The Falling Myth of War as a Men’s Affair - Young Muslim Women Summit, UN ECOSOC Youth Forum - april 2021
While I regret us having to hold this beautiful communication at a distance, it still remains an extraordinary event for which the hosts deserve gratitude and admiration.
Leadership, woman, world, competition are words that stand on a common ground, that of century-long battles to attain most of what our grandmothers and great grandmothers could not even imagine to be within reach, but also that of the future challenges that are the battles of today.
In this remarkable ongoing endeavour, Covid-19 will stay for a long time in our memory and thoughts as the time that most showed prominently the power of women in the world of labour. Many are those heroic women who during this pandemic have been working in hospitals and healthcare centres, who care for and vaccinate numerous people each day, who work to manufacture vaccines and other medicine, who study, who engage in research, analysis and offer their opinions at the forefront of this war, enlightening the path ahead of us.
A brilliant example is the BioNTech co-founder, Ms. Ozlem Tureci, to whom the entire world is indebted for saving millions of lives. But there is also an army of teachers out there who under new and utterly challenging conditions have managed with admirable dedication to keep the stream of knowledge flowing for our children. Even more numerous are the women who for longer than a year now keep the work chain rolling in the face of the chain of infections that defies us daily, threatening the very continuity of our livelihood. These are the women who fight in the times of Covid, an army of heroes the world will always remember.
Something that struck me from this invitation was also the audience – hundreds of well-educated girls and women, with academic titles and degrees from 45 world countries and equally as many representatives from civic activism. How much I would have wished to be in same room with you! But even as it is, I feel privileged to be part of the screen we share. Allow me to extend to each and everyone of you the expression of my admiration and respect for who you are, what you do and radiate around you, making the world a better place thanks to your presence and contribution.
I come from a Muslim family. I am married to Edi, who is a Catholic. Our two children from previous marriages are Christian Orthodox and the third, our six-year-old boy, will decide for himself the religion he will belong to, should he wish to make such choice one day. This is as a matter of fact Albania, the country of inter-faith harmony, which we, Albanians, take pride in. This is why at home we have the sacred books of Bible and Koran, where one will read the same commandment that whoever saves a life, has saved the entire mankind! Destiny led us to see not one, but an entire army of people striving to save mankind, with women at its forefront.
I am an economist, but that is not the prevailing instinct in me. There is a much powerful instinct that lies inside, that of the mother and the woman whose interests reach beyond herself and her family to matters of public interest, and the constant urge to find ways of being useful therein. In my view, the model of a professionally successful woman is very important, but never enough. In that frontline battle with Covid to save lives, the first to prevail is the instinct of the mother, daughter and woman that prevails over the professionalism of medical doctors, nurses, orderlies, teachers, entrepreneurs, scientists. Amidst this gruelling fight, that is the instinct that keeps them going and keeps me from giving in or giving up.
As we speak, Albania is avant garde in terms of its gender representation track record, scoring 9 points above the European average when it comes to women involvement in the highest levels of public decision-making. It matches the European average regarding the ratio of women in parliament. It has more women than men working in the Government, a public administration with 60% women, and women who are at the helm of justice institutions, judges and prosecutors and, certainly, an increasing number of successful role models of women in business or at the top of private management.
They stand at the highest peaks primarily as a clear product of a new social and political capacity to appreciate the importance of women in critical decision-making and as a result of the long and emancipating efforts of the mothers, teachers and civil activists.
However, while we celebrate tens of thousands of women climbing their way to the top of the public and private decision-making realm, there are tens of thousands of other women who expect to see at the pinnacle of power an activist, not a bureaucrat. Just like with the heroic women fighting the pandemic, they expect that these women sitting at the top of power or at the highest throne of professionalism and entrepreneurship have the instinct of the mother and woman prevail inside them. In a competitive world, they expect them to fight for justice, reject aggressiveness, condemn violence, blaze the trail of opportunities for others, heal the wounds, reach out, inspire, motivate, and give unwavering support.
We are right to feel good and hopeful today as we see more women ministers, judges, prosecutors, managers, top administrators and entrepreneurs. Alas, such presence will only remain another statistic that time will cast into oblivion, unless it turns into a mission to influence the pending solutions to the issues facing thousands of women and girls, who go through violence, sexual harassment in the workplace or public spaces, who face prejudice that keeps them from pursuing their passions, poor working conditions, lack of education, employment, and poverty. This mission will only succeed if it at its foundations and above any power lies the power of values and profound human feelings.
So, dear girls and women, economists, lawyers, medical doctors, engineers, experts of all fields, I am convinced that tomorrow, when you will strive for your own success and persevere, you will faced challenges that are not easy. You will climb to the highest peaks in your career as a reward for your labours and the support given to you by your families. But remember that the sacrifices of generations require that in all your efforts you first invoke the instinct of the mother and the woman, who would give the post-pandemic world her modesty, self-restraint, self-control, departing from self-centeredness and vanity, offering her discipline, generosity and the feeling of community, all values that the Koran urges you to pursue, “so that you may succeed” (Surah An-Nur, 24: 31).
The post-pandemic world will be a place in need of more communication, a better balancing of the challenges, increased focus on the plethora of problems, enhanced social responsibility towards those who are vulnerable, more affection, more kindness, more sensitivity towards the environment, and, clearly, less greed and confrontation to secure power. You, better than anyone, understand the relevance of this ayah in the Koran: “And do not crave what Allah has given some of you over others. Men will be rewarded according to their deeds and women ˹equally˺ according to theirs.” (Surah An-Nisa’, 4: 32).
There is a myth as old as the world that war is a men’s game. These times have been a testament to another truth that women are fighters as strong as men, and always victorious.
I wish success to every and each one of you!