The President of the National Assembly, Maja Gojkovic, stated that the National Assembly of Serbia has 94 female representatives, and that women perform many managerial functions at the republic level, but that women are not sufficiently represented at the regional and local level in order to be able to shape the policies of the communities they live in.
Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Mr. Andrea Orizio pointed out that the essential characteristic of Women’s Parliamentary Network was the fact that it was a multi-party effort, which provided a good example of successfully overcoming political divisions.
This year’s conference focused on a dialogue about sexism, persecution, discrimination and verbal aggression against women. The debate was on the activities of local governments concerning the implementation of recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as on the Global Strategic Plan 2018-2021, which is connected to the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, pertaining to achieving gender equality.
Ms. Sascha Müller from the Swiss Cooperation Office, Embassy of Switzerland, said that progress has been made in the area of gender equality in Serbia, but that women are still exposed to different forms of discrimination, violence and unfavourable treatment when applying for jobs. She emphasised that the Government of Switzerland firmly believes that the work of the Women’s Parliamentary Network was relevant for promoting gender rights at the national and the local level.
“Owing to the work of the Women’s Parliamentary Network, Serbia has ratified the Istanbul Convention and held a number of public debates which resulted in changing laws for the purpose of better protection of women and girls, as well as introducing stricter measures against perpetrators of violence in the family. I hope that the outcome of this conference will be to stimulate legislative reforms aimed at preventing sexism and hate speech against women in politics.”
UNDP programme analyst Zeljka Topalovic pointed out that gender equality was not merely a right, but also a necessary precondition for sustainable development. She stressed that gender equality was not solely a problem of parliamentarians, but also of citizens, the media and the state.
The Women’s Parliamentary Network was founded on 14th February 2013 by female members of the National Assembly of Serbia. Following in the footsteps of similar institutions in other European countries and in the world, for the first time in the history of Serbian parliamentary, female representatives of the people gathered within the framework of an initiative, regardless of which political party they were members. One of the priorities that the Women’s Parliamentary Network continually works on is the affirmation of gender equality at all the levels of decision-making.