Nova Varoš: rodna ravnopravnost u interesu žena i muškaraca

Nova Varoš: Gender Equality in the Interest of Both Women and Men

11 September 2013, Danijela Topalović

This has been an exceptional year for Nova Varoš and for setting the cornerstone for advancing gender equality. In late 2012, the Municipal Assembly designated 100,000 RSD in the 2013 budget for the implementation of the 2013 Work Plan of the Coordination Team established to develop a local action plan to improve the status of women and advance gender equality.

With the advisory and professional support of Aleksandra Radetić, the Gender Equality Adviser of the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme EU PROGRES, the seven-member team, composed of representatives of all the relevant institutions, succeeded in drafting a one-year Local Action Plan (LAP) for improving the status of women in the Zlatar region in a very short period of time. The Municipal Assembly unanimously adopted the plan in mid-April 2013; it also decided to adopt the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life and a decision on the appointment of members of the Nova Varoš Municipal Assembly Gender Equality Council, thereby putting in place the institutional framework for promoting gender equality.

The Council was soon granted funding from EU PROGRES to implement a project focusing on preventing and suppressing violence against women and on victims of violence.

We have conducted an analysis of the current situation in the gender equality domain and already planned numerous other activities to try and raise the awareness of the local population about this issue and improve the status of women in Nova Varoš in nearly all walks of life where they are marginalised: employment and health care, family relations, education, culture, sports... Notably, we aim to ensure that women are significantly involved in decisions relevant to the functioning of the local community and that they are proportionately represented in managerial and better-paying jobs. Therefore, we will be advocating women’s human rights: the right to reproduce, to education, to life without violence, to participation in public life, to economic independence, to adequate representation in the media...

Our municipal leaders are of the view that the local government, as the level of administration closest to the citizens, the policies of which directly impact our everyday lives, is under the duty to be familiar with the gender equality principles and to actively enforce policies improving the situation in this field. Their support and readiness to help us has encouraged us and given us hope that we will make headway in improving the status of women and advancing gender equality in our municipality already in the first year of our existence.

The differences between the predominant traditional values and perceptions of the status of women in our local community and the modern theory on the status of women are quite significant. In Nova Varoš, male family members are perceived as the absolute and exclusive champions of moral authority. The social status of women, who are at the bottom of the social power ladder, is characterised by a high degree of social frustration and social failure. Predominance over women in the traditional ideology, which is quite prominent in our community, does not have the character of  dysfunction, disorganisation, disintegration or of distorted relations. On the contrary, it is stimulated, laid down and imposed as a means for the disciplining of the bad, the female, the passive element and the natural by the cultural, the male, the controlling active element. The deeply embedded and widespread patriarchal cultural patterns directly and symbolically express and reflect the authority and domination of the male group over the female group. Our women are accustomed to their traditional roles of wife and mother. Most of them are even unable to comprehend the causes of their inadequate status, which they perceive as absolutely „natural“, or as their „destiny“.

Aware of all of this, the Council members will advocate equal representation, power and the participation of both genders in all walks of public and private life in their activities. They will advocate both the right to equality and the right to diversity. That biological differences between men and women exist and that they are permanent and universal is undisputable. As is that everything else is purely a social construct of male and female roles. Namely, social expectations of men and women depend on cultural, political, economic, social, religious and other factors. Gender behaviour and attitudes are acquired and can change depending on the consequences. The rights of women in our local community and more broadly therefore constitute fundamental human rights. Discrimination is both politically unacceptable, economically inexpedient and punishable under the law. The fact is that gender equality is in the interest of both women and men, and society on the whole. This is why the Nova Varoš Municipal Assembly Gender Equality Council shall strive to establish gender balance in both public and private life.

Let me end by quoting former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who said:

Danijela Topalović
Gender Equality Council Chairwoman
Nova Varoš Municipality

The attitudes outlined in this article represent personal beliefs of the author and do not necessarily reflect viewpoints of the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme, or the European Union, the Government of Switzerland and the Government of Serbia.

Please be informed that the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme – EU PROGRES was completed on 31 March 2014. If you would like to learn about the activities and results of the European PROGRES, which is a continuation of development support of the European Union and Government of Switzerland to the South East and South West Serbia, please visit