For the first time in the country’s history, a multi-party parliamentary caucus has been formed to overcome political differences and work towards improving everyday lives of all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), especially women.  Thirty-six women parliamentarians have come together to form the Women’s Caucus in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the country’s two governmental entities, with the goal of ensuring that gender equality issues are mainstreamed across the work of the parliament.

Established in March 2013 as an informal group, the caucus, with the support of House Chairman Fehim Skaljic, was officially recognized by the Parliament on April 11, 2013, thereby becoming institutionalized as the first multi-party, interest-based caucus in the Western Balkans   

As the caucus continues its work, members are focused on promoting solidarity, advancing women’s policy interests and overseeing legislation with a gender perspective lens.  Tackling the issue of low women’s political participation and severe underrepresentation of women in leadership positions and executive decision-making bodies is another important activity on the caucus agenda.  Members are also building a strong network of women leaders inside and outside of government around issues of common concern and are working to empower women in all sectors. 

One of the first initiatives the caucus will undertake will be the development and adoption of a strategic document to promote women’s entrepreneurship.  The caucus is working with women entrepreneurs, gender commissions and other relevant stakeholder to develop a set of recommendations and an action plan that will encourage women to start their own business and achieve economic security and independence.

Links with the newly established women’s caucus in neighboring Serbia have been established to build a regional network of women parliamentarians in the Western Balkans and plans are being made to host an international conference in the fall of 2013 for women parliamentarians and women’s caucus leaders from the region, Europe and the United States to share ideas and experience.

The initiative to form the first multi-party caucus and promote political cooperation across party lines has received great attention and support from the public in BiH, especially women’s and international organizations.  The work of the caucus and the work of other women have shifted the focus from nationalist rhetoric and lack of political cooperation in the male-dominated political scene, to common goals of women from political, economic and social spheres.

At the official launch of the caucus in March, U.S. Ambassador Patrick Moon underlined the great achievements of women parliamentarians and noted that the formation of the first multi-party caucus in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a historic event and proves that women understand that progress can only be achieved through cooperation that is based on mutual trust and understanding.

Moon added that women parliamentarians have shown great commitment, political maturity and courage when they decided to put aside their party affiliations and ideologies, and start working together to improve the lives of women and others in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Women’s Caucus is supported by the International Republican Institute with a grant from the United States Agency for International Development.

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