The Girl Effect and Peace in Kosovo

A Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldier from Greece speaks to a local Serb woman at the closed Serbia-Kosovo border crossing of Jarinje September 29, 2011. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

I sat in a meeting with local and international partners to discuss women’s (and girls’) security issues in Kosovo. It was the usual kinda stuff: reviewing a report together, discussing a donor proposal, updating each other on the activities we’re involved in to promote gender equality. One international partner brought up the ongoing border conflict in Northern Kosovo, where Kosovo Serbs are blockading the border in protest of the Kosovo government’s trade embargo on Serbia. Politics aside we discussed the importance of women being present at the border to be part of the day-to-day negotiations to stop violence from flaring up.

You see, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 in 2000. Among other things, this document recognizes the distinct impact of war on women and girls, and their unique role in preventing conflict.

Why were 30 or so women and one token man sitting around the table debating how to prevent conflict at the border, within the context of this resolution, when up at the border itself, international peacekeepers, mostly if not all men, seemed to be ignoring it themselves? Well, we could get into a lengthy debate about the lack of gender sensitivity in peace keeping missions etc. etc. But, surely, women and girls can have a positive ‘effect’ on preventing conflict at a border, even if the European and international officials still have not recognized the importance of the ‘girl effect’ in peace keeping.

The debate has stuck with me for days, especially considering how international institutions often fail to meet the human rights standards they’ve put in place themselves …. Yes, yes, there is another more complex debate about the ethics of international aid/development, but let’s leave that for another time, another post.

As I planned in my mind to write this post, it was announced that three women won the Nobel Peace Prize. It gives us hope that the ‘girl effect’ and the crucial role women and girls can play in peace-keeping efforts is beginning to be recognized, if not in Kosovo by European and international actors, then at least elsewhere.

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This post is part of the online blogathon initiated by Tara Sophia Mohr to raise awareness about gender equality. You can learn more about her blogging initiative here to join in, and also about the wider Girl Effect campaignhere.

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The painful truth …

While I’ve always believed in telling the truth, I haven’t  thought about what it really means in concrete terms. And, while we’re taught to ‘tell the truth’ from childhood onwards, we also learn that sometimes the truth can be painful, that sometimes it’s better to hide or avoid it, in order to save someone’s feelings from getting hurt.

Since the moment I found out my mum died, I stopped thinking about the truth in that way. The raw pain I was experiencing drowned out everything else, I didn’t have a choice but to share my truth, the truth of my mum and how she died, the truth of my pain.

Now, each person will have his or her own unique way of grieving the death of a loved one, that is for sure. For me, the way I coped was to speak the truth, to share my feelings, to process them and let them out into the open.

While I inherently knew that some would feel uncomfortable (who likes talking about death anyway ?), I would always preface my ‘outbursts’ with statements like,  “you don’t have to feel bad”, “death is a normal part of life”. Death and dying is a common human experience after all that we will all experience, if we are lucky ! (meaning, if we outlive the ones we love).

So I spoke the truth, and sharing my pain is what has helped me survive.

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Beauty

Kosovo landscape

From all those countries where I grew up and have lived in, I’ve learnt one important thing: No matter where you are or who you are with, there is always something beautiful that you can find and appreciate. These are the aspects that made me fall in love with every country I’ve lived in: Denmark, America, Palestine, Pakistan, Maldives, Italy, Kosovo.

On a recent morning I fell in love with Kosovo a little bit more – the natural landscape is beautiful here, the people are so warm and hospitable, and yes, there is even beauty in Pristina’s city-scape…

Kosovo cityscape

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You’re on holiday…

Sunset view of the Acropolis from the bar at A for Athens Hotel

Well, I don’t know if you are, but I am… Here I am sitting at my hotel’s very funky bar, overlooking the Acropolis, drinking a very lush espresso ice coffee – I hate the Nescafe ones, I’m Italian ok?  – I should be out roaming the streets of Athens, exploring the ruins, visiting churches, charming neighborhoods and the like, heck, at least a little bit of shopping no? On the other hand, I AM ON HOLIDAY. To me that means: relax, slow down, go with the flow, be in the moment, in short, I don’t want to feel guilty for not doing enough while here. The staff here at the A for Athens Hotel are just marvelous and this morning the receptionist helped me to remember why I’m in Greece. I had woken up quite early to get a head start on the day (get out and about early to avoid the midday sun, to avoid the lines, etc. etc.) For different reasons I had to run in and out of the hotel a few times and each time I asked the kind receptionist for assistance.  When I finally left, I said “oh, sorry, I’m definitely leaving now” to which he  responded: “ Don’t worry, you’re on holiday!”

View of the Mediterranean from Kythira island

Tomorrow morning I fly to Kythira, the only Greek island on the corner of the three seas: the Ionian, Adriatic and Aegean Sea… it’s remote, it will be quiet, I will do yoga, time to relax.

Today I will enjoy my afternoon, sipping coffee, admiring the view of the Acropolis, and the ruins of the ancient Temple of Parthenon dedicated to the Greek goddess of Athena whom the people of Athens considered their patron. (Indeed, the little bit of sightseeing I did muster involved a short but worthwhile visit to the awesome New Acropolis Museum.)

So, don’t forget, when you’re on holiday, just relax…

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August Break Day 27

A day in my life in Athens, Greece

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August Break Day 26

Istanbul Airport

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August Break #21

Bombed out building and land mine warning sign: A leisurely stroll pass the remnants of a more evil past

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