Marija Stankovic, #femdefender from Serbia. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Charlotte Marie.
Marija Stankovic, #femdefender from Serbia. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Charlotte Marie.

"It's always men who threaten me"

Marija Stankovic struggles for the women in Serbia to receive the same rights as the men. Contrary to society’s expectations of how she, as a young woman, should behave, she chooses to fight against injustice. 

“The women in my family are well-educated, but they still don’t have the same status as the men. Men are the ones that matter. My mum was almost invisible when she was young because she had a brother.

I grew up with the feeling that this was totally wrong, but I didn’t know what women’s rights were. It wasn’t until my early teens that I learnt about women’s rights. That’s when I understood what was wrong and could articulate the problem. That’s why I became an activist.

I’ve always been careful about the people I mix with. My closest circle of friends don’t judge me. My dad knows about what I do, and even if he doesn’t explicitly support me he doesn’t stop me either. Not even when I helped to organise the Pride parade in Belgrade did he say anything. My grandmother on my mother’s side doesn’t know what I get up to, but she’s given me a piece of advice: don’t have children until you’re ready.

When do you feel brave?People often tell me that I’m a bit mad. I have a knee-jerk reaction to injustice. People think I’m brave but me, I see it as a necessity. I have this need to right wrongs.

On the other hand, I get a lot of threats from other people. I was recently threatened by an unknown man on social media because I was on the Pride march. He’d somehow identified me from some photo that someone had posted. I find that quite strange since the photo was very blurred, yet he still managed to find me. It’s always men who threaten me, never women.

There’s still this idea in Serbia that society is entitled to decide how women are to behave, that it’s somehow everyone’s problem. Lots of young women remain at home with their parents, sometimes until into their 30s. They’re controlled by their parents and get no chance to be independent. It feels as if things are expected of me. Especially having children. I’ll continue to be involved in the feminist movement. The idea of an interstate women’s network between Serbia and Kosovo was raised at the Young Women’s Peace Academy. We’ll start to make more detailed plans soon.”

 Told by Marija Stankovic.
Written down by Charlotte Marie

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Updated in: 2015-11-20