Written by: Lisar Morina
“How do we get rid of gender stereotypes in our society, so that women have the right to inherit a property?” A recurring question that Rina Shabani, a 16-year-old girl from Drenas, Kosovo, kept asking herself.
“The right to inherit a property is a big problem here; there are only a few women who receive property from their families,” she says. “Drenas is an underdeveloped municipality where youth like me face many challenges, and gender stereotypes are part of them, which is precisely the reason why I participate in activities that promote gender equality.”
Being a girl in Kosovo’s patriarchal society is not easy. Gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination are omnipresent, and women in Kosovo are often deprived of basic rights they should otherwise be entitled to.
Rina’s journey started when she co-organized a debate on gender equality in Drenas, where women and girls shared their thoughts on their right to inherit property. Alarmingly, most of them said that they find no reason for why it’s important to have a property under their name. Their responses showed Rina and her friends the severity of the issue and motivated them to apply to UPSHIFT. They were determined to design a solution to this pervasive problem.
UNICEF Kosovo Innovations lab has a programme known as UPSHIFT: Social Impact Workshop. UPSHIFT is a program designed to make young people from Kosovo agents of social change by making them the leaders in charge of developing solutions to the problems they face. “UPSHIFT was like a little nest for me where I learned so much and took on a challenge that I hope to develop a solution to,” Rina says. “It was a dynamic workshop where I met people with extraordinary positive energy, who supported us in developing solutions to our challenges.”
Thanks to UPSHIFT, at the age of 16, Rina and four of her peers founded ‘Property Inheritance’ – an initiative aimed to create awareness among youth about gender stereotypes and gender inequality.
“We decided to deal exclusively with youth as we believe that the majority of positive changes need to start with the youth,” Rina says.
Rina’s group visited schools in Drenas, informing young students about women’s property rights and asking them to write short essays or poems to be published in their magazine “Together For Equality”. They also organized debates and training, all as part of their awareness-building activities aimed to inform the youth in Drenas about the many challenges girls and women face in the Kosovar society.
Rina is an exemplary youth activist. She is part of the Young Ambassadors Club and is also the youth leader of the Red Cross’ branch in Drenas, Kosovo. She is a volunteer at Youth Initiative Human Rights and a local coordinator in Drenas as part of Peer Educators Network.
But even for driven girls like Rina, traditional gender roles can be very harmful. She knows that many people in her society think women should be caregivers, good wives, and mothers, who work tirelessly to take care of their families inside and outside of the home.
One of the most visible negative results of these ingrained gender roles is the deep segregation of professions in Kosovo. The low rate of women inheriting property is also a direct consequence of ingrained traditional gender roles. Traditional roles dictate that women will indisputably get married at a certain age, and move to their husband’s household. This notion leads to many women not receiving the property from their families – which they have the right to inherit by law.
Through her ‘Property Inheritance’ initiative, Rina is directly challenging preconceived gender roles in Kosovo. She hopes to help the thousands of young girls and women who fall victim to these traditional roles and as a result, never realize their full potential.
Rina’s message to the youth of Kosovo is to believe in equal treatment of women and men in society. “To the many women who are in legal proceedings for issues of property, I wish that you never stop demanding your rights, despite it being hard in our patriarchal society,” she says. “It’s not easy to challenge stereotypes, but society doesn’t change if you don’t start changing yourself first.”
It’s not easy to challenge stereotypes, but society doesn’t change if you don’t start changing yourself first.”
Girls have already changed the world for the better, and this generation has the power to magnify that change.
This year’s International Day of the Girl held on 11th of October 2016 calls for advancing progress for girls, to share ideas, reaffirm commitments and advance investments in improving collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data, and using these data to inform key policy and program decisions and track progress towards solutions to their most pressing problems. #DayOfTheGirl #IDG2016
Read more about UPSHIFT