Ksenija Radovanović, architect, activist Belgrade on Water, candidate for local election in Belgrade 2018, Belgrade, Serbia
If political culture is ever to change, it needs more young, educated women says Jón Gnarr, the famous Reykjavík ex-Mayor. Central and Eastern Europe is an ideal battleground for this issue, with most of the countries having only around 20% of politicians being women. Although the EU is a strong supporter for gender equality, tools to balance male and female chances have been followed with strong resistance from the media and current politicians in power. Succinctly, gender equality is not a popular term in Central European EU member countries. So, when we are talking about Serbia, a country outside of the EU and a country known for its patriarchal and militant system, the story of Ksenija Radovanović casts longer shadows than elsewhere.
Radovanović has been focusing her efforts on the Serbian capital for quite some time, where she initially studied and graduated from the University of Belgrade. She is a member of the Ministry of Space, a do-tank from Belgrade that connects social activists, socially engaged artists, architects, and citizens. Radovanović is also a part Ne da(vi)mo Beograd [Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own], a broader coalition of individuals, professionals, and organizations raising critical voices against the imposition of the Belgrade Waterfront project for its lack of transparency and exclusion of the public, citizens, and professionals.
This initiative has earned a notable reputation for its campaigns which have been led through institutions, public talks, research and information dissemination, media engagement, publications in print media and accompanied by campaigns of civil disobedience and protests that have grown to include more than 20,000 people on the streets of Belgrade.
The decision to run for local politics was a natural step for Ms. Radovanović, who is intent on widening the arena for citizens’ voices to be heard and channel the energy from protests.
Radovanović says that women in politics often have to fight on two fronts. The first deals with the stereotypical, patriarchal environment where “they have to prove themselves”, and the second is the political front. In a society whose history (and present) is significantly marked by strong masculine leaders, she says that their choice to have a female representative on the ballot was a statement on the necessity for equal rights and representation. On the day of elections, there were 24 party lists present, and Ksenija’s was the only female name on the entire ballot.
The initiative list of nominees for Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own reflected the participation of women and men in their local political activities which resulted in more female than male candidates. She says, it is not just about a (male) leader as such simplification doesn’t add much to recognizing the actual contribution and everyday sacrifice of the team - and changing the system of politics.
“Gender equality must manifest itself through the absolute equal participation of both men and women in political life, not just a number on a piece of paper.“
She believes there is a female perspective that is more likely to avoid muscle flexing and take a broader perspective to strategically address issues of the day.
Whether in her political or expert careers, Radovanović would like to foster citizen’s participation in planning practice. Representatives of different sexes and genders, social, education, race and age should be included into all political decisions.
Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own did not formally enter the City Council, but for Radovanović this is not over. She added:
“We will continue to open new battlegrounds, learn, connect and empower each other as we have seen that well-informed, interested, and persistent citizens were able to tackle and deal with important issues with greater energy and clearer intentions than our institutional representatives”.