Women Making Decisions: The Norm, Not the Exception

TOPSHOT - A Kosovo Albanian woman stands by the grave of her son during a ceremony to mark the Day of Missing Persons at the
TOPSHOT - A Kosovo Albanian woman stands by the grave of her son during a ceremony to mark the Day of Missing Persons at the cemetery in the village of Meje on April 27, 2016. Kosovo marks the Day of Missing Persons on April 27 with a ceremony in the Gjakova village of Meje, where in 1999 Serbian forces left about 400 civilians dead. More than 1,700 people, most of them ethnic Albanians, are still unaccounted for from the Kosovo war. The conflict in Kosovo claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians. / AFP / ARMEND NIMANI (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Half a decade ago, over a political crisis, I was elected the President of the Republic of Kosovo, the first woman in the country and in the entire region, and the youngest one in the world, to hold this state position. A taboo was broken and I soon began to be regarded as the exception to the norm holding a position entitled to men.

I have always considered myself lucky, for I have been raised upon the shadow of the courage of women of my society, who in difficult times of repression by the strong hand of the Serb regime, have fought for freedom of their whole community, for the rights to live as equal citizens when considered second-class citizens, for the right to life.

I have grown among the women, who have been an inseparable part of the national struggle to survive during the times of war, women who were ready to sacrifice everything to protect their families, to safeguard their children. Women who became a part of the tragedy inflicted by aggression today even carry the scars of the heinous acts of sexual abuse committed by the Serbian forces for political gains.

I have come to join the women of Kosovo who have gone through oppression, war and finally met peace. The women of Kosovo who upon the rubble of destruction and immense human suffering, struggling with the many challenges of building a peaceful, stable and secure country fight every day to build a strong state and offer peace to all its citizens and opportunities for prosperous lives.

It has been the determination of the women of my society, who have surrounded me during every stage, to look toward the future and offer to the future generation opportunities for a life in peace. It is their strength and courageousness that helped our society find hope again.

I refuse to be considered the exception to the norm, for I am one of the women of my country who make decisions every day, decisions that determine the path of our society at all times.

When I took the oath to serve to the citizens of my country, I swore I would continue to pave the path for the young women to consider themselves for what they are: equal members of the society and make sure they offer their own contribution to the society, like women had always done in my country.

It is there that I also found the strength and the power to overcome the gender prejudices that followed my Presidency, to fulfill my constitutional duties and to advocate for the rights of women in all sectors of life, even tackling a very sensitive issue in our post-war society, that of the wartime survivors of sexual violence during the war.

While I look forward to join the many leaders of the world in the WIP Global Summit, I feel inspired and proud to share the story of the women of Kosovo who are the backbone of my society.

I know I will meet many leaders, activists and MPs, who have broken taboos in their societies by standing at the front line of change. With their fearless commitment, they have strengthened the democratic functioning of their societies and defended the right of all citizens to live with dignity and fought for women to play their rightful role in the society.

For over a century, we have galvanized our societies to accept the clear reality that women are an inseparable part of the comprehensive progress of any societies, they are agents of peace, of conflict resolution, of state-building processes, and their direct involvement ensures a safer and a more just world for everyone.

This is a common denominator of post-conflict societies and societies in transition and of developing and developed countries. It is thus imperative and smart to add the talent of women in the equation to find solutions to our common challenges.

This is the type of astonishing legacy that this Summit is engraving year after year, making sure to pass it on to the future generations for them to talk about values, abilities, opportunities, skills, dreams of all citizens regardless of gender, and take gender equality for granted.

Women have yet to earn their equal share in the society and the right to decide for their lives. Yet I am more than ever confident that we will succeed in making women empowerment a reality everywhere, in every country, in every city and in every village.

It is smart! It is right! It is time! Let us act together and ensure the access to equal life opportunities and participation in all fields of life to women and young girls around the world.