Feride Rushiti, Executive Director of Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Kosovo

On leadership:

“Good leadership is grounded in a sense of responsibility towards others around us, especially the most vulnerable ones. It is essential to think of ourselves as larger than our individual selves in order to effect positive change in our communities through addressing the needs of the unheard voices.

Looking back to the beginning of my career as a young doctor, being a female leader, I have been faced with constraints as well as the satisfaction of being able to apply my natural feminine virtues of nurturing and caring for others. I can stand by the philosophy of leadership that I have developed, because it rests on a firm foundation and has grown organically. It began with the sense of duty fostered in my family, and I later cultivated it as part of my activism. As such, my leadership is driven and guided by a deep sense of obligation for social justice. This makes it very stable and resilient, as the premise is unquestionable.”

On achievements:

“One of the landmark changes as a result of our advocacy efforts is the approval in 2014 by the Assembly of Kosovo of an amended law that granted legal recognition to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence during the war.

Finally, in 2017, the government founded the Governmental Commission for the Recognition and Verification of the Raped Persons during the Kosovo War and allocated a EUR 1 million budget to the process of recognizing and verifying the status of survivors of war-time sexual violence.

There is no greater reward for me than to hear a survivor’s happy voice, when they finally get some justice and validation and are on the way toward a better future.

On challenges:

“Female leaders all over the world face more than their fair share of obstacles, but it is especially challenging living and working in a patriarchal society such as Kosovo. Even harder if your activism is focused on a sensitive issue that in the cultural discourse is tied to the core concepts of honor and shame.

The mere existence of my organization touches a raw nerve in a traumatized society, even more than 20 years after the war. Because of that, throughout my career I have faced a lot of resistance and even hostility from all layers of society. From the community (mainly from the men) to the decision-makers there has been either pressure to drop my activism or neglect of my persistent requests for the inclusion of wartime sexual violence survivors in the legal framework.

The patriarchal structure of the society means that until quite recently, my work has been seen as anathema to the basic principles of femininity and masculinity in the collective consciousness. It puts a spotlight on how the rapes left a torn social fabric and on the need to rethink our systems and change the attitude towards the survivors.

Advice for female leaders:

“Never doubt your capacity for improving the world. See yourselves a

s agents of change, at any level you work and live in. It not easy, but it’s always possible to relieve the suffering of those around us and help build a better future for our communities, if we are led by compassion and determination.

As a woman, you will face more obstacles than men, but don’t let that discourage you, because as it has been my experience and that of the strong and wonderful women I had the good fortune of working with that IT IS POSSIBLE for us to empower each other and change the lives of those around us.

I can also tell you from experience that this will change you profoundly, and for the better. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others! That’s why we must be strong and supportive of each other.”