Diplomacy and Democracy Hope Fellows
It is my great pleasure to share my experiences I had with the Hope Fellowship program both in-country and Washington D.C.
I first developed my leadership skills during the war in Kosova. Fortunately, my family and I never had to fight in the dark and dangerous refugee camps in Macedonia. Nevertheless, we still were refugees in our own way, on someone else land, particularly in the middle of Skopje freeway. And, now I look back at my time in Washington D.C. for the Hope Fellowship program with my Kosovar kin, looking to lead in building a new life and future for Kosova.
With my strong communication skills I was able to participate and fortify my abilities, and strengthening them with the most effective diplomatic activities than only the Hope Fellowship Program and Washington D.C. as a world capital can provide.
We had the most amazing experience meeting with different think tank groups, presenting at the most reputable U.S. institutions, and interacting at our wonderful research sites helped us developing further our projects. We gained new leadership skills that we believe will strengthen our country, in the very important fields of democracy and diplomacy.
The six weeks period in Washington DC was truly unique!
My visit’s highlights were the visits to numerous Embassies of different countries represented in Washington D.C. (those that have recognised us as a state and those who haven’t). This experience taught us how to formally share our views with the most respectable diplomats/ambassadors, as well as the honor of being hosted by a U.S. Congressional representative during the Congressional Shadow Day. These were unique opportunities! I will have them with me throughout my life.
By being exposed in such an environment, surrounded by professional people, project management/leadership, and the democracy and diplomacy industry improved my understanding of the responsibilities, hard work and obstacles toward my long terms goal as a future senior media and communication manager/leader.
And as last, but not the least, I would like to share a very personal feeling that I had of joy and happiness when I had the chance for the first time to visit a country where I felt like I had a HOME. And this was the Kosova Embassy in Washington D.C.! I would like to thank his Excellency/ Ambassador, Avni Spahiu and the rest of the staff, for the very warm welcome and for really being the Kosovars home in U.S.
I’d like to sincerely thank the Hope Fellowship leaders in Prishtina, Laura, Myesere, Shqipe and Ardiana; as well as the staff of the Washington D.C. office, Avni, David, Amelda and Jarrett. I must not forget the amazing group of Hope Fellows, who displayed their determined drive for change in Kosova. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity for me to develop myself professionally, and our society as we continue on our path towards building a democratized society of Kosova.
So thank you Hope Fellowship Program!
It was my utmost pleasure to be part of the amazing group of Kosovan women, part of Diplomacy and Democracy Group!
When you are at home you are often too preoccupied with your daily challenges that you often have no time to stop and reflect. And my address to you this afternoon is a reflection of both our past 11 years, but also our hopes and determination for the future of our new country.
We must not forget that only 11 years ago most of us were refugees with no homes and no hope! But the US and its allies listened to the plight of Kosovan people and moreover encouraged the rest of the world to listen. The world acted because they strongly believed that it was their duty to act.
So, you helped us take a country whose people were dispossessed, killed, oppressed and forgotten into a symbol of hope, determination and freedom.
And here we are, still with immense challenges ahead, but we are stateless no more! We have been recognised by 75 UN member states and have gained membership into the IMF and World Bank. But, most important of all – we have PEACE!
Now we, the people of Kosovo, are determining the nature of our state – not only its borders or its sovereignty, but its institutions, its economy and its values. Kosovo is slowly moving towards a country conjuring the rule of law, stability and democratic society. Its image is changing from a war-torn place to a country with potential! And, potential comes from people. It is the people that make the place! People that drive the change!
Looking at the Hope Fellowship group I am representing today I know that we are very diverse: we come from different backgrounds, we have different views, we represent different parts of our society, but there are fundamental things that unite us! Our determination and love for our country!
- This group has the courage and will to make a difference!
- This group is determined to drive the change!
- This group believes in ACTION! Because a little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.
We are all aware that democracy is not something you only believe in but it is something you practice. You participate. And, as the saying goes: “Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand!”
And, our group is involved and understands what it takes to make the change necessary! We ARE the agents of change; we are enhancing and promoting democratic processes in the state building phase of Kosovo throughout the sectors.
Our six weeks in Washington D.C. completing the Hope Fellowship program have been unique in many respects.
We have built the fundamentals of some amazing projects and initiatives. Our projects vary from: the creation of the Diplomatic Academy; Authentication Authority, building Kosovo’s Database of our work with communities/minorities; creation of a Public Diplomacy Council for Kosovo; tools for Branding the image of Kosovo; ways to diversify our communication with Europe and the World; student participation in decision making; setting up minority and other channels in our public broadcast; approaching the dialogue with Serbia in a strategic way; to enhancing the freedom of speech (especially the freedom of press) in Kosovo.
Our projects were developed with the help of many institutions in Washington, D.C. I would like to extend our gratitude to all of our professional development sites and our mentors at: US State Department, Congress (especially the Office of Congressman Eliot Engel), Washington DC City Hall, Public Diplomacy Council, Intermedia, Meridian International, Open Society Institute, Patton Boggs, East-West Communications, the Institute of World Politics, American University, Johns Hopkins University, George Mason University, CNN, Freedom House, IFES, Voice of America, Bloomberg and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
We also had the pleasure to express our views on specific topics of importance to Kosovo and the US through Institutions that hosted us for presentations: USIP, NDI, CSIS, PDC, American University, Congressional Albanian Issues Caucus and numerous other institutions that hosted us in meetings.
An important highlight of our time here were our visits to numerous embassies of different countries represented in Washington D.C. (those that have recognised us as a state and those who haven’t). We were able to share with representatives of different embassies our views on the recent developments in Kosovo. We also learned a lot about the positions of different countries towards our statehood. We hope we have opened a new channel of communication, which we believe is of crucial importance and we look forward to continue.
We were honoured to be hosted by 11 congressman and congresswomen during our Congressional Shadow Day. This was such a unique opportunity! It was also an enlightening experience to see how the US Congress works.
There was also an institution that made us feel proud with the support they gave us: Our embassy in Washington DC headed by His Excellency Ambasador Avni Spahiu, and his wonderful colleagues Jetish Jashari, Gjeneza Budima and Adrian Prenkaj.
But, all of this would not have been possible without the support of USAID and an amazing programme put together by NAAC in Washington DC (Avni, David, Amelda, Jarrett, Jori) and NAAC office in Prishtina (Laura, Mesi, Shqipe and Ardiana). We highly value and appreciate your continuous commitment to strengthening the role of women in Kosovo. So, USAID and NAAC – we promise you – we will not let you down!
These are defining moments of our statehood! We are finally moving from hoping to doing! And as the quote goes: There is a time to let things happen, and a time to make things happen. And we will make things happen! Thank You!
The Hope Fellowship program was a great opportunity to learn and experience how Washington functions. It provided six weeks of a completely different perspective, lifestyle and engagements. We were thrown into the Washington flow and this made us witness how much hard work, responsibility and knowledge is required to be a successful institutional, educational and a member of civil society.
I was part of the democracy and diplomacy group of the Hope Fellowship, and our group consisted of eleven women from all above fields. We all had our own projects and research sites in which we developed them. My project relates to freedom of expression, and my research site was Freedom House; a prominent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. During my research I had the opportunity to see how this organization works and the impact its findings have around the world specifically in Kosova.
Besides this segment of the program, we completed many training seminars and participated in debates, meetings and presentations. A very important part of the program was developing contacts and spurring discussions during visits we made to the embassies of nations that have not yet recognized Kosova, as well as to those of whom have recognized Kosova. I also have to stress the warm welcome we received from the US institutions we had meetings with throughout our stay. The most memorable was the Congressional Shadow Day. I was impressed by the daily activities and commitment of the U.S. Representatives, and I have to admit I became jealous! Beside this one day, we also had the chance to make many other visits in the Congress.
We also had warm discussions during meetings with representatives of the State Department, USAID and the DC City Hall. The meetings and debates in prominent global organizations, such as UN, International Monetary Fund and World Bank were very interesting as well. We had the chance to discuss and get first hand perspectives on the decisions and evaluations related to our country.
Our visit to the Embassy of Kosova, the readiness of the staff to support us in any occasion and their warm and friendly approach made us have a very special feeling – it felt like home.
But, prior to this six weeks experience we went through many trainings and preparations while in Prishtina. NAAC office here in Prishtina took care of even the tiniest details needed in order to be completely ready for all aspects of the Washington Leadership Program. The NAAC office in Washington D.C. did the same while we were there, and I truly appreciate their commitment to make this program and our experience as fruitful as possible.
We all came back with new ideas, richer experiences and wider perspectives. This experience directly reflects the developments toward making our country better.
The images that serve as a foundation to build our convictions have the power to remain firm for a long period of time, and as such are very difficult to change. Unfortunately, Kosovo, the youngest country in the world has image problems. The images established in 1990s remain in people’s memories even nowadays, and many of them continue to believe that Kosovo is a country that generates refugees, its people suffer from a corrupt regime, and it is a very insecure place to be. The impact that these images have on country’s state-building is tremendous. They feed into national positions towards Kosovo’s statehood, and obstruct its state-building process. Clearly, this impediment poses a huge challenge to Kosovars to build a new image based on the realistic standing of our country and people. The last Diplomacy and Democracy Group of the Hope Fellowship was brought together to develop ideas on how to address this very challenge.
I was one of eleven lucky women to participate in the Hope Fellowship program and develop a much thorough understanding of what public diplomacy is about and how does it work. Personally, I had assigned myself a specific goal before arriving Washington, DC. As Kosovo’s progress towards the European Union membership is halted by 5 members rejecting to recognize its statehood, I wanted to learn about Kosovo’s narrative in Slovakia and Romania, and specifically learn what fears these nations have with my country in order to address these issues, and to establish communication channels with them. While talking to my colleagues at the Open Society Institute, researching online, and talking to few people at DC based think tanks, I learned about the history of these two countries, their relations with own minorities, and developed an understanding on their position towards Kosovo more thoroughly. It was particularly interesting to learn that in Slovakia, Kosovo’s case was presented not only through fear for upraise of their Hungarian minority solely, but the NATO air-strikes in 1999 and the country’s ambition to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Political parties of opposition did not agree with the then government to provide the air-space to the alliance in 1999, and the miscommunication of the Kosovo case itself took charge. Although Slovakia joined NATO in 2004, Kosovo’s narrative had remained the same as in 1999.
Nevertheless, the Hope Fellowship has provided me with opportunity to achieve more than this goal. The innovation introduced to this group for the first time of reaching out to the embassies of countries that have not recognized Kosovo, was an indispensable experience for both the Hope Fellows and the National Albanian American Council. The 15 embassies that I visited with my Hope Fellowship was an eye opening experience. Through each visit, we presented Kosova’s current situation and future perspectives. In particular we conveyed several messages, including:
- Kosova’s independence is an irreversible process.
- The more international recognitions we have the more likely it will be for the parties in the current dialogue between Kosova and Serbia to agree to sustainable and stable solutions, and minimize the opportunities for either party to maintain a hawkish position.
- Kosova is the most isolated country in the world as its citizens can travel to only four countries visa-free.
- Communication between people should not be hijacked by the political positions of the states in disagreement. Business and civil societies should be provided opportunities to cooperate with each other.
With each visit we were impressed with the openness of the diplomatic representatives hosting us and listening to our country’s story. Representatives of every country we met with expressed high interest on economic cooperation, and exchanges between and cooperation with the civil society organizations and each of them, and promised us that our message would be passed onto their government. This marks a significant success.
Following 6-weeks program in Washington D.C., I visited Bratislava with the purpose I built on from my experience with the Hope Fellowship program. With a group of 5 well-known Kosovar civil activists, I had the opportunity to meet representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the chair of the National Council Committee on European Affairs, the chair of the National Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, leaders and representatives of the most renowned NGOs, and journalists from different media of Slovakia. The main message that each of them passed on to us and Kosovar people was that Slovakia cannot recognize Kosovo for the time being due to its own internal problems, but as a country aware of its benefits from the European membership, and as country that was once isolated by EU, it supports Kosovo’s Europeanization process. Funds from the Office of International Development are available for Kosovar non-government organizations that I am looking into pursuing, and both government and the civil society are willing to partner with civil society organizations to share their experience with us.
Both of these experiences have made it clear to me that cooperation and exchanges between states should develop at every level. In cases such as the 5 members of the European Union, civil society can take the lead on reaching out to another nation’s communities. Although a few activities have already taken place, many more need to be designed for the future. Communicating to others means that we need to talk to other nations regularly and constantly. Building on the Washington Hope Fellowship experience, it will be of crucial importance to have Kosovar women talk to those communities again in the future. Especially since we presented Kosovar women as smart, intelligent, knowledgeable, modern, outgoing, open minded and professionally successful in all sectors of Kosovo society. And personally, there is no better way to counter the old images and start building the new ones.
Being part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose functional core is exercising diplomacy, has enabled me to clearly understand how indispensable it is in Kosovo. It will promote values of a new international entity through the presence of interstate relations and the commitment to protect the interests of its citizens around the world.
Such conjunction among international subjectivity and service to citizens couldn’t be better combined than in the basic notions of the Hope Fellowship program focused on “Democracy and Diplomacy”; a program accurately designed to take into consideration the professional aspirations of emerging women leaders in Kosovo and gives them needed skills to be even more successful.
The Hope Fellowship Washington Leadership Program held in Washington, D.C. USA is strengthening the position of women and their impact on diplomacy throughout Kosovo. As I’ve witnessed personally in the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is the aforementioned part of the program that affects very positively the development of consular policy in our country.
The Hope Fellowship program was especially useful because it allowed me to experience the work completed at the Consular Bureau of the State Department and at Patton Boggs, to meet with more than twenty high officials from all fields of consular service, and to visit the Foreign Service Institute and the Office of Authentication both within the U.S. Department of State.
I now understand the development of the authentication of public documents process better thanks to my experience in Washington D.C. with the Hope Fellowship program. My experience establishing contacts with officials at the Visa Centre, Crisis Task Force, and the Foreign Service Institute have opened three new tracks for the development of the consular service in Kosovo.
It was a great joy and an opportunity for me, when I was selected to participate in this year’s NAAC Hope Fellowship Women Leadership Program, sponsored by USAID.
My trip to United States of America definitely was not on my agenda when I first saw the call for applications for the Hope Fellowship Women’s Leadership Program. At first I hesitated, but after reading it carefully I got intrigued and decided to apply. Now I know I will never regret I did so.
From the very beginning the Hope Fellowship program seemed promising; starting from a relaxing atmosphere during the interview at NAAC Office in Prishtina, to interesting in-country trainings on leadership and public diplomacy held by professionals in the field of diplomacy. In addition, the Hope Fellowship program I had the special honour of getting to know the other Hope Fellows – ten very pleasant, clever and wonderful ladies with whom I shared six weeks in USA.
The NAAC Hope Fellowship Program has opened a door for me to achieve my aspiration to advance my knowledge in the field of diplomacy and democracy. In the course of the Washington D.C. training component, we met many important diplomats and had a chance to discuss our mutual experiences and raise our concerns how to advance Kosova to a modern, developed democratic state. As for the Professional Development Site, I was very fortunate to be in the George Mason University – Virginia, where I had the opportunity to attend learning sessions of undergraduate and graduate students; as well as to be part of the student engagement office, and career service office were I learned about the variety of choices offered for students professional development through participating in workshops, group projects and internships.
Being accepted to take part in NAAC Hope Fellowship Women’s Leadership Program was a great experience for me, both professionally and personally. I believe that the implementation of my project will be much easier for me thanks to the experience I gained on creating an educational experience to promote political engagement of students, create skills relating to communication, critical thinking and teamwork.
As a major highlight of the Hope Fellowship program I will emphasize the Congress Shadow Day. I was overwhelmed with the Capitol Hill work atmosphere, the meetings, committee sessions and especially Members of Congress voting on the Congress Floor. I can say it will be a day to remember.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to National American Albanian Council’s staff and USAID for creating the opportunity for Kosovar women to learn and reflect their knowledge in order to promote effective diplomacy and democracy skills in our society.
Insuring real participation and inclusion of women in decision making should be the core skill and task of achieving the meaningful and qualitative leadership of Kosovo. What the Hope Fellowship program envisages is to address both these elements; thus creating the participation and inclusion of women as decision makers, and increasing their leadership skills through offering of the practical models from the US system. Experiencing and practicing such a comprehensive and advanced model, firstly, as a woman and secondly as a decision maker, was a valuable asset and opens new opportunities for action and involvement for me in the future.
In particular, the theme of Diplomacy and Democracy is something which our society needs to build and develop while setting the first fundamentals of state functionality and state creation. Being in the U.S. and getting to know that you can contribute with any form of involvement in creation of these international fundamentals is satisfactory in many aspects. The opportunity to meet with the main stakeholders, decision makers and think tanks in the field of Diplomacy and Democracy is a unique experience that the Hope Fellowship program has offered. Additionally, through the different engagements and initiatives which we undertook as a group of women coming from different professional backgrounds brought a diverse image presentation of our country. Our individual project assignments and professional development sites were an issue which we had to explore and get the best from what the U.S. has to offer. Personally, being in the US Congress and experiencing the daily work of one of the main mechanisms in the US system for the Congressional Shadow Day was an appreciative asset and learning experience. I believe that this experience will be from the benefit of the future of my country and in the improvement of the position of the women in all aspects of life.
I hope that the Hope Fellowship program will continue to operate involving women from different fields of expertise and, in this way enhance their role in the society and decision making.
I have the honour to share my experience of being a part of a Hope Fellowship Program, and to express my gratitude for the opportunity that we had to demonstrate capacity to lead, and by gaining U.S. best practices in my field to contribute to Kosovo’s sustainable development.
The moment I saw the announcement for the Hope Fellowship program, I was thinking what a great opportunity for Kosovo’s women to advance professionally and contribute to my country; especially for my workplace in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to the particular focus on Diplomacy and Democracy.
After being accepted into this privileged program, I found out that my impressions were right. Being a Hope Fellow was a marvelous experience which helped me advance professionally, and therefore helped me contribute greatly to further developing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We began the Hope Fellowship program in Prishtina, where we had a chance to gain and learn from professionals in the field of diplomacy and democracy, and continued to learn during the extensive Washington Leadership Program in Washington D.C.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience which made me understand and see in practice how the world of diplomacy works. Just think of another city that is better than Washington D.C. to witness and experience for six weeks all kinds of activities?! In addition to this, the opportunity to visit such prestigious state institutions as Congress, Department of State, and the Foreign Service Institute was an unforgettable experience which made me understand how a system functions and how we might gain from that practice to contribute in our country.
Back in Kosovo, I am gradually moving from a “US State of Mind” into a “Holiday State of Mind”. And I purposely prolonged the writing of this article on things/developments I was most impressed with. A real impression is a lasting impression, right?
So, here are four things I loved about my American experience that I remember fondly about my experience in the United States completing the NAAC Hope Fellowship program:
Think Tanks: A tremendous intellectual environment, talented researchers from all over the world, a flux of ideas and activities – almost any important thinker and decision-maker on this planet was giving an open lecture, a speech, or participating in a public debate. The competitiveness among think-tanks was just contributing to higher and better standards of information exchanged. Washington D.C. is truly the Earth’s political and diplomatic capital.
Libraries: Were huge and stuffed with volumes. I visited them as often as possible and caught myself getting envious of the immense opportunities that students and researchers have in the United States, like the Library of Congress.
Good governance and the rule of law: attention towards citizens, genuine respect for human rights, fast and full application of procedures, effective bureaucracy. This is something you can be told, or read in books, but it is a total different feeling when you experience it first hand.
Vastness and greatness: The United States is big, has everything in it, which makes it almost self-sufficient. Only when I got there, I understood why so many Americans have never ventured to go out and travel around.
And let me list the 3 coolest things about America (in my view):
Reusable, recycled shopping bags: I loved them! In canvas, paper, cotton, or any other eco-friendly material, of all sizes and prints, I simply adored them. We must find a way to substitute these horrible plastic bags here in Kosovo. And although I insist everywhere I go that plastic-bags are harmful to the environment, and I refuse to take them away, and I engage in conversation with the vendors about the benefits of not using plastic bags, all I get in return is a bemused smile and… my commodity (merely a chocolate) in a plastic bag!
Museums: variety of museums, all kind of museums that one can think of. The diversity of museums is an indicator of a free society, concludes Orhan Pamuk in his “Museum of innocence”.
Squirrels: sighted everywhere, their presence was joyous, and calming.
The three treasures I will have with me always:
Knowledge. There are plenty of moments I recall, such as the training on diplomacy at Public Diplomacy Council, where experienced diplomats taught us how to focus on strategic goals. I gathered knowledge and wisdom through the presentation I gave at USIP, the professional interaction with other Fellows at Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) at Johns Hopkins University, in the lessons of humility I got from my brilliant mentor Ambassador Kurt Volker, and the lectures on Balkans given by David Kanin. Furthermore, the meetings with diplomats throughout Embassy Advocacy Day Initiative, on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Shadow Day were memorable learning experiences in Washington D.C. for the Hope Fellowship program.
Network and contacts. I am grateful I was given the opportunity to have a fellowship at DC. It takes effort to nurture relationships in Washington D.C. because the people that we met were very busy, but it is definitely worth trying and working on it.
Friendship. I feel equally lucky I had the chance to spend some qualitative time with so many intelligent and skilful young ladies from Kosovo. As a group, we have a great potential to be agent of change in Kosovo!
It’s been two months now since I returned from the NAAC Hope Fellowship Women’s Leadership Program that I attended in Washington D.C. this spring. I purposely didn’t want to write my impressions immediately after I completed the program because I needed some time to reflect in order to be able to understand the values of my trip on professional and personal level.
The whole Hope Fellowship program started in a very positive manner. The women chosen were so special and so powerful that each of them is a leader in their own way. Additionally, the subject -“Democracy and Diplomacy”- brought us together is a sector much in need of improvement in our fragile new country. And last but not least, the great NAAC Hope Fellowship teams in Kosovo and in United States were so professional and hosted the project so well for us, that we truly felt welcomed and special during the whole program. All of these elements are enough to indicate how great and important this program that has been ongoing for over 10 years is, and how important it is for Kosovar women to take part in it.
For me personally it was really a great opportunity and I am so glad I experienced it. Here are some of the highlights about my Hope Fellowship experience.
I met so many interesting people in the field of diplomacy, politics and public relations, and this helped me to expand my network for future potential projects and cooperative efforts. I visited many important institutions and organizations, including a day in Congress for the Congressional Shadow Day. This activity gave me a look into a whole new dimension for more opportunities in future, and how to actively engage with my profession to contribute working to make my country better. Also, I am very proud of the presentations I gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Public Diplomacy Council in Washington, D.C. on how to reshape the International Image of Kosovo.
I spent time with the women from my group, getting to know a little bit more about them and trying to understand each of them better. This helped me more to realize how hard it is for a woman to succeed in Kosovo. I visited many interesting places in Washington DC, and although I was in United States before, you always find enough to explore, enjoy and relive what US has to offer.
I saw some of my ideas liked, coming alive within the Hope Fellowship program and being successful. One example is the Hope Fellowship Embassy Advocacy Day Initiative where we visited 15 embassies in Washington D.C. of countries that have not recognized Kosovo yet, and talked to ambassadors about our country. This was very important activity for all of us and I am glad that I was part of it.
Then six great weeks in United States were gone and we came back. I look forward to coming back home to my husband, son and family.
Now after two months, and a couple of interviews and observations behind me back in Kosovo, I can only say that the Hope Fellowship experience is a great one, and if you are chosen to live it, do live every moment to its fullest because is worth it.
Thank you NAAC team for the great work! Keep the project alive as Kosovar Women need it!
Education Hope Fellows
My participation in the Hope Fellowship Program was a wonderful and fruitful experience, both on a professional and personal level. I have had the opportunity to meet with many professionals in my field with assisted in my professional development. I have established new contacts and gathered a significant amount of materials to continue working in Kosovo. International Public Management Association for Human Resources, where I did the practical part of the program, included me as a member in 2011 for free, and has allowed me to register for their online certification program for HR professionals free of charge. They have also expressed their willingness to help me with the implementation of project in Kosovo, as well as become a member in their association in the future. The WLP trainings, presentations, and other meetings have been beneficial by how we were exposed to a wider public. I learned how to add credibility in our society, how to increase our responsibilities in activities, and our professionalism is definitely strengthened! I also created a circle of friends and new colleagues from the group of Hope Fellowships, which may be my partners in forthcoming projects. I met successful Albanians in D.C.; I visited many interesting places, monuments, memorials, museums, and saw a play at the Kennedy Center. As a result of the WLP program, I have become a more active citizen, participating in the election process and demonstrations, as well as serving as an election monitor. Thank you all and I wish success with future candidates and to the Hope Fellowship staff.
Visiting Washington D.C. was a great professional experience, and I am honored to share this experience with you. I appreciate the contribution of the Hope Fellowship staff and the contribution of all the professional research sites in Washington D.C. I collaborated with. They have created the opportunity for me to be able to follow teaching and learning activities directly in the classroom. In order to achieve my intended objectives of my project, I have learned different methods of studying from my mentor, Kathleen Sheeny, and for this I am truly grateful. I have learned a lot of things that are critically necessary to implement my project in Kosovo. This includes: improving way of achieving methodical skills, selecting methods for modern teaching and learning units, as well as selecting the tools necessary for work. Also I have learned about selecting promising strategies in order to achieve my goals, intentions, and my learning objectives. It is important to mention that this reform in education was oriented only towards improving the educational process in Kosovo in order to advance educational contents, improve the methodology of teaching, learning, and evaluation of educative work. While in Washington D.C., I visited educational districts and the Center for Professional Development of Teachers for my professional development. While at these locations, I worked with students with difficulties in learning, learned from a functioning school board and how to monitor teachers, witnessed dedication to the students with special needs, and the cooperation between schools, families, and the organization of learning. Some of the most important thing I have learned for an appropriate behavior in schools is to offer professional help to the teachers for a quality education and attractive learning environment. I have continued the cooperation with the contacts I made in Washington D.C., and I need this cooperation to go further.
While participating in the Hope Fellowship Program I was actively engaged for six weeks, meeting with prominent think tanks, NGOs, government officials, and U.S. professionals. From what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced during my stay, I have hope that we have the chance, as the newest state in the world, to become success story. As a woman from a senior professional position with different initiatives, I exchanged my experience with professionals of my respective professional field and, most importantly, I gained a great amount of practical knowledge which will impact my professional growth. The leadership training has been an added value for our competences as group. The group gave their word that we would share our experiences with our people, and contribute to the common good of our community. I want to say thank you to the National Albanian American Council for identifying development of Kosovo women leaders as a need, and putting together such wonderful groups of fellows! And also, thank you to USAID for their willingness to continue supporting women leaders through this program. Thank you very much.
Studying in Washington D.C. was a very good experience for me in the aspect of improving my professional capacity as well as visiting institutions of special importance. The institution I studied at for an extended period that was related to my professional development, was the Edison Academy (Fairfax Country Public Schools) in Virginia. At this Academy I learned about the process of student assessment, curriculum development, teaching organizational structure, the accreditation process, and the process of teacher’s performance evaluations. Also during my time completing the WLP, I visited the Centre for Adult and Community Education, the Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg Virginia, Arlington Public Schools, and Northern Virginia Community College. At all these institutions I have gained valuable experience that will help me in my future work. At the Center for Adult and Community Education, I have learned the how it was possible to organize an education institution in building trades without severance, and the importance of the relationship between teaching modules and capacity development. At the Career Center in Arlington, I now know the process of transferring credits from the training level to provide credit at the college level. It was very impressive the way of reviewing the curricula and cooperation at the state level. At the Monroe Technology Center, I observed teaching curricula in the field of welding. The best practices I saw will reflect positively in improving professional capacity in Kosovo. And at the Community College, I met the Dean and his colleagues, where we discussed the possibility of cooperating in certain professional fields that Kosovo needs. Related to professional development during the time we stayed in Washington D.C., we completed a number of trainings which will help us in establishing a successful career center, as well as successful completion of the project designed for implementation.
The Hope Fellowship Program offered me the opportunity to meet and work with different people engaged in environmental organizations in D.C., and made my dream come true by visiting the U.S. as well. I saw up close what different institutions, both governmental and nongovernmental, were doing and how they are working toward improving the environment and promoting sustainable development. For me, visiting U.S. was very inspiring, and spending time there produced from the group a feeling of “anything is possible” and “…changes, yes, can happen.” Attending all the meetings with such institutions and organizations–such as US State Department, NDI, IRI, Institute of Peace, and World Bank– was an honor and a precious chance. We never doubted it, but after spending in the U.S., being in close contact with the American system and its culture, our beliefs were assured that the U.S. is the right place to send people for a leadership program. Although we were quite away in distance from home, I felt at home in the U.S. because the people were so friendly. Today, we are back in Kosova; we have completed the program, and are eager to be actively engaged in leading new initiatives in our jobs and communities.
‘If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people’ (Chinese Proverb). I started this short report with the above quote because this group of the Hope Fellowships Program was focused on education. Education is a concept that leads us, that empowers people, and increases the belief that we can change things for better – especially for our country. My experience in Washington D.C. has been unique and irreplaceable for me. The opportunity to visit institutions such as: U.S. Department, Congress, and the World Bank are rare, and we felt highly it highly important and valuable to our growth. In addition to this, meeting all the wonderful lot of friendly people there was a great experience for me. The attitudes that American people have towards life, work and society; how they reflect their opinions and deal with the everyday challenges, had a profound impact on me. It made me to see, think and reflect differently toward everything around me. I had a great experience there. The Hope Fellowship’s professional assistance helped us in bringing our experience and knowledge back in Kosovo. If I had to describe with one word my journey in Washington D.C, the key word would be INSPIRATION. In this regard, I would like to thank United States Government and U.S. society that through the Hope Fellowships Program made possible for me to enjoy this unique experience.
Ever since I was told that I had been selected to attend Hope Fellowship Program on fall 2010, I was thrilled to think about it. The idea of spending six weeks in the US capital of Washington D.C. to develop a personal project was extremely exciting, and I started asking a myriad of questions, beginning with ‘how’? Well some of them remain in my head still with no answer, but for most of them the answer is simple: Just be consistent and have courage to think through your project idea, let it be the project that you wanted the most, and for some reason you thought it is difficult or impossible to get real, or to function as you plan… Just dare… You will see that it’s possible, that it can be done, and that it somehow works out better that you’ve been able to think. So just dare and you will see it can become a reality, with a lot of professional help and support. The NAAC office staff in both Prishtina and DC, all the people at my Professional Development Sites, and all the trainers and mentors will guide you to your exact purpose. You can really learn a lot from this marvelous program that is sincerely friendly in both a professional and collegial way.
Rule of Law Hope Fellows
The experience I gained from Hope Fellowship program is such a wonderful one that few words cannot describe it. However, I will try to elaborate how I think I will benefit in the future from this experience, and how I will utilize the leadership tools introduced to me at the Washington Leadership Program (WLP) to move my country forward.
1995 was the first time I visited the US, and it was the first time I felt “freedom “that US provides its citizens. Now, 15 years later and after my country has gained its independence and its freedom, I have discovered what I have to do for my country in order to secure it from my experiences completing the Washington Leadership Program. I’ve discovered how much I have to work, to respect the others, how to raise my voice, and how to be transparent. However, the greatest inspiration was the people of the United States.
The most stimulating thing for me, as a professional concerned with environmental protection and building standards, was how American society and its institutions are spearheading innovation to tackle this global issue. Particularly I saw the overarching programs to promote sustainable buildings with zero carbon emission, energy efficient buildings, and most recently green building standards.
I have learned key roles of institutions and the actions they take through different nongovernmental institutions we met with. All these institutions are in fact service providers to the government. There is no wall between governmental and nongovernmental institutions, and actually complement one another. This is a big difference between my country and US. Unfortunately in Kosova, the artificial wall is between government and civil society; they are not corresponding to each other and they are acting as different bodies instead of helping each other. I realized now that my country is still in a “gray” phase.
Since realizing this marked difference in US government’s green buildings policy, my inspiration and my motto is finding a way of transforming my country “From Grey to Green”. Therefore, I will continue to follow up my valuable contacts and networks from US institutions in order to ask for advice and input on how they approach similar challenges. Participation of women leaders in professional field is essential, especially for Kosovo society working to establish its new identity. I will continue with initiation of the actions, raise awareness of my government and citizens on protection of our country and of our environment, and start to think Green in all aspects of our lives.
From this experience, I learned that no matter how hard something is, you should never give up. I do see myself as one of the woman leaders in Kosovo, and I will try to achieve my goals through my work and contribute towards further development of my country.
The rule of law is a notion that leads us, gives us strength and amplifies the belief that we can change things for better – by each one of us being safe. It ensures us that no person is above the law as it guarantees that everyone is equal in front of law. The rule of law protects each one of us when we stand up against those who disagree with us. It protects us from those who fear us. It protects us from those who dislike us because we are different, because we do not share their beliefs, because we do not agree with their actions or inaction.
In other words the rule of law is fundamental to keep us and our values safe. In this context the Hope Fellowship Program was a great reminder of such values and the trust we need to place on them. It is designed as such to help us see that we are not alone in our efforts to establish meaningful and functional democratic society in Kosovo.
At its first phase, the Hope Fellowship Program focused on revealing personal experiences of prominent Kosovo intellectuals and experts, their perspectives about the bottlenecks the officials are facing on daily basis, about achievements and vulnerabilities of the system that everyone strives to nurture further on. At this phase the fellows were able to hear firsthand accounts of those trying to build milestones that generation and generations will enjoy. On the other hand, during a second phase of the Program the fellows were in US, meaning out of the ‘box’ and were able to see Kosovo within a bigger picture from a far distance, and compare the same one with US system itself. Experience was inspiring and comparisons were inevitable, while the differences were more than visible.
I find the Hope Fellowship Program as an important experience, not that much in revealing the differences in institutional or legal framework, nor in education or economic system, as I see it in revealing differences of the systems of values. Simply, in US the people and their lives are at the center of policymaking agenda, while the leadership is more than individuals motivated with desire and decisions to act. In US people of all races, age or religion are free to express themselves and their diverse opinions, while elected ones obey to respect them and help their dreams become true. Due to free flow of information, public is much more informed and consequently very demanding towards their leaders. The legislators work hard alongside civil servants in order to improve the quality of the lives of the people. The former are continuously in touch with their voter’s constituencies, while the latter work hard to ensure that institutional continuity is in place without the fear that one or another political wing will make them jobless.
Obviously the Hope Fellowship moved me reflect on overarching question: how we can ensure Kosovo’s democracy? And how every day passes on I am more convinced that all we need is to encourage people to believe in the rule of law, to believe that no person is above the law. On top of everything else people should be encouraged to express their ideas freely and to generate debate over existing system of values. Needless to say, the Hope Fellowship Program was all about the exchange of ideas, a process of learning and evolving through your own experiences and experiences of the others.
The fact that I was accepted to be part of the Hope Fellowship Program, a program funded by the American people, led me to believe that in front of me now a special opportunity has presented itself. Impressive was the fact that, once you landed in America, you see and feel that this country offers you with a high level of democracy; where each person, no matter race, gender and origin, feels, breaths and acts freely.
The experience in Washington DC has been truly special. The opportunity we had to visit the highest US Institutions, to work closely and observe the commitment and responsibility that they have in their workplace to improve their lives and the lives of others, was impressive. It makes you immediately reflect on how to act, mobilize yourself, and discern how to work responsibility and contribute on building a sustainable country. The experience gained from these visits and meetings with prominent government and civil society actors in the U.S. was extremely helpful thinking forward.
The program’s agenda we completed was rigorous, and we benefited tremendously from it. Opportunities to visit the US State Department, Congress, World Bank, PILPG, and Freedom House are rare and special because you visit the US many times, but perhaps never have the exposure to these institutions to give you sound advice and best practices in instilling democratic ideals. Particularly enjoyable was the Congressional Shadow Day, where we had the unique pleasure of shadowing a congressman, to see how a day in the life of a US Legislator and their daily activities was extraordinary. Furthermore, meeting with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a CSIS Conference was equally impressive.
While in Washington, D.C., I researched closely the legislative and judicial branches, finding continuous elements that I can recommend to the Ministry of Local Governance so as Kosova can reach a high level of responsibility and transparency in these crucial governmental structures.
My project focused on developing mechanisms and best practices in drafting legal documents, and the procedures of moving these legal proposals from concept to law. Although the way the Kosova government operates visibly varies, I managed to pick up best practices from the US organizations and institutions that instill democratic traditions. The way these elements of US Civil Society and Rule of Law should be a model for many countries, especially for a country like Kosova, that is in a state of fragile transition. The attitudes that Americans have towards their work and society, how they reflect, practice that they posses, has had a profound impact on my personality; making me to see, think and reflect differently towards the elements around me and what Kosova should do to move towards a more democratic and transparent nation state.
I feel privileged and happy to share the enormous and unique values that characterized my experience as a Hope Fellow – The rule of law Hope Fellowship.
Beyond having chosen a theme that is so fundamental for our country’s prosperity and both its internal and external consolidation, the Program in Kosovo and Washington D.C. has offered an unprecedented opportunity to discuss and study the subject in its most comprehensive and substantive aspects.
Starting from the trainings held in Prishtina with respected speakers and professionals, we visited rule of law institutions, exchanged views with Congressmen and their staff, and other distinguished members of both governmental and non-governmental institutional settings. My individual research conducted at the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in the Washington College of Law, American University, individual presentations, group discussions and trainings, among others, have contributed substantially to the richness of my individual and professional experience.
Discussing rule of law in Kosovo from both a governmental and civil society perspective in the U.S. Congress and other institutions, conducting the research on Human Rights and Rule of Law at the American University, Johns Hopkins University, USIP and ACLU, meeting in with the State Department are only some of the many activities that have enabled me to gain indispensable input and recommendations for my country. These observations and recommendations will– no matter how modest– help shape my perspective in many institutional processes in Kosova.
Ultimately, the experience gained and the knowledge absorbed will, no doubt, considerably enhance my role in contributing to the Rule of Law in society and will certainly bring about substantial knowledge and experience in performing the tasks they I have and will be assigned in the future. The Hope Fellowship assisted in translating that experience and knowledge into a successful economic and political future of our country; a future that is best guaranteed under the guidance of the rule of law.
My first impression upon hearing that I was accepted to be a participant of the Hope Fellowship Program, I saw the opportunity in front of me as an open door. Now, the Hope Fellowship courses have ended, but our mission has not. I understand that my first impression was right; I have opened a new door to enter in a new room: this is the room of responsibility for the future of our country, Kosovo. I, as other women that were in the program can also attest, was eager to learn as much as I could from this program, and to open my mind so we can build a strong vision and contribute for the society.
This idea drives my life, but I have never been as conscious of the leadership role I have as a women in my society. Hope fellowship Program was very successful to give me this energy and the necessary knowledge.
In Prishtina, during the in country trainings, we learned how to promote and install women leadership roles in our community and how to create a mobilized community that is ready to work together for a common goal. Furthermore, we discovered how to accept the diversity of thinking by all actors of society and how to find a mutual language for a common interest. It’s difficult, but not impossible. The histories of western countries teach us about those men and women leaders all around the world what steps were taken to build a better future for their children.
It took a long time, a lot of energy; sometimes it took their entire life’s work, and it’s a mission that never ends. This is the story of USA, a never ending struggle for a better life, a better state, a better society, and a better world.
Being in Washington for the Washington Leadership Program (WLP), having meetings with important institutions, organizations, and learning from their experiences was very useful for me. The access to so many important institutions in such short period created the possibility to understand how American system functions. Also it allowed me to observe US democracy in the transparent judicial system, the system of check and balances, the role of media and civil society.
One of the most important things I learned through this program is that the people achieved their rights, improved the standards of leaving, built a better nation-state through strong activism, engagement and I high level of responsibility.
And this is what Kosovo needs more, people like us that can and should contribute to a new chapter on the book of statehood, where the democracy is not rhetoric but a reality that citizens can feel every day. Hope Fellowship Program, supported by USAID, taught me that democracy is not just a word and shouldn’t be taken for granted. It is everyday engagement, defined by hard work and responsibility for the others.