Program Officer, Balkans and Caucasus Programs, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
It's interesting and it is disappointing too because I think at the beginning we were very under the radar because people we weren't trying ??? because we didn't want to because at that point ???
A: We weren't making a big deal about what we were doing and as people became aware of what we were doing it became more, not necessarily dangerous, although it was initially because we were bringing people together. Serbs weren't coming into Pristina at that point so when you have two carloads full of minority women who are coming in and are freaked out to be in their enclave for the first time since the war and also people seeing them you still had people throwing rocks at them and nasty stuff happening. One bus that used to go back and forth was bombed and all these people were ???. I think that minimized over time then as people became more aware of what was going on people at a higher level that didn't really represent what people wanted, became aware of that and tried to politicize it. So you had in this one area called ??? which is where the divide lies along the river where the north is Serb and the south is prominently Albanian we were like that is going to be one women's ??? it is one region but that was the most divided region, ??? the women separately and they were like oh yeah we can see getting together, came back with women two days later as it turns out that some woman from one of the parties had been whispering in their ears we can't meet with them anymore. We were like "Why not? You were totally with it before." They were like "No we can't," and that was the end of the discussions.
It was very interesting because as much as people wanted to tout the successes of it, the only way we are going to continue to make progress is if we don't make a big deal out of it because these are people who are not empowered within their society. If somebody comes up with a gun and says, "Look you can't be meeting with Albanians anymore," this isn't good for us because we are trying to create a separate state here. They are going to listen to that. I think it is why you can view it as a way of funding women's NGOs, it was much safer then to talk about it as a conflict project because then automatically they are going to say, "Wait, what are they doing here?" Whereas when you are saying we are funding women's groups they are going to say, "Oh, women, whatever."