"Courage is Female" was the name of the Conference of the Women's Parliamentary Network held in the National Assembly House, dedicated to the state of gender equality in Serbia.
In her introductory speech, the coordinator of the Women's Parliamentary Network (WPN) Sandra Bozic thanked all the attending for recognising the importance of this gathering and the continuous work and efforts of the Women's Parliamentary Network on improving gender equality in Serbia and the position of women, especially during the epidemic crisis and the new challenges it brought into the field.
She pointed out that, since its founding in 2013 to date, WPN has achieved significant results and become a recognized factor in the field of gender equality and improving of the position of women in Serbia, both nationally and regionally.
“We have come a long way, with our continuous work and commitment we managed to, in addition to being the first country outside the EU to introduce the Gender Equality Index, adopt and ratify various laws, strategies and agreements that include economic and political empowerment of women and the elimination of all forms of discrimination, be the ones who committed themselves to a resolute fight against any form of violence against women. At the same time, we fought to make women more visible in politics and exercise their right to be elected to the highest state decision-making positions", Bozic pointed out.
She emphasized that the basic message they want to send from today's conference is that in addition to the inviolable daily struggle for the lives of our citizens and their health, the economy during the pandemic which has been praised around the world, as a responsible and mature society we must notice and recognize all the other manifestations of the negative effects that the virus leaves behind. With that in mind, it is essential to continue, uncompromisingly, with the active and constant fight against violence against women and the overall improvement of their position in society, as a basic priority of the WPN’s work.
The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic also addressed the participants of the Conference of the Women's Parliamentary Network "on the state of gender equality in Serbia", saying he wanted to share his respect for the young actresses’ courage to oppose violence.
Dacic said that, regardless of the decisions of the judiciary whose work no one has the right or intention to interfere in, the young actresses’ very decision to talk about violence and seek protection from bullies is worthy of our greatest respect.
"Their fight is a huge encouragement to all other victims to do the same and stand up to their perpetrators, and it is our duty to provide protection and refuge to each of them," said the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the WPN conference.
He added that, unfortunately, our society is still relatively closed and burdened with prejudice.
"We have to make this a thing of the past, and I am convinced that today we will take at least a small step towards a Serbia where women are protected and respected," Dacic added.
National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic spoke of the recent celebration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 20th anniversary of the UN’s establishment of it as a reminder of our collective duty to eradicate violence against women in any shape and form.
"This day is not only a symbol, it was also a wake-up call for the pandemic stricken that as many as 15 million women around the globe are exposed to some kind of violence while quarantined with their families. That is why it is very important to discuss gender equality at today's conference during the pandemic. In almost a year of the pandemic, our society and each of us have shown our best qualities - solidarity, care for the elderly, we have helped each other, but, unfortunately, these extraordinary circumstances have also brought the worst to the surface, primarily everything about violence against women", Dacic said.
He stressed that we must stand up for women at this conference, even more than we do when not burdened with the fight against the virus.
"No emergency or stressful situation, such as a viral epidemic, can become an excuse or an occasion to violate any human or women's rights. Our colleagues, wives, mothers and daughters are on the front line in the fight against COVID in our health centres, even today when mass vaccination is underway," said the National Assembly Speaker.
He said that women protect us from diseases with their knowledge, patience and attention.
"And soon, when we free Serbia from the dangers of the virus, we must find a way to thank our women doctors and nurses with dignity and with all our hearts for everything they have done for the benefit of their people in difficult times", Ivica Dacic said.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic also addressed the audience, stressing that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the National Assembly and the Women's Parliamentary Network for many things, above all for paving the way for the fight for gender equality and showing us, in the best way possible, how that fight should be waged. She pointed out that WPN also showed us how to conduct inter-party dialogue and work toward the same goal, regardless of political affiliation.
"I am glad to see this trend reflected at the local level, thanks to the party I belong to and the values it represents, and that is changing. Today, 20 local governments are led by women, as many as 13 of which for the first time", stressed the Prime Minister. She took the opportunity to thank basketball coach Marina Maljkovic for promoting women's sports and giving girls the chance to play basketball at the highest professional level.
The Prime Minister added that gender equality strategies and strategy for the prevention of violence against women are being prepared, which she says are expected to be adopted at Government session in February.
In the course of the Conference, there were two panels on the topics of gender equality, laws and strategies and (non) culture of violence and gender equality during the pandemic with presentations of National Assembly Deputy Speakers Elvira Kovacs and Marija Jevdjic, Deputy Prime Ministers prof. Dr. Zorana Mihajlovic and Maja Gojkovic, Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue Gordana Comic and Commissioner for Protection of Equality Brankica Jankovic, and the Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Martin Chungong addressed the gathering via video message. Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia Jan Braathu, UNDP Resident Representative Francine Pickup, as well as MPs Natasa Mihailovic Vacic, Danijela Vujicic and Stojanka Lekic, MP and coordinator of the AP Vojvodina Assembly’s WPN, also spoke at the Conference.