Empowered women for stronger communities: a story from rural Serbia

Empowered women for stronger communities: a story from rural Serbia

  By Ms Julia Feeny, Australia’s Ambassador to Serbia From the beginning of my appointment in Serbia I have had the pleasure of meeting many brave and talented women—women with great but untapped potential. Although Serbia is a European country, the sanctions of the 1990s and poor growth since have had a devastating effect on the

feeney_julia_thumb  By Ms Julia Feeny, Australia’s Ambassador to Serbia

From the beginning of my appointment in Serbia I have had the pleasure of meeting many brave and talented women—women with great but untapped potential. Although Serbia is a European country, the sanctions of the 1990s and poor growth since have had a devastating effect on the quality of life for many people.  Every second woman in rural Serbia is formally unemployed and the statistics are even worse for older women and women from disadvantaged groups.

I quickly realised that we at the Australian Embassy could do a lot to support women’s economic empowerment and this is now one of the top priorities of our work here, including through political, public diplomacy and Direct Aid Program work.

In Serbia, a powerful way to empower women is to help provide them with the knowledge, skills and connections to start their own businesses. We give special attention to women who are marginalised from those opportunities, such as single mothers, victims of violence, women with disabilities and Roma women.

Zuko, for example, started as a small organisation in the rural Serbian town of Lazarevac, bringing together women victims of discrimination and violence. Zuko realised that economic means, coupled with social support, was one of the best ways to empower their members, so they established a sewing business.

DSC_0259

The municipal government of Lazarevac gifted Zuko a workshop, but it was in a state of disrepair and certainly not a safe or effective workspace.  Before we began our partnership with Zuko, the ladies would work from their homes and from a shabby corner of the dilapidated workshop.

The size of our aid program in Serbia is very modest compared to our programs in many Indo-Pacific countries. But for a relatively small amount of funding, we were able to make a real impact.

With only a few thousand very well-spent dollars, we refurbished the workshop premises and provided sewing machines, working material and supplementary equipment for the Zuko factory. As a result, the once intolerable workspace became a lively hub for this fledgling social enterprise.

This allowed Zuko to expand their operations. We then organised training on basic sewing skills for the employees, women who were struggling with grim social and economic situations.  Zuko now has a refurbished workshop, upgraded equipment and more eager and capable employees.

Most of the women employed in Zuko are single mothers with no additional support for raising their children.  With this in mind, we also renovated and equipped one area of the Zuko factory to be suitable for children. We financed furniture, and educational books and toys for the new children’s facility. We created a safe and secure environment where children of the mothers working at the factory could play and learn while their mothers were working.

DSC_0002

Our support opened the door for Zuko to be a self-sustaining social enterprise.  Following the refurbishments, training and expansion, Zuko built the courage and capacity to take on contracts to produce tablecloths, towels, sheets and pillowcases for commercial customers.

Today, the Zuko factory is standing firm on its own feet.  It sets an example showing that with a little bit of well-targeted support, women in rural Serbia can be economically empowered to help themselves, their families and their communities.

Zuko is only one of many examples showing that an equal environment for women to participate in business should be an economic imperative for all countries. We all have a role to play in promoting gender equality and I know that I will certainly maintain this focus in Serbia for the remainder of my term.

Gender equality and empowering women has been shown to contribute to growth, development and stability. Australia has made gender equality and women’s empowerment one of six priority areas for investment in our aid program. The evidence is clear—gender equality is critical to development. Australia invests in targeted programs to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment where there are persistent challenges and progress towards gender equality has been slow.

Find out more about Australia’s assistance for gender equality.

Ms Feeney is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). She has served as Counsellor at the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN), Geneva and Second Secretary at the Australian High Commission, Nairobi.

Please follow and like us:

RSS BIDD

  • The Rising influence of Chinese Social Media 16th Jan 2019
    iir.cz image from article source: flickr.com People Can Say ‘No’: The Rising influence of Chinese Social Media It is worth noting that with the wider use of internet and social media, the social media and its users obtain stronger influence in China, both domestically and internationally. The Chinese social media users, especially the young generation […]
  • Metzgar paper published by USC Center on Public Diplomacy 16th Jan 2019
    mediaschool.indiana.edu Associate professor Emily Metzgar (Maggie Richards | The Media School) A paper by associate professor Emily Metzgar published by the USC Center on Public diplomacy [JB emphasis] analyzes the United States’ seven-decade history of government-sponsored international broadcasting.“Seventy Years of the Smith-Mundt Act and U.S. International Broadcasting: Back to the Future?” finds that while the […]
  • The ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy: countering disinformation and propaganda 16th Jan 2019
    realinstitutoelcano.org image (not from article) from Corneliu Bjola | Head of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group (#DigDiploROx) | @CBjola Excerpt: Theme The ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy, that is, the strategic use of digital technologies as tools to counter disinformation and propaganda by governments and non-state actors has exploded in the recent years thus […]
  • State Department’s Integrated Country Strategy for Greece published 16th Jan 2019
    E.Tsiliopoulos, newgreektv.com uncaptioned image from entry The State Department’s Integrated Country Strategy (ICS) for Greece recognizing the country’s position in the Eastern Mediterranean as being of key importance to US national security and energy priorities. Excerpt: Below is the full report: ... To combat attempts to destabilize the region, Mission Greece will support democratic institutions, […]
  • A Year in Review: Azerbaijan Optimizes Its Balanced Foreign Policy in 2018 16th Jan 2019
    Rahim Rahimov, jamestown.org, January 15, 2019 Image (not from article) fromExcerpt: Russia has pursued its own active official and public diplomacy [JB emphasis] with Azerbaijan. Bilateral relations seem to be warming significantly, with the two countries’ presidents having met six times in 2018, including two official reciprocal visits (see EDM September 18, October 24, 2018). […]

RSS Diplo Portal Belgrade

Most Viewed Posts

  • Twitter Suspends Hamas Accounts (967)
    By ROBERT MACKEYLast Updated, Sunday, Jan. 19 | Several Twitter accounts used by the military wing of Hamas have been suspended by the social network in recent days, angering the Islamist militants and delighting Israel’s military. #Twitter has suspended the official account of #Hamas, a terrorist group that uses social media to threaten #Israel http://t.co/g1UxKc9fpf
  • Brain drain in Serbia today (271)
    How does the Serbian government cope with the problem of brain drain today? The latest OECD publication, SOPEMI 2014 shows that 39 thousand persons emigrated in 2012 from Serbia to OECD countries only. (At the beginning of the global economic and financial crisis, the emigration from Serbia to OECD countries amounted to 27,000 in 2008.)
  • Humanitarian Intervention: Advantages and Disadvantages in East Timor and Kosovo (262)
    Have There Been Occasions on Which the Advantages of Humanitarian Intervention Using Armed Force have Outweighed the Disadvantages? Humanitarian intervention can be defined as the attempts of a foreign state to prevent violations of human rights in another state, often through the use of armed force. The use of armed force to protect human rights,

How Belgrade based diplomats use Digital Diplomacy and Internet 2016

Diplo Portal Belgrade

Please follow and like us:
Scroll Up

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)