Trailblazing Ambassador Sparkles at Global Gender Event

Photo by The Georgetown Dish
Ambassador Vlora Çitaku addresses the Gender360 Summit
Ambassador Vlora Çitaku addresses the Gender360 Summit

By Kelly Sherretts

Ambassador Vlora Çitaku of the Republic of Kosovo made a special appearance at the recent Gender360 Summit in Washington, DC., to express her concerns on violence against girls and women. A former refugee and Georgetown resident, Ambassador Çitaku has broken through many glass ceilings as one of the first women ambassadors ever to represent her region in the United States. A former member of Parliment and Minister of European Intergration in Kosovo, Çitaku said: "There are still too many challenges; women are still considered exotic creatures in government."

Ambassador Çitaku with CARE's Besnik Leka (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Ambassador Çitaku with CARE's Besnik Leka
Çitaku spoke to a packed room hearing from panelists from around the globe.They convened to discuss the role gender development has on violence.

A friend of Ambassador Çitaku and panel member, CARE project coordinator Besnik Leka discussed CARE's Young Men Initiative in Kosovo. He asked the 120+ audience members to guess which emotion boys were most comfortable expressing, according to scientific research. They guessed it fairly quickly: "anger." The conference goers had more trouble guessing which emotions boys have the least comfort with. The answer, Leka told the audience, is "fear." 

"All males can benefit from sharing emotions," Leka said. 

Other panel speakers agreed with Leka including Preston Mitchum, from Advocates for Youth. "We really wanted to look at creating a world were all young people are included, all the sexual orientations, gender identities, and diversitites can really center the full range of rights." 

The panel: (Photo by: Kelly Sherretts ) The panel: "Transforming Harmful Social Norms: Advancing Positive Masculinity"
All heads turned when another point of view was considered. USAID executive Yolande Miller-Grandvaux dicussed the role of women supported by ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Miller-Grandvaux said that ISIS and Al-Qaeda are, in some ways, futher along than the United States when it comes to empowering women. "The women are given a voice that they never had before, and in that sense they are the most powerful human beings in a context where the men are in the front lines." 

Melanie Yahner, a panel speak from Save the Children, emphasized the importance of getting a head start on transforming social norms. "We know that these gender norms start to form at birth." 

The Gender360 Summit, where the panel discussion took place, was hosted by FHI 360, a nonprofit organization emphasizing a holistic approach to human development challenges.