The first national conference “Environmental Protection and Women in Serbia”, aimed at raising awareness of environmental safety, environmental health impacts and the importance of gender equality, was held on March 3, 2017, in Belgrade, Serbia. The event was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the REC — through the Environmental Civil Society Support Programme for Serbia (CSOnnect) — with financial support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden.
Conference participants included female members of parliament, as well as women working in business, media, government and the not-for-profit sector. Several of the participants have pursued successful careers working in various segments of the environment and related topics — such as health, safety, gender equality, civil society, emergency situations, journalism and the green economy — and the conference provided an opportunity for them to speak about their professional experiences. There was also a presentation on successful entrepreneurial initiatives in the green economy, aimed at improving conditions for the personal and professional development of women and at introducing new entrepreneurial initiatives in the field of environment.
Stana Bozovic, state secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, opened the conference, underlining the importance of gender equality in the environment and of establishing better conditions for female entrepreneurship in the green economy.
“Women have a very important role in sustainable development, so it is necessary to promote the work and participation of women in all areas of environmental protection and sustainable development,” Bozovic said. “Achieving gender equality is actually one of the best ways to improve environment and sustainable development. With this conference, we would like to launch a series of activities with the aim of raising awareness on the importance of environmental safety, environmental health impacts, and the importance of the green economy in encouraging female entrepreneurship.”
Maja Gojkovic, speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, indicated that the links between environment, sustainable development and gender equality are important considerations in efforts to advance social development.
“As for equal participation of women in environmental protection and sustainable development, it is of crucial importance to ensure their equal participation in the document and decision-making processes, as well as their presence in managing positions,” Gojkovic explained. “Apart from [Serbia’s] legislative framework, which clearly supports the gender equality policy and the rights to healthy environment, one of our goals is EU membership. If we adopt these standards completely and quickly, not only will our journey to Europe be faster and easier, but it will also mean that all of us will enjoy a fairer, healthier and better quality of life.”
As one of the biggest donors in Serbia in the framework of environmental development strategies, Sweden pays special attention to gender equality. H.E. Jan Lundin, ambassador of Sweden in Serbia, described the importance of investing in environment-related projects that can improve the health and quality of life of all citizens.
“The price of not investing and lack of investment in the field of environment is a steep price for citizens,” said Lundin. “We could look at the example of, let’s say, water pollution, where the inadequate treatment of wastewater poses higher risks and has numerous health consequences. Bearing in mind the theme of the conference, it is important to mention that research shows that women are more concerned [than men] with the situation in the environment, and they care about the quality of water, food and air because they are aware that a healthy environment at the same time represents the health of their families.”
The REC supports the efforts of government institutions that work to solve environment-related problems in Serbia.
“The civil society that REC supports is a valuable partner for institutions in Serbia,” explained REC expert Igor Kostic, “as their knowledge, engagement and innovativeness can help us to solve a heap of problems. Our organisation supports the efforts of civil society to get more directly involved with the bodies of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and with the delegation of the European Union.”
Other speakers at the conference, including H.E. Christine Moro, ambassador of France to the Republic of Serbia, and Jelena Micic, a representative of Young Researchers of Serbia, supported by the REC through CSOnnect, talked about the role of CSOs in tackling environmental problems from the viewpoint of gender equality.