It’s an amazing country and its people are truly amazing people. Two days in Kosovo was a very short time but long enough to reinforce for me the awesome feat Kosovars accomplished just 4 and half years ago. They declared their independence and became the newest democracy in the world.
We take democracy for granted. The Kosovars don’t. The current generation of Kosovars fought for and won their own freedoms. And it came at great cost to them. Thousands of their lives were lost, homes burned and women raped as acts of war. While the scars of the war will remain for years, significant progress has been made to recover and build Kosovo anew.
I had the privilege this week of attending an International Women’s Summit in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Over 200 women from around the world participated in the event. It was the first event of its kind in that region of the world.
I was invited to attend the summit at the invitation of President Atifete Jahjaga, a 38 year old woman who worked her way up in the ranks of the Kosovo police force. I met President Jahjaga for the first time when she visited Johnston in June of this year as part of the Iowa National Guard’s State Partnership Program with Kosovo.
The summit themes focused on economic empowerment of women, barriers to political participation, property rights and access to resources, anticorruption and the role of women in security, rule of law and justice. It allowed women from around the world to discuss and debate these issues particularly as they relate to women in emerging countries. A final report was developed that will serve as a valuable resource for decision makers around the world.
I also had dinner with the mayor of Peja, Ali Berisha. We used the opportunity to discuss our cities’ mutual interests in establishing a sister city relationship. Expect to hear more about this in the near future.