Barbra Bearden (Kosovo)

Barbra Bearden (Kosova Women’s Network – KWN): Barbra Bearden graduated in 2004 with a BA in Communications from Centenary College of Louisiana. She then worked in non-profit development and external communications; corporate public relations and marketing; and website design. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Louisiana Chapter), Sigma Tau Delta honors society, and the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority. At the time of her fellowship, Barbra was pursuing her Masters in International Communications at American University in Washington, DC.


12 Jul

Today, Igo and Cuca allowed me to come with them for a field visit in Prizren. We went to implement the first phase of the Code of Conduct for member organizations. Prizren is a small city with 18 member organizations in the surrounding area – about 15 of them came to the meeting. The issues they work on are diverse and wide ranging from providing a home for the physically and mentally challenged to assisting domestic violence survivors.

In Prizren, the member organizations are organized and modern; this is not necessarily true for all of our members in the villages. This poses some complications for the Code of Conduct which dictates a modern and seemly complex way of running an organization. The code represents international standards; but, for many of these organizations, sometimes operated by family members out of houses, common practices like producing an annual report and actively engaging their board can seem unnecessary (if not just a pain).

In the planning for these meetings (there are many which I will not be at) Igo and Cuca stressed that implementing the code must be handled delicately. They understood that no member organization would have the code fulfilled in one month, even a year. This is a process. The first meetings are simply to explain the code, gather some programming information and get the members to commit to implementation, by signing. For them, it is vital to reassure organizations that this
will help them in the long run and that they would not be expected to work any miracles.

The meeting began with Igo recounting the bravery and strength of activists. She talked about the movement that began in the camps and has gained phenomenal momentum on the backs of the women sitting around our conference table. “We could not cry then, for our losses…I cry sometimes now, because in 7 years since the war we have all been working so hard and did not have time to cry.” She went on to explain that civil society in Kosova is at a critical point. Now, they not
only have time to cry and reflect on the hard times of their life but to look forward with their organizations and create a system of civil society that is theirs; through capacity building. She talked about the Code of Conduct as a tool for this change to both protect and help the member organizations grow.

Members had questions and they were nervous about committing to anything which might in the future affect how they interact with KWN. They wanted to hold onto their organizational autonomy, but they wanted the help and instruction – after all that’s the whole point in being part of a network. Together, Igo and Cuca went around answering questions and explaining the benefits of a code. They helped the women fill out a questionnaire about the work they do and we ended the
meeting in a typical Kosovar fashion – with coffee.

Everyone was excited, even the representative from Kwinna till Kwinna who had tagged along. With the skilled work of Cuca and Igo the members saw this as an opportunity to take their organizations to another level and continue their missions in a way they never thought possible before. With status talks quickly drawing to a conclusion a period of change is coming to Kosova – KWN is helping their members prepare their work for this change.

This action also represents a big step for KWN. With the new public relations push I am working on with Alba – concrete information about the members is vital. She and I are: creating a comprehensive contact list for the lobbying efforts of all members, reorganizing the website to highlight members more effectively, and producing external materials for the international community. The information gathered in these member visits will help us to effectively market both KWN and
all of the members.

Posted By Barbra Bearden (Kosovo)

Posted Jul 12th, 2006


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