During my life I have constantly faced challenges for being different and struggled to occupy a place in the surrounding society. Since as Albanians we experienced a political and systematic repression by then Yugoslav and later Serbian regime, the existential importance of identity protection was a lesson I had learned very early. Later I was discriminated because I was an Albanian in a foreign country, or because I was a girl. But I have never admitted to being subject to discrimination, whatever that was. Therefore, resistance or persistence and trust in equality are what would symbolize my work and character.
When mentioning childhood Luljeta states that a description of her life would look like an incredible movie. At the age of 13, I had to leave Kosovo because of my parent’s political commitments. It was the age of adolescence when a person began to create a personality when one creates the first social bonds with a circle of people outside the family circle and this gives you a feeling as you started embracing the world. It was 1991, full of organized demonstrations, when I as the head of the class had to make sure that the decisions, we took to escape from the class in order to go out on the street to demand our human rights for a dignified life, were not sabotaged by any classmates. We made the decisions democratically, because when someone proposed to go to the streets, I first asked the class what they thought and that it should be a unanimous decision. The organization of the class and the situation at that time gave me the feeling of being part of something greater in the service of society, I was no longer in my role as an individual, but in my role as a part of society. Experiencing that feeling has taught me what coincidence is important and what means, state, identity, or homeland. There I have understood the importance of social organization and the basis of the philosophical understanding of the notion of freedom. My freedom ends where the freedom of another begins. If the other disagrees with my opinion, I must tolerate and respect that attitude. Because I as a single individual cannot survive, but I am totally dependent on people around me and their ideas about coexistence and social norms. But I also realized that the circle tries to impose their norms. Therefore, my life is characterized by a struggle for the preservation of personal identity by influencing the circle through my often-revolting actions.
When asked how Luljeta began to fight for women’s rights, she maintains that her family had taught her that from an early age when she was already sensitive to this topic and raised her voice to injustice in the family circle, as well as stories in various media. However, she continues, I see my commitment as a battle for human rights, the rights of all, and not just women. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better not to talk about women’s rights at all, and just deal with human rights. However, I fight for equal rights for all because people are born with equal rights and nature has made no difference between people, but people have made the differences. The reason for my engagement is to trust in the principle of justice and equality among people first. At the same time, I have realized that justice is the foundation of a healthy society, without which no sphere of public or private life can be properly regulated. My recent concrete engagement has focused on finding legal space in the Family Law or the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, so that those uncertainties in the relevant articles are eliminated. At first whenever I expressed my indignation about the dysfunction of the judicial system or misuse of office or corruption, people around tried to get me out of those ideas and my determination to change something by saying that it was impossible, because it was a new system. They did not believe I could make any difference, even the smallest. They liked the idea, but they saw a change impossible. There were even those who wanted to stop telling me how many challenges I would face. But I started to shut up and stop talking to me negatively, because I was determined to try at least what I believed and was willing to give everything from myself.
The project that Lulejta will always remember is the task she assigned to herself in frafting the initiative for supplementing and amending the Law on Family, in regard to heritage of the common property created during marriage and how it should be divided into equal shares among spouses. It was challenging because I was politician and not a lawyer, she says. Above all, I did not know whether it would be taken into account. But on the basis of the cases I knew and my personal experience that I had been through the courts because of domestic violence, I knew that it was becoming a great overstatement to women in our judicial system. So, I decided to analyze the women’s social situation, the legal framework relevant to international conventions and local laws, make a presentation of judicial practice and show how great the discrepancy between law and reality in court practice and then show how much it needed is to clarify the law. I made this proposal for change of law without any financial or professional support, I did during a time when I was passing through these challenges and when I realized that the institutional and systematic violence that was taking place in Kosovo against women was a lot more aggravating than violence in family. It was therefore necessary for someone to raise their voices. I did not know if it would be successful, as I had no organization, no contacts, no finances. But just the will of iron to push this matter forward. It was special that I started alone, but on the way ahead, I found many people who supported me and inspired me, pushing this cause together forward.
Gender equality in Kosovo exists so far only on paper. Reality is totally different. Because the social mind is patriarchal, so patriarchal that even women themselves when they divorce and seek their share of wealth, they seem to getting out from the husband. Many women are embarrassed to seek their share of wealth, because society is not counting as a work the labor-intensive birth, child raising and upbringing and home maintenance. This is also a consequence of women’s reconciliation with the underestimation of their contribution to society.
Empowering women means primarily removing women from gender stereotypes. Empowering women depends a lot on women, but also on the change of the men’s approach towards women. I do think that gender discrimination and gender stereotypes are aggravating even men because they burden men with a male stereotype, to always have to play the role of the strong, to be ashamed if they feel like crying, to never dare to express their feelings, etc. I believe men need more social emancipation than women. Men are the ones who should take the courage to be softer and more sensitive in relation to their circle and to women. Men should have the right to be more sensible without being ridiculed by our patriarchal circle.
The projects that she was involved in and that had an impact in the society are: Lobbying to the members of the parliament for the amendment of the Law on Family; Public awareness for the common property; Proposal for the amendment of the Law on Family, which passed the Committee for Legislation.
At the moment Luljeta is the mother of two daughters and director of the NGO Justice and Equality Initiative, but at the same time she is trying to finish her PhD studies in Political Science, Foreign and Security Policy.