A woman in the garden of grapes
UN Volunteer Anita Shabani during her first field visit to the Blinaja National Park, in Kosovo, as per UN SC 1244 (1999).

"Despite my disability, my gender or my background, I know that I am a strong asset to help the world"

The Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is focused on improving knowledge on digitalization, gender-related and forestry issues in Kosovo* (as per UN SC 1244). The purpose is to propose specific gender-responsive strategies towards transformative agri-food systems and women’s empowerment. Anita Shabani is a passionate UN Volunteer serving with FAO in Pristina, fully funded by the Government of Germany. We interviewed Anita on her vision of improvements.

Q. Anita, can you tell us about the programme you are serving with?

A. The programmes where I am involved are the FAO-Kosovo Programming Framework and Programme on Forestry titled "Support to strengthening sustainable and multi-purpose forest management to improve rural livelihoods and address climate change in Kosovo." Both will enhance Kosovo’s capacities for sustainable use of natural resources and contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for instance, Life on Land.

Q. How is the programme evolving in the long-term perspective?

A. The programme on forestry is working to create enabling conditions to increase the forest sector’s contribution to the national economy. Its strategy is to enable Kosovo to improve forest legality, accountable governance and increase opportunities for rural people in self-empowerment and income-generation activities. This will increase productivity and broaden participation in forestry, generating multiple benefits for vulnerable low-income rural women and men.

A woman with the stick
Anita's field visit in Blinaja-National Park. Photo credit: Ergin Hajredini, National Forestry Officer-Sustainable forest management in FAO Prishtina.

Q. What motivated you to join this initiative in the role of UN Volunteer?

A. My desire to learn and gain development experience. I heard about FAO looking for a volunteer person with a disability and immediately applied. Now, I support inclusion and gender mainstreaming, serve important initiatives, meet new people and learn every day.

Q. What is your professional background?

A. I have worked at the HANDIKOS non-governmental organization helping children and adults with disabilities suffering from domestic violence. I also worked as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Municipality of Prishtina with help of ICK-Innovation Centre Kosovo, where I coordinated volunteers providing assistive technologies and training to a group of women with disabilities.

Q. What does your day-to-day work involve now, with FAO?

A. We implement forestry agriculture environment-applied innovations and technologies, with a focus on gender-balanced and inclusive solutions. I also assist the team by coordinating with stakeholders and completing administrative tasks and English-Albanian-Serbian translations.

A woman with her colleagues
Two days retreat on finalizing draft administrative instruction on the legal use of non-wood forest products in Vermice-Prizren, Anita's selfie with Sabiha Shal, Local Legal Specialist in FAO Prishtina, and Ergin Hajredini, National Forestry Officer-Sustainable forest management.

Q. Does your work impact the local community?

A. Volunteer work is where one can make a positive impact on another’s life even in the simplest of ways. Any well-delivered acts of service can build respect and trustworthiness among partners, which is important to empower our communities.

Q. What has your most memorable task been?

A. Being part of numerous workshops where participatory discussions were held with government and stakeholders was something very challenging, and at the same time exciting, for me. At these meetings, I provided my inputs and successfully conducted the tasks assigned to me. I was also successful in negotiation and purchasing six pickup cars for the project counterpart. I handled the entire process, from receiving offers to talking to managers and choosing the cars. I really appreciate the opportunity that my supervisor gave me.

A woman with the man at the white car
UN Volunteer Anita Shabani and Naser Krasniqi, Team leader in FAO Prishtina, during the event of handover of the field equipment to Kosovo forest agency in Blinaja National Park. Photo credit: Ardiana Hamiti, Administrative assistant in FAO Prishtina.

Q. What else does your work with the community include?

Anita: We work with teachers and religious and community leaders to eliminate discrimination against girls and women. For their wider engagement in forestry, our aim is to strengthen the voice of young women and men in the conduct of public affairs. We want them to participate in local economies, societies and decision-making, notably through youth organizations.

Q. Why is the gender component so important, in your opinion?

Anita: Gender inequality intersects with other forms of exclusion. Many women and girls continue to be deprived of rights, resources and voice. Promoting the advancement of women and girls requires working with boys and men too, to foster an understanding of rights and equality in society.

Q. What is your main personal takeaway from your volunteer experience?

A. My volunteer experience with FAO shows that I can get along with others, make a commitment and deliver and that I have the attitudes and skills employers want in a potential employee. Despite my disability, my gender or my background, I know that I am a strong asset to help the world. And we are stronger together.

*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).