Meet women's rights activist Drita Bajrami, a member of PulseWire, World Pulse’s online newswire. Drita draws strength from her past as a persecuted Kosovo Albanian to empower women around the world.
World Pulse: Why women and why now?
Drita Bajrami: I believe that it is time to make the woman’s voice heard. I have chosen to work for women’s rights because as a woman, I have experienced oppression and many times I have felt that I had so much to tell the world, but nobody was listening. As I ask the question "What is a woman?" I am also aware of the fact that every oppressed woman needs to find the answer to this question within her self in order to become an active member of her society. It is also our duty as women to help each other build self-confidence and that is why I also feel obliged to do as much as I can for women’s rights.
WP: Growing up, did you have a strong female role model in your family or in your community?
Drita: I grew up in a family where human rights were discussed on a daily basis. Not only did my father fight for democracy against the "Milosevic" regime in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, but he also took good care of my mother and always made sure that she participated in all of his political meetings. My mother was often the only woman among hundreds of men, so both of my parents have been good role models for me. I am everything I am because of them.
WP: How has your past motivated you to become a women’s rights activist?
Drita: Under the Milosevic regime, the Serbian government persecuted Kosovo Albanians by shutting down all of their schools and universities, despite the fact that the Albanians were a majority in Kosovo. When Kosovo Albanians made peaceful protests against this act they were killed, arrested, and poisoned. The persecution of my family began when my father went against the dictatorship and fought for democracy. I remember the night when the Serbian military knocked on our door and wanted to take my father. I cannot even explain the fear and the terror that my mother, sister, brother and I felt knowing that if they took him away, he would never come back. So we escaped and were forced to hide for three days – days that felt like years, nights that felt like decades – before we could secretly leave the country, knowing that we would never go back to Kosovo.
There are no words to explain the loss, the desperation, the anger, the sadness or the voices in my head asking, “How could it go this wrong?” How could one leader succeed in turning the Serbian nation into monsters? How could my Serbian neighbors with whom I once used to laugh become my enemies? I was only 12 years old and I might not have known much, but I knew one thing: When evil knocks on our door, we do not open, we do not face it, we run for the moment in order to survive, and afterwards we write and speak about it and explain to the world how to cope with it! As an adult, I now know that people need to be warned, need to know how to deal with the evil, and then become stronger individuals so that they can tell the world. I am a living example.
WP: Tell us about your work with UNIFEM and Women for Women International.
Drita: My career with the United Nations began when I won a national writing contest on the topic of human rights. The award was a trip to the UN Headquarters in New York where I met many UN ambassadors. I now work with UNIFEM in Sweden to improve conditions for women here. The fact is that no matter where we live, even in Western countries, many women feel oppressed.
I am also a teacher and will travel to Rwanda in March, working with Women for Women International to educate women who are victims to become active citizens in their communities. That is where I hope I can make a difference because as my father always says, “Knowledge is Power.”
WP: What has been your experience on PulseWire?
Drita: I love PulseWire, I love reading women’s thoughts and stories. I have no intention of ever abandoning this fantastic network for women. I would like to thank World Pulse for making women’s voices heard all over the world.