Bosnia and Herzegovina hosts the sub-regional multistakeholder consultation for a landmark dialogue on gender equality


9 February 2024 - In anticipation of the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68), scheduled from 11 to 22 March 2024, the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina convened a sub-regional multistakeholder consultation for the Western Balkans and Türkiye.

More than 150 representatives from ministries, national mechanisms for the advancement of women, civil society, academia, and the private sector gathered in a secure space to map the challenges and opportunities in addressing gender and poverty in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo1, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Türkiye in line with the CSW68 priority theme, “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.”

Sevlid Hurtić, Minister of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, highlighted the significance of exchanging experiences among participants, particularly given the shared challenges regarding gender equality in the region. “Gender-responsive policies directly impact gender equality, just as the prosperity of our societies depends directly on gender equality and women's participation in the economy. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss and act on these issues,” pointed out Sevlid Hurtić.

Gülden Türköz-Cosslett, Acting Regional Director of UN Women for Europe and Central Asia, emphasized the need to delve into the CSW68 theme by leveraging participants’ expertise and deep understanding of the region’s realities concerning women and girls’ lives: “We collectively will not be able to achieve gender equality until we address the root causes of poverty and its interlinkages with access to social protection, women’s participation in the labor force, and recognition of the economic contribution of unpaid care work, as well as the required investments and financing for gender equality.”

The consultation, aimed at supporting the region in preparing for the CSW68 session, began with an empirical evidence-based summary of gender and poverty. It highlighted the challenges in creating a comprehensive snapshot, notably the lack of gender-sensitive definitions of poverty and the gender insensitivity in measuring poverty, resulting in numerous data gaps.

The participants shared best practices and experiences in addressing women’s poverty, along with key actions needed to effect the necessary changes.

Denada Seferi, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection from Albania, shared Albania’s progress and experiences, emphasizing the importance of tailored social protection initiatives and the inclusion of vulnerable groups, especially women, as essential priorities to reduce poverty. “Overcoming gender stereotypes is crucial for social and economic progress. In this regard, key reforms implemented in recent years have established a robust institutional and legal framework to advance gender equality and empowerment in public services, social protection, and sustainable infrastructure,” said Denada Seferi.

Jovanka Trenchevska, Additional Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy of North Macedonia, noted significant steps taken by the country to promote gender equality and increase women’s participation in labour force. Initiatives to support the care economy, such as expanding health and care services and establishing centers for active aging, were highlighted. “The Minister of Labor and Social Policy pays special attention to the gender perspective in employment policies. To ensure more women are included in the labor market, we will continue to work on policies and programs that improve the quality of women’s lives. This includes introducing parental leave, protecting women's mental health, and reducing the risk of gender-based violence,” said Jovanka Trenchevska.

Ljiljana Lovrić, Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Bosnia and Herzegovina, mentioned challenges in implementing comprehensive care policies, particularly in ensuring marginalized groups of women benefit from them. “To address this, it's crucial to involve representatives from vulnerable groups of women in policy development to ensure their needs and perspectives are considered. Thorough analysis of their specific challenges is necessary to effectively adjust care policies. Inclusively planning care policies with input from marginalized groups of women is vital for their success,” concluded Ljiljana Lovrić.

Participants also articulated key recommendations instrumental in economically empowering women and girls and discussed the way forward in mainstreaming gender in financing and investment schemes.

Dragana Kokot, Secretary General, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Republika Srpska, underscored the potential of the financial and banking sector for empowering women and supporting those willing to start or develop businesses. “We should focus more on the banking sector and empower it to better support women by thoroughly evaluating business plans and offering improved loan conditions. This will ultimately foster the growth of women-led businesses.”

At the same time, Seda Ölmez Çakar, Head of Policy at Arya Women Investment Platform in Türkiye, highlighted that efforts towards gender equality and achieving Sustainable Development Goals require collaboration between governments, the private sector, and civil society due to insufficient resources. “From an investment and entrepreneurship perspective, empowerment of women involves three key layers: providing necessary skills training for workforce participation, building trusted networks, and enabling access to finance through entrepreneurship education and investment opportunities,” stated Seda Ölmez Çakar.

Aleksandra Vladisavljevic, a gender responsive budgeting expert from Serbia, stressed the need to prioritize support for policy planning units within various line ministries to grasp the utilization of gender-responsive budgeting. “This will facilitate the integration of policies and ensure their reflection in the adopted budgets.”

In conclusion, Samra Filipović-Hadziabdić, Director of the Agency for Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, underscored the persistent barrier of insufficient financing across the region in order to achieve gender equality. “Gender is not mainstreamed into financing and investment schemes, including government budgetary funds.”

A comprehensive report summarizing the key discussions was prepared to capture the outcomes of the event, describing achievements, as well as gaps and challenges, and outlining the way forward in shaping the sub-regional vision ahead of the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

During February 2024, UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia will organize a series of sub-regional multi-stakeholder consultation. The first consultation is for the Western Balkans and Türkiye, followed by the second for Central Asia on the 12th of February, and the third for Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine taking place on the 20th of February.

1All references to Kosovo should be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).