Breaking Gender Barriers: Women’s Position in Bosnia and Herzegovina Members

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Last month at EDYN BIH, we celebrated women’s achievements and highlighted their roles through a social media campaign. This month, we continued our efforts by organizing an event called “Inspiring Talks: Gender and Leadership“. We believe women’s achievements should be celebrated and emphasized more than merely one day of a year.

While certain legal and other measures have been implemented to promote gender equality, including the introduction of quotas in the Election Law and the Law on Financing Political Parties, women in BiH still have limited influence in policymaking and implementation in political and public life. Women are often marginalized and excluded from positions of power, despite growing their numbers in lower positions.

The gender imbalance in government is most prominent at the highest levels, with only one woman elected to the three-member Presidency in the 2022 General elections – the first since the country’s modern independence. Even at the lower levels, men continue to dominate. All ten cantonal prime ministers in FBiH are male, with only eight women among the 100 cantonal ministers in the previous government composition. Furthermore, only five women currently hold office as directly elected mayors, interestingly each of the five local communities has a population of less than 10,000.

A significant obstacle to achieving gender parity in political life comes from within the political parties themselves. There is a notable lack of support for their female members in the creation of political programs and political affirmation. Despite the absence of explicit barriers to women’s participation in the work of party bodies in party statutes, women continue to face challenges in advancing to positions of power and decision-making, often reduced to positions that adhere to traditional gender roles or topics.

While women are better represented in the judiciary than in other government branches, with a staggering 64%, there is still a disparity between the number of women working in the judiciary and those in high positions in judicial bodies or in courts of multiple jurisdictions. In decision-making positions, the numbers fall down to 40% in courts and 16% in prosecutors’ offices. Women often face the “glass ceiling” phenomenon in places of power and decision-making.

Although there has been progress in increasing the participation of women in the police and military forces through the implementation of comprehensive strategic measures in the field of security, women are still underrepresented in higher positions. Rather than a lack of ambition, the reason is often of practical nature, with latent discrimination hidden between the lines of promotion rulebooks.

As for other sectors, civil society has made the most progress toward gender equality, with women being better represented in managerial positions. On the other hand, the scale of women in leadership roles in other fields such as finance and business remains low.

Regrettably, it is often observed that women continue to adhere to patriarchal norms and gender roles. Women, especially young women, often experience a lack of support from other women, reinforcing the notion that women are often their own worst enemies – as the Latin saying goes (with a twist!) Femina feminae lupa est (A woman is a wolf to woman).

Achieving gender equality requires a concerted effort from society as a whole, with active participation from both men and women equally. While this goal requires further policy reforms, including changes in the educational system, a collective mindset shift is necessary to lead to a determined effort to fight against gender prejudices.

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