Afërdita Bytyqi is the first woman to become court president of the Basic Court of Pristina, the largest court in Kosovo.

Afërdita applied to become court president in an open competition with five male judges. She scored the highest in her interview. Although some people supported Afërdita, others said the job was too big for a woman to handle. “People thought that I could not successfully manage the Basic Court of Pristina [because of my gender], but I’ve proven them wrong,” she says.

Gavel resting on desk (USAID/Sebastian Lindstrom)
Nearly 60% of Kosovo judges have been trained on a code of ethics, as part of a USAID program. (USAID/Sebastian Lindstrom)

Afërdita grew up with six brothers and three sisters in Orllat, a village surrounded by mountains about 32 kilometers from Pristina. Her father and grandfather served as mediators in their community, which inspired her to pursue the legal profession.

“Since I was a child, I dreamt of becoming a judge,” she says. “I was inspired and motivated to become a person with authority and help others in solving cases, namely in delivering justice.”

Before she became court president, Afërdita was a judge in the Serious Crimes Division, handling sensitive and complicated cases, such as terrorism, corruption and organized crime.

“To become a judge, you have to have courage,” she says.

Under Afërdita’s leadership, the U.S. Agency for International Development has strengthened the court’s Public Information Office, which keeps the court’s website updated, prepares press releases and responds to requests from media and civil society. The court publishes decisions online, where anyone can access them.

USAID deployed a backlog reduction team to help improve the efficiency of the courts. In two years, judges cut their backlog of cases by 30% and are now resolving more cases than the court receives.

“Cases should be processed within a reasonable time frame because if the cases addressed to the court drag on, we have violated the rights of the citizens,” Afërdita explains.

People sitting in room and looking at Afërdita Bytyqi behind desk (USAID/Sebastian Lindstrom)
“I opened the doors of the court,” Afërdita says, “because only by being transparent can we win the trust of the public.” (USAID/Sebastian Lindstrom)

“The role of the justice system in democracy is big,” Afërdita says. “Because only when we have an efficient system can we say that we have a democratic system in Kosovo.”

After all that Afërdita has accomplished, her critics — the ones who tried to discourage her from applying to become court president — have changed their tune.

“They have changed their conviction,” she says, “and are saying that the court ‘really needed a person like you.’”

A longer version of this article is available from USAID.