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When civil society organizations consider the so-called normalization in relations between Belgrade and Pristina, or Serbia and Kosovo, establishing more contacts between different professional groups is always among the priorities. Thus, within the project “Changing Minds: Trust through Innovation” implemented by the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence and Foundation Transconflict Serbia from Belgrade, the Democracy for Development from Priština and Aktiv from Kosovska Mitrovica, after the architects, urban planners and programmers, it was time for women entrepreneurs to meet. For them a three-day visit and participation in the Regional Fair of Western Serbia (SPREG 2018) in Valjevo was organized.

Together with businesswomen from Valjevo, Šabac and Čačak region, guests from Priština and Kosovska Mitrovica had the opportunity to present their products and services to visitors of the fair. Mostly, the participants were owners or directors of micro or small companies – catering facilities, jewelry, fashion studios, beauty salons, and medium-sized companies in the field of food industry and hotel industry. The RTS and television “Vujić” from Valjevo also showed interest in the visit of businesswomen from Priština, Mitrovica, Zvečan and Leposavić.

A professor of French language and literature in one high school and one elementary school in the vicinity of Kosovska Mitrovica, Vesna Tanić, is very successful in fashion. “Upon returning from France, I wanted to start my own business apart from working at school. As I graduated from a master’s degree in Paris, I decided to open a fashion store. Today, Artis employs two workers, and soon I will start with a training project for fashion tailors for unemployed women and girls who finished textile schools since I do not have the necessary experience to get a job in this profession. I used this visit to Šabac and Valjevo to connect with women who are running the same or similar companies, such as the fashion studio Enettah from Valjevo.”

I used this visit to Šabac and Valjevo to connect with women who are running the same or similar companies

Adelina Mehmeti, the owner of the luxury hotel Nartel in the immediate vicinity of the bus station in Priština, already knows a number of women from Valjevo. “For several years I have been part of a project that resulted in the establishment of the Women’s Forum of Serbia and Kosovo, but so far I have not participated in any fairs in Serbia. For business cooperation, Serbian companies that are involved in the production of textiles are the most interesting ones.”

For business cooperation, Serbian companies that are involved in the production of textiles are the most interesting ones

In addition to exhibiting its products, services and promotional materials at the fair, a group of 16 women entrepreneurs from Kosovo (12 from Kosovska Mitrovica and 4 from Priština) had the opportunity to meet on Thursday, March 29, the representatives of the City Administration of Šabac, the Head of the Department for local economic development Violeta Šestić and the Head of the department for social activities Bojana Mladenović.

According to Violeta Šestić, Šabac has already cooperated with communities in Kosovo, through the “RELOAD” project – the Regional Program for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans, also financed by the European Union, and implemented by UNDP. She believes that similar projects contribute to the reduction of political and social tensions through connecting and networking people and businesses.”

Similar projects contribute to the reduction of political and social tensions through connecting and networking people and businesses

On the last day, the guests visited the sales facility of the company Nenateks from Šabac, owned by Nataša Tomić, a company that has been operating successfully for twenty-eight years, and is present at the EU market: “The company Nenateks was founded in 1990 and is engaged in the production and sale of home textiles. Our production and sales facility are located in Šabac. Our main clients are hotels and we are especially exporting bedding for baby cots on the market of the European Union. Special attention is paid to the high quality materials that are used. I can freely say that we retain existing customers, but also get new ones and in that way production capacity and product range have expanded. I am delighted to be part of this project, because this is a great way to get to know each other.”

It is very important when you go to the new market that you have some personal contact there and after this weekend I believe that I have found friends in Priština and Kosovska Mitrovica that I can help and recommend my products.

Ljubica Marković, Coordinator of the Women’s Forum of Serbia and Kosovo and President of the Association of Women Eva from Valjevo emphasizes, “the partner support of the organizations that implement this project has enabled us to achieve visible results, good and successful working energy. Friendship, which has lasted for five years for some of the participants, has managed to demonstrate on concrete examples the importance of dialogue, even in seemingly impossible conditions. It also demonstrates that the paths have already been “pulled up” for the new businesswomen who are joining us. The result of our work in the past five years is visible, the contacts have survived, and these days we met as true friends and trusted associates, with maximum confidence and without any doubt in the good intentions of the other side. Also, the practice of visiting entrepreneurial firms has confirmed that specific contacts are made directly and without interference. Our joint appearance at the SPREG Trade Fair was very noticeable and showed that women entrepreneurship survives with all the problems and that the paths of business connections and communication are open. We still need to think and work together to provide support for the initiative that was presented on this occasion in Valjevo by our guests from Montenegro (Vera Leković) and Slovenia (Jadranka Stričević). This initiative has the aim of connecting businesswomen from former Yugoslavia, which would ensure that the strength of women’s entrepreneurship enhances the measures of economic policies of all countries and that women with their energy contribute to the positive trends of development and stable and happy life in this region.”

Regional economic integration is an extremely important factor of Serbia’s stability and economic development. This is the first of the four fairs that we will organize as part of the “Changing Minds” project. Despite the fact that other foreseen trade fairs will not exclusively engage in women’s entrepreneurship, we are aware of the importance that economic empowerment of women has for the progress of the entire region. Therefore, we will try to equally represent women at other fairs as much as possible.

Vladimir Ninković, Transkonflikt Srbija

Report was created within the project “Changing Minds: Trust through Innovation”, which is implemented by civil society organizations BFPE, Transconflict, D4D and Aktiv with the support of the EU.

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