IUS Alumna Lana Prlić: Gender Equality is more than Quotas, Education is Key to Success

Lana Prlić, the alumna of the International University of Sarajevo (IUS), is the youngest high-ranking politician in BiH. At the age of 25, she is the member of the Federation of BiH House of Representatives. So, we decided together with SAGE team to have a chat with her and ask her about her experience of studying at our university. We wanted to also ask her what it is like to be the youngest woman in the parliament. We were, of course, interested to hear about the ways in which IUS prepared her for the “tests” of her new office.

IUS: Lana, let's remember briefly your very first coming to the IUS. What was it like, and why you chose IUS?

Lana: I will always remember the day when I came to IUS to apply for scholarship testing, when all of us were asked to sign on the list. I remember being so excited that I hastened my mom to go as early as possible so that I would not be late. When I arrived, I was the only and the first signed on the list. I knew it would mean something later, which turned out to be true. I was sincerely attracted to the name of the university, the diversity.

IUS: You graduated in International Relations. How much did that prepare you for political career? Is there any IUS professor whose lectures are engraved to your memory?

Lana: International relations is a field that is developing at an incredible pace. Always and again you have to learn new things in order to understand the old materials.

It was an extraordinary honor for me to meet Dr. Mirsad Karić, a top professor, for which I learned how to enter politics professionally and to deal with it, what I'm doing right now. I was very proud of him when he introduced the Political System in BiH cases and the Genocide Studies. Beside him there was also Professor Tuba Boz, who taught me that the book is only a guide through knowledge, and that the proper tools for adopting this knowledge are our critical thinking and freedom of expression. This is what the university should prepare for us, so that we can more easily deal with the challenges that life brings. There was also Professor Maja Sahadzic, with whom I am still in contact today, who opened the taboo topic to develop our thinking, to confront each other, to respect ideas, to support them with examples... Her lectures represented a completely different dimension of teaching, which was interesting to all of us, but also challenging.

The IUS is different because students have the chance for a friendly relationship with professors, which give you an unparalleled experience, and everyone should use that.

IUS: How important is it to be in the international environment?

Lana: That is the reason why I wanted to study at the IUS, the international environment, and also the fact that the first language is English and that all the classes are in English. All of IUS students certainly had a greater advantage in life and work because of their good English skills, and skills such as team work, and working with other cultures and nations. In the era of globalization where work and profession are not limited by boundaries, I can say that I have got a good starting point. At the IUS, through student exchange, projects, seminars, and education young people from all over the world have the opportunity to get to know BiH, our society, the wealth that we have of culture, nature, etc.

IUS: You are aware that you are among youngest high-ranking female politicians in BiH. Does that help/prevent you to work with other people?

Lana: In every business there are prejudices, and they have their good and bad sides. At 21 I became vice-president of the party, and at 25 I was directly elected to the House of Representatives of the Parliament of FBiH, and I heard different comments. At the beginning of my career at the top of the party, it affected me a lot, nowadays not so much, especially when such comments come from people who do not know me. To be the youngest, and on top of that a woman in this business, and I believe in other types of businesses too, is subject to all kinds of comments and prejudice. To tell you the truth it was not simple, but it was well worth it.

One day I want to look behind, and be sure that and did my best to fight for a more just and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina. I tried to always be one of the people, to be with them, and today I represent the citizens in the Parliament.

I provoked curiosity with public, so they wanted to get to know me even better. Now that I look back the past 4 years, the fact that I am young did not hinder me, quite the opposite. And, when you work, that work is recognized no matter how old you are. The prejudice made me work harder and better, to get recognition through work, and also build a better relationship with people.

IUS: Do you feel that men in politics are differently motivated than women? Is there gender equality in politics? What is the power ratio?

Lana: Women are more persistent, but there is less of them in politics than men. Women have guaranteed positions on lists, a lot of seminars and educational programs, but we do not see them so much in the legislature. That means that voters do not pinpoint them. In my work over the past four years, I have been working mostly with my male colleagues, who are truly incredible support to me to this day. They were those who helped me get confidence for, for example, public appearances, writing and giving speeches. For, women rarely speak in public, and I understand them. Here is an example from the election campaigns. I have already been through the fifth election campaign and I saw that women will never impose themselves to speak at a gathering, and men will (which is a good thing). Not every man is a good speaker, but he has greater confidence than a woman who will give up the stage to a man. Everything is really a matter of team work, trust, practice and dedication.

IUS: Can education help us understand the importance of gender equality for the society?

Lana: Education about anything is great, because it teaches us how to understand it. Gender equality is much more than just quota and representation. Gender equality means equal rights without discrimination on the basis of gender, it is a way to know your rights and use them.

IUS: What would you say to all future IUS studies?

Lana: To really take advantage of the opportunity at the IUS, to socialize, to study, make contacts, and to study primarily what they like and what interests them. Because when you go to college every day for something you like then college not a load. Take advantage of the time when you study, to study more than what is in the books, to add more to what is already in the timetable, to read, ask questions, share opinions, travel, discuss. If you have a fear of presenting before full amphitheater, you have 4 years to get over that fear, because you will need that. I personally have very good memories of IUS, and it gave me excellent foundations for things that I am doing today.

We thank IUS Career Center for cooperation for this interview.