Kaca Djurickovic is a gender programme manager working on women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming initiatives with UNDP in Montenegro. She’s currently working on a detailed assignment at UNDP headquarters to support the Gender Seal Program.
What is the Gender Seal Program?
The Gender Seal is a UNDP incentive program that helps to advance gender equality in our offices and in our programs. It helps our offices worldwide to develop a holistic picture of their work to promote gender and improve results. UNDP offices can receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold Gender Equality Seal, a “quality guarantee” of good performance according to established standards for gender equality. The real prize, however, is the pride that comes from making a meaningful contribution to gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.
The Seal program also promotes mutual learning between country teams and headquarter teams. Colleagues like Kaca, who are experts in their fields, offer valuable lessons into the work, challenges and needs specific from their region and country.
In one sentence, what do you currently do at UNDP?
I’m working on projects to increase women’s political participation, projects that offer business development training to women entrepreneurs and projects that tackle violence against women and girls.
Your office won the 2015 Gold Gender Seal Award. What does winning country offices get from the recognition and how does it empower staff’s work?
The Gender Equality Seal helped our office to shape a long term, sustainable structure that integrates gender into all aspects of our internal work and the work we do with departments in governments and civil society. In the public sector, we tend to look at project design in isolation. The justice and police sector may not look at how their budgets and plans affect the social welfare sector’s work and other sectors such as economic development or environment. The Gender Seal has been a really comprehensive and powerful tool for leadership, teamwork and for accountability across sectors.
Colleagues were empowered to really “walk the talk” about gender equality both in our work structure and in projects. The GOLD certification is important recognition. Now, you tell me if you know any professional that would not like to receive a gold standard of excellence certificate for their work!
It was a huge incentive and driving spirit in the Montenegrin team!
How does your work change the lives of women and girls in the developing world?
For UNDP Montenegro, this is a team-based effort. Sustainable change does not come from a single project idea, but as a result of our team working closely to collaborate with all stakeholders in government and civil society. Change doesn’t happen just by one person. We need to work together.
Is this the “multi-sectoral approach”? Can you give us an example?
For example, since 2010, through multiple projects, we worked to reduce domestic violence in families. This was a massive collaboration between us, civil society, government and every stakeholder in Montenegro who were committed to reducing domestic violence.
Our Democratic Governance team worked with the government to create a free legal aid framework for victims of violence. The team provided training of civil servants working in the justice and judicial sector of the government. Government counterparts applied what they learned to revise criminal law frameworks that foster victim protection and rights.
In parallel, the team I work in, the Social Inclusion team, added social service support for victims of violence in national social reform plans.
Our gender team conducted surveys and built up the capacity of key institutional representatives such as civil servants who work as social workers, and local women’s groups who ran shelters. We supported NGOs by setting up national help lines with government’s institutional recognition, women shelters and job trainings that helped women who had left abusive marriages to begin new lives on their own two feet.
Six-years later, , progress was evident. In 2010, we finally got the legal framework that did not exist till that point of time. In 2010, only few women’s groups were supporting women in courts. Back then, 92% of people surveyed believed domestic violence existed against women and girls in Montenegrin families. Now, there is a free legal aid system to help victims of violence and a network of women’s groups that align their work to the government’s institutional plans and budgets.
Back in 2010, there was one shelter run by local NGO and no institutional support at all. There are now four shelters in the country, all run by NGOs but integrated in the government’s social welfare system of protection. Back in 2010, there were no free SOS lines and no institutional government support — everything was supported by NGOs and volunteers.
In 2010, nearly 500 cases of domestic violence were reported, and that was the average on an annual basis. Victims’ trust in institutions were very low. Now, there is a free national SOS line for victims of violence as a result of more partnership with NGOs and the Government. In the last 12 months (between 2015–2016), nearly 5,000 women called for help.
For UNDP, seeing that more women are coming forward, using services and getting the help they need is the first sign that of hope and change.
We still have ways to go but there is more hope for women and girls facing domestic violence.
What is your first-ever job? How did you end up here?
I started as junior journalist in a local daily paper during a very politically turbulent time for Western Balkans. Being a peace activist, I was writing a lot about the women’s peace movement in the region but I was also doing a lot of political activism work for a political party. Thanks to this party, I was sent to a political participation training in Sweden that had gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the subjects that we supposed to learn about. You can imagine how transforming that training was for me.
When I return to Montenegro, I became a trainer for gender equality At a training, I met the head of the UNDP liaison office in Podgorica at that time. We were on the same page on understanding the issues and needs in the country. I started paying more attention to UNDP’s work after that fateful meeting. That turned into a desire to do much more. In 2004, I finally became part of UNDP Montenegro and I’ve been with the team since then. I love seeing the results of my work although sometimes I get frustrated with the many complexities involved.
I’m loving the change I see on the streets, in the UNDP team dialogues but also in the responsiveness of our counterparts. My most recent injection of inspiration was our office getting the Gold Gender Equality Seal.
As a child, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I wanted to be a police officer and a teacher. So, both came true in some way. Being a gender person in the UNDP office does integrate part of the “policing” part of protecting and helping people. As a trainer in gender equality, I am constantly teaching and sharing knowledge which helps trainees to do their jobs better to help women facing domestic violence.
Tell us about one person you’ve met who’ve really inspired you to work, who was a project participant.
Her name is Branka Zigante Zivkovic. She is the judge of the high supreme court in Croatia. She’s the personification of court practices that were adopted by governments after The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination and the Istanbul Convention. She gives meaning to laws. She has knowledge and authority to address gender perceptions within the judiciary system. She has the guts to set up new court practice and she has even spoken out to the highest officials whenever she notices that courts are failing to protect rights of victims of violence.
She is my on-going inspiration for part of my work. She is our biggest champion and key to strengthening capacities within the judiciary system to address gender violence. I strongly believe that the previous court practice of sanctioning perpetrators to pay an average sentence of 150 Euro, started to change significantly towards more rigorous sanctions thanks to her involvement in our training program. We’ve yet to evaluate exact data but the difference is already noticeable.
What’s one action that people can take in their daily lives to end violence against women and girls?
Start talking about violence against women, read and learn to understand it. Rise against violence.
What are 3 daily good habits from your life that you advise for young people who want to become a gender grogram manager one day?
Read the news daily to understand the context of your work so you can do it better. Always have a participatory process and team work around it. You are stronger when you develop, deliver and evaluate in this way. Grow from challenges.
For young women currently entering the workforce, what are three messages you have for them?
Inspire and cultivate yourself every day. Have self-confidence and move boundaries. In three words — live your dream.
Finish these sentences.
The book that inspires me is “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir.
The Second Sex - Wikipedia
The Second Sex ( French: Le Deuxième Sexe) is a 1949 book by the French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir. One of her…
The song that energizes me is “ Break the Chain.”
By 2030, I want to live in a world that — has NO conflicts, NO wars.
I want a world where all people can enjoy political stability and economic development and last but not the least, by 2030 I want to live in world where gender equality issues are a top priority around the world.