Steliana Nedera, UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

In order to ensure gender equality in BiH, there needs to be equal participation of women in public and political life, which is only possible with zero tolerance policy towards gender-based violence against women, as well as institutionalized response to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women in politics. This is the conclusion of the thematic conference „Violence Free Politics for Violence Free Society” that was held in Sarajevo on 29 November. The conference gathered project partners of the “Women in Elections in BiH” project, as well as representatives of civil society, academia and media, in discussing main challenges regarding women’s right to participate in public and political life without violence.

The conference aimed to explore patterns of online harassment and reaction mechanisms, as well as the dynamics, sources and forms of violence that take place against women who are participating in electoral/political processes. The participants also discussed actions to prevent this form of violence, especially in the context of the upcoming 2022 general elections.

Introductory speeches were made by David Saunders, UN Women BiH Representative, and Steliana Nedera, UNDP Resident Representative.

We need to acknowledge and recognise that violence against women and girls in public life is a serious problem and has serious consequences. Women choose not to stand for political office; they withdraw from public appearances; they delete social media accounts, they suffer serious health problems. In BiH, 60% of women politicians have experienced some form of violence. Nearly half of women politicians experienced this specifically because they are women. Resources need to be made available to promote and enable women’s participation and leadership in political and public life, and together we must encourage and insist on it,” said David Saunders, UN Women BiH Representative.

 

 

This conference is a call for new determination to work together in addressing violence against women in public spaces and in politics. UNDP together with UN Women is very proud work with Sweden, and we believe that such a strong partnership and attention to these issues has never been more needed and asked for. Removing barriers to engagement of women in BiH through constant promotion of anti-discrimination culture in political parties, companies, organisations and institutions, and more appropriate presence of women leaders in media, remains a priority for us all,” said Steliana Nedera, Resident Representative of UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the introductory speeches, Ismeta Dervoz, former Member of BiH Parliamentary Assembly (from 2010 to 2014), held an inspiring keynote speech on the many challenges and circumstances surrounding women’s political participation. The first thematic session titled  “Digital toxicity: Abuse and harassment of politically active women on social networks and in online media in Bosnia and Herzegovina” welcomed  Lana Prlić, member of HoR FBiH Parliament; Jasmina Mršo, policy officer at European Network of Political Foundations; Nermina Voloder, representative at Westminster Foundation for Democracy; and Nikola Vučić, reporter and producer at N1 TV. 

 

 

The second thematic session, titled “Equal and safe opportunities: Prevention and ending of violence against women in elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, featured a panel discussion with Vanja Bjelica-Prutina, member of BiH Central Election Commission; Mirjana Marinković-Lepić, member of HoR BiH Parliamentary Assembly; Ivanka Marković, Professor at University of Banja Luka, member of RS People’s Assembly; and Jelena Tanasković-Micanović, coordinator at Coalition for free and fair elections “Pod lupom”. Concluding remarks to the conference were made by gender policy expert Adnan Kadribašić, and Zlatiborka Popov-Momčinović, professor at University of East Sarajevo. The conference was closed by Lejla Ramić Mesihović, project manager of „Women in Elections“ at UNDP.

It was agreed that the first step in addressing the widespread violence against women in public and political life is to acknowledge and name the problem, as this is a new and emerging area of concern for democratic decision-making worldwide. Sanctioning violence against women in politics needs to be further explored due to complexities of virtual spaces and political sensibilities related to electoral processes in BiH. All participants agreed that this process should involve all relevant stakeholders, from political parties, parliaments, media, academia and civil society. UN Women and UNDP remain committed to addressing this issue in the future.

The event was organized by UN Women, as a part of the project “Women in Elections in BiH”, financed by Sweden, and implemented by UNDP together with UN Women.

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