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Hamam, a centuries old Turkish bathhouse in Prizren, hosted a room of human rights activists on the 8th day of Dokufest.

More than 50 visitors eagerly listened to the panellists’ personal stories at the panel discussion organised by UN Women and Dokufest. “The Future is Equal” panel was inspired by the movie of Danielle Bremer “The Lord of the House” which was scheduled to screen after the panel.

The discussion started with Flora Maculla, Head of Office at UN Women explaining the importance of changing relations between men and women starting from an individual level and ending with the broader social context.

Executive Director of Kosova Women’s Network, Ms. Igballe Rugova was pleased with all the men and boys who joined the fight for gender equality. She recalled the time when she realised the importance of the role of men in fighting for gender equality. Her experience she gained through travelling in different villages around Prizren has taught her the importance of education in gender equality, so she started working on educating women and girls.

Gentiana photo

Besnik Leka, a feminist focused on gender based violence and masculinity, continued by explaining the influence his sisters had on him and what an important role they played. His goal is to change the image of a typical man and to eliminate stereotypes often associated with masculinity. His work led Besnik to make a shocking prediction: if the fight for gender equality continues at the same pace, we will only reach gender equality in 170 years. The panel continued with personal stories shared by Valdete Idrizi, executive director of CiviKos; Ruken Tekes, movie director and human rights activist and Danielle Bremmer, sharing humorous stories about gender equality efforts. Both Valdete Idrizi and Ruken Tekes, explained the important role their fathers had in empowering them and helping them achieve as much as possible.

The most emotional story of them all was the story of Gjejrane Lokaj, a midwife, a human rights activist and leader of the Women’s Initiative Association in Dragash. She is also the main protagonist of the film “The Lord of the House”. which deals with an old Albanian law Kanun and with the role of the women and men today but through the story of Gjejrane.

Gjejrane grew up in a traditional village where women had no rights and had no influence on the decisions of men in their rooms. Men were “the lords of the house”; their daughters had little say in any decision – including marriage. Instead of marriage, Gjejrane wanted the education that she was denied. In 1972, she ran away from her house and started her education. She did not visit or speak to her family for a year and during that period her father and uncles even thought of killing her for ruining the honour that the family built in years.

But not even death threats could stop this powerful woman. She became a doctor. She changed her community’s stances on gender. She became “the Lady of the House” and a role model for future generations.

The movie and the panel taught us the importance of men and women working together to change the society and make the world a better place to live. Each of the panellists’ stories were inspiring and evocative and made all of us think about our own role in this effort.

Success is hard won, requiring dedication from both men and women as we build more equal communities.

“This battle is difficult because you go one step forward and three steps backwards,” UN Women’s Flora Maculla said, summing up the strengths of challenges of gender equality efforts.

Gentiana Fana, UNDP Communications Intern

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