[Blic] Violeta Jovanović: The path to equality is in the hands of women

Violeta Jovanović has been involved in local development and gender equality issues for over 25 years, through the design, advocacy, and implementation of development projects. She has been at the helm of NALED since its establishment in 2007 and also leads the Etno Network association, which focuses on preserving Serbia's cultural heritage and empowering women economically.

What business move or project are you most proud of?

- In the context of International Women's Day, I'd like to highlight NALED's successes in empowering women. Through our initiative in 2012, we significantly simplified the paperwork required to claim maternity benefits, reducing it from a staggering 86 documents. With amendments to the Cadastre Law in 2019, we ensured that property acquired during marriage is registered equally under both spouses' names. We also contributed to the adoption of the Social Entrepreneurship Law in 2022, which provides support for vulnerable groups, including women. We are dedicated to creating systemic conditions for gender equality.

Your organization is focused on numerous socially responsible projects. Do you have any specifically aimed at women?

- NALED provides vital support to the Etno Network, a professional organization that gathers craft associations and artisan shops, engaging women in crafting handmade products for business and diplomatic gifts. Over 1000 women have participated in training programs, craft colonies, and juried exhibitions, focusing on product design, marketing, and placement. The Etno Network collaborates with the state and businesses to showcase these products, empowering women economically. To further empower rural women and preserve cultural heritage through the development of cultural tourism, the Etno Network has established sales and exhibition points in high-end hotels and at Belgrade Airport. Our heritage and the women who are its main custodians make us proud in the eyes of the world.

What advice would you give to young ambitious girls and women who would like to follow in your footsteps?

- I am surrounded by exceptional women in NALED and Serbia. We motivate and support each other. Achieving gender equality is in the hands of women. It is up to us to be entrepreneurial, diligent, and advocate for the greater good. Due to entrenched patriarchy and deep-rooted prejudices about their life roles, women in our region face numerous obstacles on the path to success, especially when they aspire to use their knowledge and experience in leadership positions. Therefore, it is necessary to overcome the limitations of traditional roles and realize our full potential. From that personal realization, that satisfaction in who we are and what we can do, we can give our best to society. We advocate for a comprehensive strategy to overcome the glass ceiling, which would result in a program to support women in all areas. Realizing the full potential of women is not just a matter of justice but also a developmental goal for our society.

Do you feel that you have succeeded in life?

- Yes. I do what I love and believe in. I am confident that in all aspects of life, I make a positive difference for others and myself.

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