In the words of Ljiljana Gusic: “Rural women have great potential which need to be channeled well”
Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Ljiljana Gusic is a vocal advocate for rural women’s rights in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina. She founded “Udahni Zivot,” a women’s association that promotes women’s creativity, encourages their economic empowerment and supports women from marginalised groups through education, employment and integration into society. UN Women recently supported these efforts in the framework of the EU-funded "Support to priority actions for gender equality" project.
Being a woman and a feminist in a village in Serbia is not easy. It requires continuous battle against deeply-rooted patriarchal values and effort to always prove and explain something that people often don’t understand. They can’t comprehend for example that we are deprived of our basic rights and dignity; institutions are no longer responding to our needs; public transportation has reduced services making it difficult for us to go anywhere; and that there are no sports or cultural events for women. Most of my friends are aware of this and are willing to improve our position. I could call this a battle for gender equality on a micro level.
With my fellow rural women, we figured out that we needed to do something together to have higher impact. We first organised cultural events in our community, doing some humanitarian work and advocating for changes in social policy. Soon after, we realised that we need to be more structured to push strongly for these changes. In 2008, we officially founded the association "Udahni Zivot".
We organize trainings for rural women and implement projects where they can explore their skills and further strengthen them. They also generate new ideas, which they can later materialize. We support women to write business and project proposals to support them in achieving full economic independence.
With UN Women’s support, we have set the bar higher to empower rural women. “Udahni Zivot” aims to increase rural women’s access to resources, self-employment and employment opportunities, including in organic agriculture, tourism and green economy, in 11 villages of Sombor municipality of northern Serbia.
Our main goal is to enable rural women in Serbia to realize and unlock their full potential, which need to be channeled well so that they can benefit personally and economically.
We are very pleased that 10 women already kicked-off organic production and 100 women will receive trainings on accessing resources and green economy in the rural areas of Sombor. Udahni Zivot is also working on gender mainstreaming of municipal development policies and budgets related to rural development, agriculture and tourism.”