SERBIA: Loznica: A Step Towards Gender Equality

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Southeast Europe Times
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

Loznica town management senior official Ljubinka Gordanic is one of the many high-ranking women that heads to work each day in the west Serbian town.

In the country as a whole, women make up 51.4% of the population and just 2% occupy executive posts. In Loznica, out of the 176 town administration employees, 114 are women -- exceeding the European standard of women accounting for 30% of an administration.

"Loznica is an example of women being a visible presence in the town administration at concrete, responsible jobs, where their profession takes centre stage," Gordanic told SETimes.

In Loznica, women are at the helm of culture, tourism, employment, the judiciary, education, and at responsible posts in the town administration. The administration itself is headed by a woman.

Their representatives believe women are holding high positions not for the sake of meeting European recommendations, rather because they have earned it through their education and work performance.

Even though gender equality is one of the Serbian government's proclaimed objectives, the situation within the state cabinet paints a different picture. Out of the 21 cabinet members, only three are women. Women are paid 16% less than men for the same jobs, while elderly females have 22% lower pensions on average than men.

"Women are still far less present in politics than men. I think they should become more involved in public life, not only formally, but tangibly. Women's engagement should not only boil down to panel discussions and the description of the situation; rather more concrete measures should be taken to influence the position of women in society. I am primarily referring to women's rights in companies. Their roles as mothers should also be respected rather than them suffering for bearing children," Gordanic said.

Her colleague, Dajana Djedovic, head of the town's Vuk Karadzic Culture Centre, has a similar opinion. She thinks that in politics, women are most frequently given departments that have little money and an abundance of problems.

"Serbia is a patriarchal environment, in which a woman will have little chance of taking her rightful place," Djedovic told SETimes.

Official statistics show Roma women are in the most difficult position in Serbia. Their average lifespan is 48 years, nearly 30 years shorter than the average lifespan of a Serbian woman.

According to data provided by the government's Gender Equality Council, just 3.5% of Roma women live past the age of 65. Among the Roma, 75% of women are illiterate, 35% graduate from elementary school, 25% from high school, and just 3% boast a university diploma.

Despite Loznica, Serbia is facing a long journey towards gender equality.