replied: “I would say to that young girl, believe in yourself. Believe in your values. And have courage. There is nothing that cannot be done when you invest in your potential”.

It is, the same advice I give today to my daughter and my niece.

Thank you for your attention