Elizabeth Schleicher is an adviser of KFOR commander on gender issue. She feels happy to serve in Kosovo, where she contributes in providing a safe environment to all people of Kosovo.
You are advisor on gender equality to KFOR commander, which for Kosovo public is a kind of surprise, because one gets impression that KFOR is here only for security. Would you tell us more about the role of KFOR regarding the gender equality in Kosovo?
My role here is as Gender Advisor, not advisor on Gender Equality, is to increase KFOR’s ability to provide security to the whole population. I expressly help to ensure that the security perspectives of women are taken into account when KFOR conducts an operation. This role was created because, many studies have shown that men and women experience and understand security in different ways and my role helps KFOR address this.
How would you estimate, from your point of view, the gender equality in Kosovo?
Gender equality is not measured or monitored at KFOR. We provide a safe and secure environment for all persons in Kosovo; men, women, boys, and girls.
Based on your knowledge, did the representation of Kosovo women in decision making reach the level European society?
Kosovo women have a lot more influence than you might initially think. I have met some very bright and determined women who are making a difference here. I do not think you can compare it to other European countries as there are as many different situations here in Kosovo as there are in other countries.
Is Kosovo woman represented properly and sufficiently in Kosovo institutions?
You would really need to ask the women of Kosovo that question. They are the ones being represented. I do not compile such statistics. I will say that there are dedicated women doing a great deal for other women and the whole of Kosovo society.
In social terms, Kosovo society probably is still suffering from patriarchal inheritance. Have you noticed this and how can Kosovo society overcome patriarchal influence?
I would say the same thing here as to the last question. I am working to ensure the security needs of all people in Kosovo are taken into account. Where the society is and where it is going will be determined by the people themselves. KFOR is here to provide the environment where they can peacefully make those decisions.
Please describe us your feelings when you first arrived in Kosovo. How did you find it, and did your opinion that you had about Kosovo match with the reality that you have seen?
I was and am still in awe over Kosovo. I have found that you must put your preconceived notions aside here. It has been eye opening for me to see the work and dedication of the people here, trying to make Kosovo a better place. This is my second mission in Kosovo. During my first mission (2006-2007) I was the team leader of the Liaison Monitoring Team (LMT) in Suhareke/Suva Reka. This sparked my interest in learning more about Kosovo and, after my first mission here, I decided to do my doctoral degree in political science with a dissertation focusing on Kosovo. After completing my PhD, it was clear for me that I wanted to come back again. So I returned here in June 2011. And I’m sure that this will not be the last time I come here, whether on duty or privately.
Let's talk about your role in the country where you work; KFOR is a military mechanism that more or less fit to the male. The question is, what is the position of women in KFOR?
Women work in all roles in KFOR. There is really no difference in how men or women are treated here.
Does KFOR has any higher position kept by a woman?
I personally know of several Lieutenant Colonels and a couple of Colonels here that are women.
I believe that you are "a fighter" of women's empowerment in her role in the military; for example, is it possible in the future to have a female KFOR commander?
I do not see why not.
What would be your message to Kosovo women, especially young women who probably are on the verge of starting to build a career of life?
Believe in yourself and believe in those around you. Challenge yourself to be the best at whatever in life you undertake. I urge the youth to remember that the safest and best way to ensure a better life and future is through education, and this is particularly true for women.
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