A woman welder makes waves in Kosovo*

Apr 2, 2015

A woman from the Sevce village in Kosovo is defying gender stereotypes.

Professions may have no gender, but the division of the labour market into men's and women's jobs is still commonplace in the Balkans. Women working as taxi or bus drivers, for example, are almost impossible to find in Kosovo.

Tanja Dacevac, a 21-year-old woman from Sevce village in the Municipality of Štrpce/Shtërpcë, is playing against the rules. To the surprise of many, Tanja has decided to engage in a profession which, for years, was reserved exclusively for men. She is now the first woman welder in Štrpce/Shtërpcë. Ever.

After completing primary education, Tanja enrolled into an economy-focused secondary school. Later, she was forced to quit mid-way through due to a lack of financial resources. She got married and became a mother, and was unemployed for many years. She says:

“For more than three years, my husband and I were searching for jobs unsuccessfully. One day, we heard that a new initiative was helping disadvantaged youth to gain skills for employment. Even though there were several choices in front of me – hairdressing, for example, which may be considered a more traditionally female profession, I decided to apply to become a welder. I attended vocational trainings in the Vocational Training Center in Prizren three times a week. And now, four months later, I have become the first woman welder in Štrpce/Shtërpcë. My instructor told me I may actually be the first woman welder in Kosovo altogether!"

Many young people in the municipality face the same situation, unsuccessfully searching for jobs for years. Haki Haziri, an official from the Štrpce/Shtërpcë municipal employment office says: “Unemployment is one of the major problems for young people in this municipality. Of those registered job seekers in June 2014, 35.8 percent were aged between 15-24 years.”

UNDP in Kosovo is working to address the severe problem of unemployment in the region, particularly with young people - mainly early school leavers, first-time job seekers, and long-term unemployed living in poverty. With the support of the Austrian Development Cooperation, UNDP is working to provide vocational training and access to credit opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

The Local-level Response for Employment Generation and Integrated Territorial Development project is a three-year initiative that began in 2014, aiming at facilitating inclusive economic empowerment of the most vulnerable groups in the south of Kosovo. The project will target with direct support 400-450 direct and 1,400-1,700 indirect beneficiaries at risk of economic and social exclusion in the selected municipalities.

Staying home

Is Tanja planning to leave Kosovo? Not at all. In fact, she is preparing to start her own business here. Despite the fact that some people may find it strange, Tanja strongly believes that this profession is her future.

Noting that from day one, she has been fully supported by her family and friends, Tanja also says that she is infinitely thankful to UNDP, Austrian Development Cooperation and Štrpce/Shtërpcë municipality for opening her door of the future.

Tanja is not the only one. So far twelve more young people from Štrpce/Shtërpcë and ten young citizens of Dragash/Dragaš have received vocational training to become welders, hairdressers, and handypersons.

UNDP has awarded each trainee who has completed the four-month trainings a set of working tools, as well as promotional material that will help them to enter the labour market. This initiative has made a significant contribution to vulnerable people facing unemployment, creating 23 new jobs and ever-so-slowly working to shift antiquated but still-prevalent gender preconceptions.

* All references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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