Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, appeared on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS show on Sunday to speak about the way Serbia is making progress in terms of empowerment of women, and challenges she has to face being an openly gay person in what is thought to be a very conservative country.
Asked to comment on the fact that women currently hold key government positions in the country, including speaker of national parliament, central bank governor, prime minister, and four other ministers in the cabinet, Brnabic said this all served as indicators that Serbia is rapidly changing.
“I think Serbia is changing, and we also have to deal with false perceptions of about Serbia that stem from the past. But Serbia is changing, and we are going in the right direction. I actually think we are going very very fast in the right direction, and I’m proud of that. In some cases, like women’s empowerment, politics is actually leading the way, compared to businesses, whereas, you know, it’s normal that businesses should lead the way,” Brnabic said.
Brnabic (43) holds and MBA from the University of Hull and worked for over a decade with foreign aid organisations and investors on projects in Serbia before being appointed prime minister in June 2017.
Although she is formally a non-party official, chosen for her expertise rather than party affiliations, she is backed by President Aleksandar Vucic whose conservative Serbian Progressive Party (SPS) leads the ruling coalition which holds 148 seats in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament.
Asked about her experience of growing up in Serbia as a gay person, Brnabic said she had lots of support from her family and friends, but added that since entering politics her sexual orientation made her life more difficult as on social media she is often target of disgusting attacks.
“It’s difficult, it makes my life difficult, it makes it more difficult to do my job, because you kind of need a special focus and strength to really disregard that, and focus on what’s very important, and that is my job, and what I will be able to do for the citizens of Serbia,” Brnabic said.
In spite of the frequent attacks and homophobic remarks online, she said transparency was essential for her work as a public official.
“I also want to be a very transparent prime minister, I want to be active on social networks, I want to be approachable to people, so I made it my policy not to block people on social media, which sometimes makes it more difficult… So it’s important for me, although sometimes I get really tired and depressed because of that,” she said.
Nevertheless, she added, any success her cabinet manages to achieve only works to motivate her to continue doing her job and setting an example as the only openly gay head of government in the Balkans.
“But on the other hand, on the positive side, I enjoy every single little success that we have as a government, as a country, I really rejoice it, and that gives me the power to continue,” Brnabic told Zakaria.
You can watch the interview here: