Professor shares gender and diversity training with people of Kosovo

Arthur Shriberg brings hope to oppressed women and ethnic groups in the Balkans | November 3, 2003

When Arthur Shriberg landed in Pristina, Kosovo, in late October, he brought a 47-page, two-day PowerPoint lesson on western-style gender and diversity into a country burdened with a history of oppressing ethnic groups and women.

Since NATO air strikes drove occupying Serbian forces out of the province in the southern region of the former Yugoslavia in 1999, the newly formed provisional government has been working to modernize its ancient country. That includes gradually changing attitudes of how people treat each other.

In a land where 85 percent of the people are Islamic, that’s a major challenge.

“Gender is one of the most significant issues, and they have no tradition of women being involved in government and leadership, and that’s become a primary though not exclusive expectation of the government,” says Shriberg, professor of management and entrepreneurship. “We conquered them, so we’re assisting their government in rebuilding.”

Shriberg, an authority on leadership and diversity issues who also serves as chair of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, was pulled into the Kosovo program earlier this year when a delegation of Kosovo government officials visited Cincinnati on a tour of the United States. Shriberg conducted a diversity workshop for the group and got to know some of the members, which led to him being invited to Kosovo for more gender and diversity training.

“They were delighted to be in the U.S. learning about our country,” Shriberg says. “I gave them a lot of facts about gender and race. They are very interested in race. They’d heard about the disturbance (in Cincinnati) in 2001.”

Shriberg was invited by Habit Hajredine, director of the Office of Good Governance, Human Rights, Equal Opportunity and Gender Issues. He is the assistant to the prime minister, Shriberg says.

“To get support from European and American companies, there is an expectation of a baseline of treating people right and that means women,” he says. “The big hammer is if you want money from the World Bank, you have to meet certain standards of treating people.”

In other words, if they want to play on the world’s stage—borrowing money and building an economy—they are expected to follow modern standards of human rights behavior.

Shriberg spent three days in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, giving workshops and meeting with government representatives. They speak Albanian and a number of other dialects, so Shriberg had interpreters to translate what he hears and what he says. He wrote his presentations in simple English in hopes his audience doesn’t lose too much in the translation.

He introduced gender from the perspectives of culture and diversity, including the 28 elements of diversity such as race, age, sexual orientation, personality, work and marital status. He presented videos and exercises to help them understand what it’s like to be outside the power structure and to be seen as an “other.”

“Their goal is the integration of gender equality into their plans, programs, projects and activities of the prime ministry, to figure out a way that they can move society to more gender equality,” he says. “They’re trying to get women involved in decision-making and leadership roles and to develop a society where women are treated as first-class citizens.”