Conference on Gender Equality held at the University of Banja Luka within the UNIGEM Project

Gender Equality in Universities: Theoretical Perspectives, Institutional Action and Social Engagement was the title of the conference held on Thursday and Friday, 26 and 27 May 2022, in Banja Luka. The conference was organized by the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Banja Luka (UNBL). An array of representatives of universities, scientific institutes and non-governmental organizations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia participated in the work of this scientific gathering.

Prof. Dr Dalibor Kesić, Vice Rector for Human and Material Resources of the University of Banja Luka and UNIGEM Project Coordinator for UNBL, Prof. Dr Srđan Dušanić, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Banja Luka and Prof. Dr Tatjana Mihajlović, a member of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, opened this conference. The introductory part of the conference put special emphases on gender inequalities as the most important social problems to which more attention should be paid in the academic space. In regard to these issues, a special role befalls on faculties, given their respective field of work, and researches, but as well on the university as a whole, since it is not only a scientific approach to these issues that matters, but also the development of organizational culture in the academic space.

During the two-day conference, six thematic sessions and one panel discussion were held, presenting both theoretical and empirical research as well as institutional strategies and examples of activist work in the fight for a better position of women in society. The session on feminist and gender theories discussed Otherness in Philosophy, feminist epistemology, and hermeneutic injustice. Why women still remain on the margins of historical research, to what extent they are invisible in public space and how this can be changed was the topic of conversation during the session on forgotten heritage. Gender-based violence, as a problem that is significantly expressed in modern societies, was a topic within which special emphasis was placed on local research and concrete ways of helping women who are victims of violence.

How gender policies are implemented in universities and what are the institutional mechanisms applied were questions answered in the course of this session. It also included topics: gender equality plan, role and importance of gender studies and special resource centers, legal framework for action against sexual and gender-based harassment. A special session was dedicated to issues of gender dimension in research, emphasizing the importance of analyzing and revealing gender stereotypes and prejudices that are still recognizable and visible at all levels of education. One of the topics was emphasizing the importance of the gender aspect in demographic research and interpretation of statistical data.

The main thread connecting the given presentations was to emphasize the need for more significant activities of higher education institutions in promoting gender equality and the importance of civil society action in this area, and their synergistic action. In addition to promoting science in the community and cooperation between universities and civil society, this event also aimed at educating academic, administrative staff and students. The co-organizer of the conference was the Transcultural Psychosocial Educational (TPO) Foundation from Sarajevo, and the conference was held within the University and Gender Mainstreaming (UNIGEM) Project. The conference was also supported by the Gender Equality Advisory Board of the University of Banja Luka.