Subject: UN Mission in Kosovo: NGO Complaint about Gender Unit
Wednesday, May 23, 2001 5:16 PM
Motrat Qiriazi


Date: 22 May 2001

To: Hans Haekkerup, SRSG, UNMIK Daan Everts, Head of Mission, OSCE Tom Koenigs, DSRSG, UNMIK Vjosa Dobruna, Co-Head, DDCGS, JIAS Robert Pulver, Co-Head, DDGCS, JIAS Fatima Almana, Chief, Office of Gender Affairs, UNMIK Roma Bhattacharjea, Office of Gener Affairs, UNMIK

Kristin Astgeirsdottir, UNIFEM Siobhan Smith, UNDP Angela King, UNHQ Kristin Astgeirdottir, UNIFEM

From: Igballe Rogova, Coordinator of Women's Network-Kosova
Telephone: 044-111-965

Subject: Complaint about OGA Leadership

As a women's movement since civil society was formed in Kosova in 1990, we were closely working with government departments on different issues.

For example, womens organization were working on education for women and girls, and everything we did, we did it with the government. For ten years, the government had knowledge of our work. And then the war started, and we were thrown out of Kosova.

When we came back, we had not one day of rest because during the war, being as refugees in the camps, we worked everyday. After the war, we continued working with women. But we felt that since now the U.N. was in charge for Kosova, it would be easier because then we could work together. But we were wrong.

When we first heard that the U.N. was going to be in charge of Kosova, we in civil society were very excited, especially as the U.N. had created the document on the women's convention. But when we returned home we were so disappointed by the U.N. because - it was not only that they did not recognize that we exist, but they also refused to hear our voice. Also, they came with prejudices about Kosova being patriarchal, with ideas about men and women, with no movement possible for women. Instead of giving our energy to women after the war, we had to waste our time and energy to prove to the U.N. that we know what is best for women. And we also had to fight their prejudices. We had to prove that Kosova was not what they believed it was.

But when we heard of the Office of Gender Affairs, we were excited because we thought this department would give stronger voice to local women. And again we were disappointed because OGA - instead of listening to our voice, wanted to shut down our voice. This was because to everything we were saying, they responded by saying, no, they were the experts, not us. Forget and ignore what we said. We felt they wanted to patronize us instead of strengthen us.

They wanted to show power on us, instead of giving power to us. And in fact that is supposed to be their job - to give power to us, not to shut us down.

It started with them being persistent on starting a government department for women when local women's groups were saying, "We don't want that, we want women to be mainstreamed everywhere." And after that, when we felt that we were not being heard or empowered by Fatima Almana or Roma Bhattacharjea, we decided to show that we are capable of organizing ourselves. So we organized the first regional conference, inviting women from the ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, and we discussed women's issues and what the priorities were in working together with NGOs and government. Everything we did, we did ourselves. We worked day and night organizing this conference of over 200 participants.

And immediately after that, Roma Bhattacharjea went to a meeting with internationals and represented our conference without first consulting us - it looked liked OGA was behind the conference - like OGA had organized it.

Again, we felt used, ignored and sidelined.

In that time, we realized OGA existed before in one other country as a successful program. Kosova was the second test. And they thought they could bring the same program to Kosova. But in the country where it first started, there were no women's NGOs - however, in Kosova, there were women's NGOs for ten years already. But they wanted to keep strongly their program and ignored the program we had. You cannot work in Kosova with some other program brought from the outside. Every country is different.

Women's groups in Kosova have a network with women's groups in the ex-Yugoslavia, including Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, and Bosnia - and we have met yearly. And then in our regional conference, Bosnian women couldn't come because they were organizing a march on the Srebrenica massacre (where thousands were killed by the Serbian regime), and they asked us to do a march together, on the same day, for the same reason and also about missing persons from Kosova. And we planned this march together in July 2000 after the conference. We informed the police in time, according to the regulations, and on the day of the protest, even though we had written permission, the police said they were not informed to stop the traffic. That same day we had a meeting with Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea, and we complained to ask why they went to the international community to represent the conference that we had organized without consulting us. Roma Bhattacharjea was again showing power to say, "If you had come to us, you would have the march. But since you did not come to us, this is the consequence."

Almost everything we did, with every initiative, it was Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea who said, "This is what we (meaning OGA) did." It was our work, but they took the credit. And the biggest example is the Kosovo Action Plan, which is based on the regional conference we organized. And after reading what OGA wrote, we asked for many meetings to discuss the Kosovo Action Plan.

We met on 26 February 2001 - political party women, NGO women's groups, media women, and government women. We discussed this plan in a meeting room in the UNMIK Government Building. We decided then to form working groups that would have local women who are experts in those fields. And we decided to meet again to prioritise the recommendations, to start with the small ones and finish with the big ones. Fatima Almana was present when we said that. And again she showed ignorance to us and sent the Kosovo Action Plan to Hans Haekkerup, who endorsed it.

When we heard this, we had another special meeting with OGA, UNDP, UNIFEM, and the Women's Network, to discuss why Fatima Almana did this without waiting for us to do the next step, as we had all agreed on 26 February 2001. The simple question of "Why did you do this?" she did not answer, she always changed the subject. And this is the reason we decided to write this letter.

Because all these two years we were speaking, speaking, speaking, but now we want it to be written, to mention this - because we learned that when you speak you will not be listened to, but when you write there is some hope to be heard. In the end we want you to know that local women think of peace and we are closely working with the Roma and Ashkali, and are also helping with capacity building with women's groups from throughout Kosova. We know how to make these bridges - even though we are not recognized for this ability to work with other

groups, we are doing it. And in our last meeting of the Women's Network, Roma and Ashkali were present and they became members as well. And in the very near future, Serb women will also become members as well. So it is not that we do not or that we cannot make bridges. It is that Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea have stopped us. They are the problem but they do not understand this.

History of Women's Network:

Before the war, there were more than 10 women's group in Kosova, and after the war, more women's groups were formed because they wanted to do something to help the community. In October 1999, OSCE started to gather the women's groups with internationals for monthly meetings in the OSCE building.

But in those meetings, local women had no voice. It was just internationals - it was their agenda, their words. This is when we local women felt humiliated because we were not being recognized as experts in this field, so we decided to form our own network, and we invited internationals to attend these meetings to have equal time between internationals and locals to say what they wanted to say.

The first meeting happened in January 2000. When we started there were 16 local women's groups and 8 international organizations. Today there are 33 local women's groups, and more than 20 international organizations coming regularly to the meetings. This Women's Network has become important space to discuss issues.

Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea were coming to our Network meetings and always they were sharing their own agenda, and their own plan. Always they were just pretending to listen to our ideas because after Network meetings, they would just continue doing things that we told them were not right. It was the wrong way to do things. So when we realized we were against misused and ignored by Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea, we kindly asked them to leave - but this was not about all OGA staff - we said that other staff from OGA were welcome to attend. For example, Sarah Attika and Nahid Hussein were model examples of how OGA staff should be, where they really gave a good model of sharing information and being respectful. But even they had problems with their bosses.

Our conclusion is that no matter what Fatima Almana showed Hans Haekkerup, we are doing it our own way, because we know how to make it happen. We are not going by the way that she has written or proceeded with it. So we want you to know that even though we do not have the support of Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea, we will continue with our work.

What we are asking for is that we want somebody to question their two years of giving us headaches. We want somebody to take into account this history of their patronizing, power-showing, ignorance ways of treating us. Who is responsible of our wasted time and energy? Instead of giving these resources to local women, we had to give it to Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea, and we feel like we were wasting two years dealing with them, instead of giving our energy to women in Kosova. But we want you to realize that we will continue with our work, even though they are barriers. But we want you to take responsibility for their actions and behaviours.

Recently, in the beginning of May, I attended a meeting of the European Union on how state actors can work with NGOs in conflict prevention. And the E.U.

accepted and signed onto 3 main issues: the first is that state actors should work closely with civil society. Number two: there is no real democracy and sustainable peace without the participation of both women and men at all decision-making levels, guaranteed through a process of continued gender analysis. Number three: international organizations should implement their projects together with local NGOs.

Our conclusion is that OGA should follow these priorities and that UNMIK should take this letter seriously since it comes from civil society.

Something needs to be done about the problems of the OGA leaders Fatima Almana and Roma Bhattacharjea.


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