Marija Markovic is a strong, outspoken and deeply empathetic advocate who embraces these roles as rigorously as those of wife and mother. In this episode of Fatima’s Hand, she brings 20 years of wisdom in democracy and governance in the context of democratic transitions to the conversation. Starting from the Balkans, Marija talks about her leadership in the student movement that played a critical role in mobilizing voters in the historical 2000 election in which Slobodan Milosevic was defeated at the polls – through massive street demonstrations against his bid to prolong a 13-year dictatorship.
Hear about how Marija took this experience and applied it to work across Africa and the Middle East. Her formative years spent as an activist in the Balkans made her more sensitive to conflict and the way political systems influence people on a cellular level. Through the Balkan Center for the Middle East she worked with civil society actors from the region on institutional transformation post Arab spring. As director of the offices of Freedom House and the International Republican Institute in Kenya, she has strong opinions about the difficulty of measuring improvements in democracy one quarterly report at a time.
In this episode Marija also shares her perspectives on feminism – rooted in justice. After being raised in a gender neutral household, it wasn’t until later in life that she was exposed to discrimination. She talks openly about her approach to bringing up a son who can see by example what gender equality means in the household, and the decisions she has made to prioritize family. Her hope for the future is that girls will learn not to be nice, be open to transforming themselves and pay it forward to other women. Her political wish for women in the US is that maternity rights develop more so that American women can pursue their purpose in life while having the support systems that enable them to focus on their families at the same time.