Jelena Memet is an extrovert person, who believes in change and works constantly to create a better environment for Serbian women. Born in 1978 in Krusevac, Serbia, a woman who has experienced violence and discrimination, today with her courage she advocates to change the lives of many hopeless women in Serbia. She is a powerful voice and a beam of rays between margins for women from marginalized groups that are oppressed, raped and tortured by men.
Her childhood is a mix of good and bad memories. The daughter of a Serbian woman and a mixed-race man (Albanian and Ukrainian) was the only child in the family. Her father was ill with cancer throughout her growth, who was supposed to look after her, while her mother worked to secure her family’s life. Jelena has been taught that men can and should cook, take care of children, because the circumstances she had to live in, taught her so. Her family was not a typical patriarchal family as it is the case with many families in Serbia.
“From the very beginning I have learnt that girls and boys should have equal values in their parents. It was a time when society did not accept only girls in the family, but also boys,” recalls Jelena.
Today, Jelena is the only mother of a marvelous girl whom she grows and educates in the values of equality. Together with other six women in 2013, she has established the Alternative Center for Women and Girls in order to protect and promote women’s rights and the rights of marginalized groups. But to counteract the “men’s” society, Jelena was distracted by many of her friends, but the family was always close, offering her all the love and support she needed.
“It’s difficult … very difficult when you do not belong to the majority in society, you disagree with their thoughts and the odds that the government serves to the people.”
Jelena’s contribution to the improvement of women in Serbia and in the region is endless. This woman is a peace promoter, breaking the wall of non-cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia. For her is very special and important to build peace, and for this in collaboration with ARTPOLIS, supported by the organization Kvinna Till Kvinna (KTK) they organize for three years the Spring School of Feminism, bringing together young women from Kosovo & Serbia. For the first time, many girls from both countries had the opportunity to share words, stories, express common feelings, and ideas about universal freedom and equality.
For her, women in Serbia are on a very difficult path; a large part of the society expects women to care for the family and give birth to children. They are being killed, raped and tormented by men. While Jelena as a soul to all those deadly and violent women, rebelled with many other women on March 8, by protesting on Belgrade’s square. For her these moments are among the happiest during her activism, including the motility and solidarity among activist women. But there are also many desperate moments, too.
I feel desperate and fatigue while trying to make positive changes in society, I see nationalism growing, with no change in politics, and every time the institutional doors are closed to organizations working to improve women’s rights”, she describes the moments when she despairs.
Jelena, who today is the head of the Alternative Women’s Center, is organizing workshops with young people to raise awareness on topics such as transitional justice, fascism and nationalism. Also, this center is implementing a joint initiative to prevent violence against young women in Serbia, supported by KTK.