Success Stories of Businesswomen in KosovoJul 17, 2017
The importance of female entrepreneurship to society increases day-by-day. This is true throughout the world, including Kosovo. On 13-14 July, an estimated 30 women entrepreneurs from Kosovo-Albanian and Kosovo-Serbian communities gathered at the Zahir Pajaziti Square in Prishtinë/Priština to showcase and market their products as part of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo’s two-day, multi-ethnic trade fair. The fair marks the conclusion to “the Dialogue Caravan” – a series of events highlighting the role and contributions of Kosovar women in the economy.
It is widely believed that entrepreneurship is a “male-dominated” sector. As a result, women in Kosovo face persistent obstacles to establishing a business. As Maltina Arifi, a newly successful businesswoman, noted, “there are many businesses where gender inequality is present since women are sometimes not trusted with their work.” In a culture where such opinions are widely held, women have little chance of succeeding.
Times are changing, however, and more and more women have been able to achieve economic independence. Sela Imeri owns and operates a pastry shop, “Embelsia,” in Çabër/Čabra village in the Zubin Potok municipality. She fulfils many roles in her business: manager, marketer, and head cook, re-emphasizing Austrian Ambassador to Kosovo, Gernot Pfandler’s, declaration: “there is simply no profession that a woman can’t do as well as a man.” By promoting traditional food in Kosovo – she ensures her bakllavas are made according to tradition– she has earned a reputation for quality amongst her clients. Starting with only 120 euros, which she received as a gift, Sela has turned her hobby of 30 years into a profitable business: “I had one container in the beginning, then I bought two more and now I also have 15 people working in my firm.” Having experienced high demand for her bakllava since opening her business, Sela’s biggest concern today is that she may not be able “to fulfil the needs of all her customers.”
While women are gaining a more prominent place in Kosovo’s business sector, we often fail to acknowledge the complexity and the variety of challenges that Kosovar women can face in their leadership journeys. People with disabilities also face enduring challenges in the labour market. Sabina Llocani recounted how being in a wheelchair has dramatically influenced her ability to succeed in her jewellery business. Due to support from RONA, a local Kosovar NGO, Sabina has gained opportunities to develop her craft and expand her skills. Her hope for the future is for “businesses of women and people with special needs to expand even more. We need to cooperate with the NGO’s as much as possible. We should work as one because we can do it!”
Empowered women can and do change societies. Kosovo’s institutions continue to work on promoting and developing women’s businesses in Kosovo. Beneficiaries from UNDP’s Active Labour Market Programmes (ALMP) were also in attendance at the OSCE trade fair. As Jan Braathu, Ambassador of OSCE concluded, “empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to building stronger economies, and improving the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.”