A high profile seminar and keynote speakers address was convened at EUFOR ALTHEA HQ, Sarajevo on International Women’s Day which highlighted the contribution made by women serving in the military and promoted the EU-wide commitment to gender equality. Distinguished guests from the Armed Forces and Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), NATO Headquarters, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) joined the staff from EUFOR to highlight key issues to be faced and breakthroughs achieved by women within their organisations.

The seminar results acknowledged the significant equality of opportunity already in place across the contributing organisations but noted some gender related areas needed to improve further. Note-worthy issues raised were the impact on careers of maternity leave and the ability of organisations to promote the equitable sharing of family responsibilities between men and women that allow both to advance successful professional careers without any gender disadvantage. The message emphasised by all participants was clear: “Men and Women are Equally Capable”.

Notable highlights from the key note speakers are listed below:

“Equality between women and men should be self-evident, unfortunately it often does not happen automatically. We all have to work for it, in our structures, unemployment and practices. I am very happy to see EUFOR incorporates gender equality in its work and takes it seriously.”
Ms Nina Suomalainer, OSCE Deputy Head of Mission in BiH.

“The old stereotypes of women from the past are fading away: it is accepted we are in a new age of equal opportunities, equal rights and equal responsibilities. But let us not pretend the struggle is over. All over the world, women’s rights are ignored; women are subject to lack of opportunity and are discriminated because of their sex. However the times, when such practices were accepted are over. The European Union and therefore EUFOR, stands for equal opportunities for women and men. It is the responsibility of everyone of us to be an ambassador in favour of diversity in our personal and professional spheres of influence that our European values, not just in peace and stability, but also in gender until this become universally accepted and appreciated.”

“My experience has shown that women can make great professional achievements if they are ready to work hard. However do not expect anything to be handed across on a plate: you have be pro-active and grab opportunities. My best advice is to work to ever increase your knowledge, work hard and always strive to be a good and highly effective team member.”
Ms Dušanka Majkić Chair of the Joint Committee on Defence and Security of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH

The thought-provoking and affirming event was organised by Captain Monika Kaspar (Austrian Army) and EUFOR’s Deputy Gender Advisor, Snaja Grabovic. Much credit is due to the organisers for achieving such a successful and forwarding-thinking seminar.  The issues explored are at the heart of EU policy on equality of opportunity for women, both in the work place and in the wider societal decision making processes that affects women’s lives and the future prospects of their families.