Continued work on the empowerment of women and strengthening of women’s solidarity contributes to women’s rights
Željka Mileusnić, Assistant Commander for Compliance at RS Special Counter-Terrorism Unit, talked to UN Women on commitment to eliminate gender-based violence.
Željka Mileusnić is the assistant commander for compliance in the Special Counter-terrorism Unit and a member of the association Women’s Network of the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska, where she has been a strong advocate for a more prominent role and position of women in the security sector. She is committed to prevention and elimination of gender based and sexual violence. In her short interview with UN Women, Željka Mileusnić pointed out that women and girls should enjoy equal opportunities, and emphasized the importance of lifelong learning in achieving gender equality.
What are your thoughts about the current situation of women’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Generally speaking, women’s rights have undoubtedly improved from what we had before, and women are now visible in all walks of life, including the security sector where I work, which has until recently been considered a “men-only” area. Of course, the representation rates are still not at the satisfactory level and a lot has to be done to comply with the European standards. The key question is what frustrates progress, and what contributes to women’s rights? The answer to this question has to touch upon stereotypes and prejudice. The main prejudice lies in the generalized notion of men’s and women’s roles. More precisely, if a woman does not perform well enough at a job or a task, an inevitable generalization that all women are incapable of doing that job or task will follow. On the contrary, if a man underperforms in the same type of work, only that particular individual will be proclaimed incapable of doing the job, without any generalization. That said, scepticism in relation to women, especially in areas with lower representation of women, is obvious. One can often hear men quoting or paraphrasing Freud’s “What does a woman want?”. We have to be loud and clear: we want equal rights and equal opportunities and we want to be free to be women! So, only continued work on the empowerment of women and strengthening of women’s solidarity contributes to women’s rights. On the other hand, the inevitable result of such action is also sensitizing and support of men for women’s rights.
What success stories would you highlight in the area of women’s rights in BiH in the past year?
As a result of a positive initiative of the management of the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska, our association Women’s Network of the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska - RS WPON was formed. Members of this network are employees of the Ministry. The association has been active for nine years and has had significant results in strengthening the role of women in the security sector and in preventing and eliminating gender based and sexual violence. Even though it is a women-only organization, the Network has seen growing numbers of supporters among our male colleagues who want to contribute, which was not the case when we only just started. We can also say we enjoy full support of the Ministry’s management. An important example of cooperation and support is the admission of young women to the Counter-terrorism Unit as specialist officers.
In the area of combating gender based violence, through projects the Network has continuously organized prevention activities, research, studies and professional development of representatives of bodies providing protection. In future, we will intensify these activities, since the amended Law on Protection against Domestic Violence of Republika Srpska will start to be implemented on May 1st. This law introduces a number of novelties regarding the protection of victims. We are very happy that the new law starts implementation, because we expect that the amended provisions on the definition of family, persons of trust, assessment of the vulnerability of the victim and other provisions will lead to a drop in the numbers of cases of gender based violence and award greater protection to victims.
How would you encourage other members of our society to work towards women’s rights and to contribute to gender equality? What would be your message to them?
First and foremost, I believe that more effort and support is needed to move further from the grassroots and galvanize the decision makers. Let me illustrate that. Promoting the law enforcement career among girls about to graduate from secondary schools, we learned that many of them lacked even the basic information on enrolment of girls into Faculty of Security Studies and the Police Academy. Victims of gender based violence are often unaware of the fact that they are victims, and have no knowledge of their rights. We often wrongfully conclude that with the internet and social networks information reaches the majority of the population. If we do the math, according to some estimates 2.2 million people in BiH use Facebook, which means that almost half of the population remains uninformed. That is why only by strengthening gender equality activism at the grassroots levels can we get better proposals for improving and attaining gender equality on a global scale.
My message to the young women would be that a woman’s recipe for success is learning. Learning, by definition, means acquiring new knowledge resulting in changes of behaviours or attitudes. Therefore, I believe that by continuous learning, or defining of our attitudes, we shape our own position in all areas of life. We should empower ourselves by learning and advancing every day. It is the hardest, but the only real and affirmative way to make our own contribution to gender equality.
(Photo Credit: MUP RS)