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Since 2019, UNFPA Kosovo has been part of Expanding Choices, a Western Balkan and Moldova region project that promotes family-friendly workplace policies in the public and private sector. The project is rooted in the belief that advancing these policies is not only improving the work-life balance and getting our local context closer to international and European standards, but it is also beneficial for economic growth and general socio-economic development. In essence, the project is about gender equality, it is about leveling the playing field, so that it is not only the women that bear the cost of family care vs. professional life, as is rooted in many traditions across the globe. 

Getting us there, however, requires not just expanding women’s choices, but promoting these values among society in general. In particular, the changing roles of husbands and fathers are crucial for success. Gender equality – including expanding choices for women in professional circles – is intrinsically related to equal parenting and equality within the family in general. For that reason, UNFPA Kosovo partnered up with expert civil society organizations Kosovo Women’s Network and Kosovo Chamber of Commerce to organize an activity that promotes equal and active fatherhood and in that way supplements the key values and goals of the Expanding Choices project. 

The activity is centered on international Father’s Day and it involves a multidimensional public event in the capitol city square that promotes the notion of fathers’ fulfillment derived from taking an active, 21st century role in parenting and balancing career and home life.  

Thus, on 19 June 2022, the UNFPA and partners Father’s Day Festival was held in Pristina. In the run-up to the Festival, UNFPA and partners used social media and other communication channels not just to attract audience – in particular active dads and their families – but also to send messages promoting parental leave, equal parenting, and active fatherhood. The Festival itself was designed to generate natural interest from the public, through its multitude of components: an arts exhibition, competition among the dads present and their declaration as ‘superdads’, kids games, painting and reading corners, music, quizzes, and other interactive activities. All of these components centered on showcasing the fulfillment of being an active father and equal parent and the effects of this on the happiness and wellbeing of children and families. 

Beyond the physical reach of the Festival, exemplified through the significant turnout and onlooker presence, its core values were promoted through extensive social media engagement and traditional media coverage. All this is making impact. In the words of Kadri Gashi, executive director and founder of the Center for Counselling, Social Services, and Research - our implementing partner and the organiser of the festival - had this to share: “The festival gives the audience an opportunity to highlight the immense positive impact fathers can have on the lives of their children and their families. This year we had dads who also participated in last year's edition, who told us that it helped them reflect about being more involved in quality time with their children. They also told us that, inspired by the festival, some of them have meanwhile requested parental leave from their employers but could not get it due to lack of legal clarity on the matter. The publicity around the festival and our related efforts is therefore appreciated by our participants as a way of increasing public awareness and ultimately achieving legislative changes that would make parental leave a reality.”

The excitement of our superdads present was noticeable too. Perhaps not fully expectedly, we had a lot of dads proud of their active role in the family and childcare, who were more than happy to compete and in all possible ways make an example of themselves for the whole society. Many of them shared with us the joy at the fact that somebody here in Kosovo has decided to formulate a defined agenda of promoting contemporary fatherhood. 

Driton Hoxha, one of the most active participants and one of the winners of our superdad competition, told us that “while I was always happy to be an active and involved dad and fully share with my wife both the duties of family life and the constraints that may bring professionally, it has not always been easy and natural to articulate these values publicly. We are somehow influence by the traditional values and therefore not always ready to speak up in favor of sharing family and childcare duties. For that reason, it was great to see that there are organizations out there that actively promote all this; this festival reconfirmed my pride and determination to continue along this path and reassured me that I am indeed a part of a raising Kosovo and global community of men who are equal family partners.”

Driton’s wife, Donjeta Morina, was also there, noting that “as a gender equality activist, this festival is particularly close to my heart.  Women in Kosovo continue to disproportionately bear the burden of housework and childcare. In fact, this unpaid carework is the main reason as to why women remain outside the formal work force. This festival does a great job at raising awareness among citizens on the importance of men’s involvement in the unpaid care work. Perhaps more importantly, it has the potential to pressure public institutions towards devising more gender equal policies that encourage the sharing of household responsibilities.”

We were in turn inspired by Driton and by all of the superdads who participated and helped us share the good message. It is quite fulfilling for international and local organizations promoting an agenda to see so clearly that it has a natural constituency among the target societies. Building upon these established partnerships in the civil, private and public sector, but also now among the general public, we feel replenished and ready to move our project to the next level. 

Father's Day Festival 2022