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Women Emerge As Crisis Leaders In Macho Balkans

By JOVANA GEC and DUSAN STOJANOVIC

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) â¿¿ Women in the Balkans are leading a political revolution.

Historically given little say in the politics of the conservative region, they are increasingly taking top leadership posts, signaling that the traditional rules are changing as Balkan countries shake off their war pasts and move toward membership in the European Union.

During the bloody 1990s, many in the Balkans turned to warrior leaders, mostly male nationalists they thought would protect them from the ethnic conflicts that flattened cities and left over a hundred thousand dead. The new millennium has brought crisis in a different form: economic doldrums, naggingly high unemployment and glaring political corruption.

Encouraged by the EU and influenced by closer ties with the West, more and more it is women who are stepping in to change the old ways of doing business in the macho Balkans. Some see women as less nationalistic and more attuned to the needs of a new era â¿¿ diplomacy, consensus, and compromise.

"Women have always been more successful than men, with all due respect," said Duska Latinovic, a nurse from the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia. "Women are ... more sensitive, stronger, emotional, and in these rough times people need more of a heart."

Although overall gender equality standards are still far from those in Western democracies, strongly patriarchal Kosovo and the post-war Serb mini-state in Bosnia have both installed women in their top positions. Male-dominated Serbia and Montenegro have passed laws to increase the numbers of women in leadership positions, part of a slate of efforts to convince the EU they belong in the bloc.

"The power of women in the politics is a soft power," Atifete Jahjaga, the female president of Kosovo told the AP. "It is a positive change that our country and other countries in the region ... are making by giving a chance to women."

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