Honorable Prime Minister, Honorable Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, Members of Parliaments of countries that have honored this Summit with your presence,

Dear Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honor and pleasure to officially welcome you to Prishtina.

As the President of the Republic of Kosovo it is now my honor to declare open the 2012 International Women’s Summit “Partnership for Change: Empowering Women.”

We have the honor to be joined by the former US Secretary of State Madam Madeleine Albright, a woman who has dedicated much of her life to public service, a true friend to all Kosovars – someone who has been an integral part of the building of our country, but also to peace and stability throughout the world during the years she has spent in diplomacy.

We are joined here tonight by Madam Melanne Verveer, the US Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues, who advocates and mobilizes support around the globe to advance women’s equal access to opportunities and services, and someone who has taken a great interest in helping women in Southeastern Europe to come together to network, to cooperate and to forge lasting partnerships that would improve their position in the region.

With us is also Congresswoman Jane Harman from the Woodrow Wilson Center. She is integral to the Women in Public Service Project and initiative’s global commitment to increase the number of women in leadership to fifty percent by 20-50.

Joining us is also, Madam Pusic, the Foreign Minister of Croatia, who has successfully led her country towards European Union membership.

With us is also Jozefina Topalli, the speaker of Albania’s parliament who has contributed immensely to the country’s democratic development.

We have the honor to have among us the former Prime Minister of Canada, the first woman Prime Minister in that country, the first woman Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the first woman Minister of National Defense and the first woman elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

As well as many women leaders from places as close as Brussels to those making a difference in places as far as Abu-Dhabi.

What do all these women have in common? They all are trailblazers.

In the next few days  we’re joined by some of the world’s most inspiring women. Whose leadership has been exemplary not only for the representation of women, but also for peace and development in their communities and across the globe. We will seek to create new partnerships and spread ideas that will improve the position of women in society and enhance democracy.

I have had the honor of inviting all of you to this summit, a collaboration between Secretary Clinton and I, because through your work, dedication and innovative approach you have demonstrated the kind of change, vision and leadership that is necessary at this time. A time when we must have more equality, more opportunities, more sustainable access to resources and more balanced policies.

A time when we need greater say in the public sphere, greater political representation, greater chances in securing a livelihood for our families and a greater role in establishing and maintaining the foundations of a just society.

We come from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different experiences and different corners of the globe.

And we come together here in Prishtina to work together to find answers and solutions to the issues of our region and throughout the globe. We will tackle political participation, economic empowerment and we will look into the role of women in security.

We want to thank the US Agency for International Development, USAID, and NDI for making this conference a reality and bringing us all together. And I want to thank you the participants for your commitment and desire to come together to exchange ideas and create the change we need for the Southeastern Europe.

Dear participants,

Some of you have gone through wars and are pillars of strength for your families and the forces of reconciliation for your communities.

Some of you have made tremendous effort, as you tirelessly pushed for reforms and democratization of political parties to allow for equal representation in the ballot.

Some of you have built shelters for victims of domestic violence and have sought to educate society at large to condemn such heinous acts.

Women, like Secretary Clinton and Secretary Albright have used their influence and diplomacy to end human suffering and make peace the norm of the day. And to make women part of the decision-making process, in their communities and in their countries.

To both of these leaders, you have our sincere gratitude. Thank you for what you have done.
You are an inspiration to all of us.

Regardless of our background, of our path to becoming leaders in politics, of our struggles to set up a business or engage in advocacy or apply strict ethics and set an example of how one behaves when vested with public authority, we have been united in our mission: to empower women to become masters of their own fate.

This is because we have seen time and again that no family, household, society, country or region is secure if the women don’t feel safe.

We have witnessed that development and progress hinge on the ability of each and every individual’s right to unleash their full potential.

Women are fifty percent of the population and without them as equal partners we cannot speak of prosperity we cannot talk about a free society. And we cannot waste one of our most precious resources.

We have not only identified challenges; we have explored ways to confront the problems and remove the obstacles. I can confidently say that because of our joint determination we have made one great leap forward: Today we are better off then we were yesterday.

But this is not to say that our job is finished and there are no challenges.

Over this last year, I have met many of you as we jointly shared concerns about the uneven policies in developing countries or countries in transition worldwide. Of course, the experience of each country with women’s political representation, economic empowerment and security varies.

In the region, for example, we have increased on average the number of women represented in the central level. Throughout the entire Southeastern European region women serve as members of the assembly, speakers of the parliament, ministers of European integration, of trade, of interior affairs.

As these women from Southeastern Europe will themselves attest in the next few days, they have crossed party lines and rigid ideologies to stand together in favor of more balanced policies that meet the needs of countries in transition.  They understand the need for better roads without forgetting the need for more hospitals, kindergartens and schools. They have shattered perceptions that they are there simply to uphold the given quota. They have become an integral part of the decision-making process.

While we applaud this positive trend at the central level, we hope to understand better why women are scarcely (sker-slli) represented at the executive office in the local level and what are some of the barriers to women’s participation in the public life. In Kosovo, no woman serves as a mayor and most of the 70 percent of the women that are unemployed live in the rural areas.

The removal of the remaining obstacles will be key to the region’s future its path towards integration into the European Union.  But also to its democratization and stability, and most importantly its prosperity.  We will seek the knowledge of women who have removed these hurdles in their societies to provide us with the guiding light as we search for solutions to these common problems.

As some of you have already pointed out, we cannot have a complete democracy until women participate equally and fully. We cannot speak of sustainability and prosperity if half of the population is constantly discouraged  through fewer education opportunities or salary discrimination and pushed out. As Secretary Clinton often points out, this is the age of participation and the age of integration, “where every individual has the opportunity to become a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.” This is why the concrete commitment of the Women in Public Service Project, launched by Secretary Clinton, to globally increase the number of women in leadership positions to “50 percent by 2050” is so important. Because it will result in more balanced policies that will bring more stability and prosperity to our communities and countries.

It is a journey that we’ve made; we will only go forward. There is no turning back.

We must have equal and full participation not only in politics as elected representatives, but also as entrepreneurs who contribute to the country’s economy through their innovation and by creating the much needed jobs and investment opportunities.

In Kosovo, women own only one percent of property, which is also the global average. The ownership of property provides economic security and one percent is not enough.  While Kosovo laws guarantee gender equality, traditions in our region do not always support these laws. As a result, women cannot get the starting capital to secure a bank loan, without which they cannot engage seriously in business. They are then often forced to live in poverty and are economically dependent. Without a voice, without a say.

This, my friends, must change.

To restore dignity and help women assume their rightful place in the society, we need better legislation – mandatory second level education for girls, for example – but most importantly  better implementation of gender-sensitive laws.

On all these issues we need more legislation, best practices and better implementation.

But above all we need a critical mass for a cultural shift. We need a common platform and a joint commitment to see these reforms through in our respective communities. We need to become the example that the whole world must see. We must show the kind of courage that has radically transformed our societies. And above all, we must demonstrate solidarity and unity.

In the next three days we will come together to network, exchange ideas and find solutions.

Dear friends,

As we gather here to share our experiences, identify best practices and find solutions to our common problems, we pay tribute to generations of women in the region whose sacrifice to build a better future shall always be remembered. These women serve as an inspiration to all of us presently at the forefront of the positive change that is sweeping the region.

This change  is carried on by you, the agents of change.

After the wars that have wrecked your hometowns and destroyed the fabric of your communities, you rescued your families.

You have found the strength to pick yourself up, assemble the broken pieces and move on.

You have defied the corrupt policies and discriminatory practices and went on to promote growth and advocate for policies that meet the needs of everybody not just the interests of a few.

Against all the difficulties of unimaginable experiences and traumas of a life in transition, you have built inclusive societies.

You have confronted your societies to speak out against violence and cruelty exercised on women.

This is why I believe that by coming together on a common, forward-looking agenda, you will succeed in reaching out to each other and expanding your own knowledge and vision. You will be the carriers of change that will lead to the lasting peace in the region.

I encourage you to explore partnerships that will boost the role you will play in the future of the region where none existed before: between academia and policy makers, between enterprises and public offices, between nations and neighbors.

Only through such commitment we will be able to truly find lasting solutions and be the lasting change we want to see sweep the region.

In making this summit a reality, I was fortunate to have the support of Secretary Clinton a woman role model for all of us, a leader who embodies best the values her country stands for and spreads them around the world as a beacon of hope.

It is my honor and pleasure to share with you a special message from a very dear friend, US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Thank you.