Women in the rule of law

Leading the Way in Personal Data Protection and Access to Public Documents – Introducing the Information and Privacy Agency’s Commissioner, Krenare Sogojeva-Dërmaku

08 March 2023

On International Women’s Day, we give the spotlight to Krenare Sogojeva-Dërmaku, Commissioner of the Information and Privacy Agency. Her position, as a leading woman in the rule of law sector in Kosovo, is an example of the results that come from hard work, passion, commitment, and love for a chosen career. And not only: according to the Commissioner, her professional achievement is a testament that women can achieve everything they set their mind to.

Krenare welcomes us to her office and we immediately kick off the conversation about her role as the Commissioner of the Information and Privacy Agency, which is first and foremost a very independent position giving the Commissioner the freedom to fulfill all obligations and legal requirements that come with the job: “This type of independence allows me, as a Commissioner, to create solid standards and fulfill my vision for this agency,” she points out.

“Apart from having institutional independence, the very nature of the job, being responsible for personal data protection and access to public documents, can really fulfill you both personally and professionally, because you are here to protect human rights,” explains Krenare. She would confidently encourage all women who are interested in such a career to pursue this position, as, in todays’ digital era, personal data protection is crucial and its importance along with the need to bring attention to it are rapidly increasing.

The digital transition and the exposure to the digital world, such as social media, have affected everyone. According to the Commissioner, in principle all members of society are at risk, namely their privacy and personal data are exposed and can be easily misused: “social media enable people to expose themselves to different types of risks. If we talk about women, and in particular about young girls, it is a double risk. Social media platforms offer indeed opportunities for young people to post about themselves, thus being in potential danger for misuse of personal data, since this data is often shared, and can be even used as a form of blackmailing. We have had similar cases reported to the Kosovo Police, where the breach of personal data had elements of a criminal act,” confirms the Commissioner.

For this reason, it is also very important for the public to be informed about their rights when it comes to personal data protection and access to public documents.

Looking back to where the Agency was a year and a half ago, Krenare proudly points out that significant progress has been made: “Concrete work has been done. There is much more awareness and acceptance in the society around this issue, both in public and private institutions; however, we still have a lot of work to do as a country, especially in the field of personal data protection.”

Talking about the daily, consistent hard work required to materialize her long-term vision, the Commissioner, points out that the civil society and the media are very strong partners of the Agency. “It is through close cooperation and communication with the media that we see where the gaps are. I must say that this is not due to lack of transparency from the institutions, but it is simply a matter of awareness.  The role and importance of free media in a democratic society is undeniable. But it is also important for the media to do their part when it comes to personal data protection. In this case the media is and can be a catalyst to raise awareness, setting an example among the public on how personal data should be protected,” emphasizes Krenare.

When reflecting on her professional road to become who she is today as a woman and as a professional, Krenare says: “I would really love to be succeeded by a woman. Having the responsibility, authority and opportunity to advocate for and protect basic and constitutional rights such as personal data protection and access to public documents, is an empowerment for a woman who is doing a good job. I believe that women have the strength and integrity to continue going on even when everything else around falls apart. Being able to protect peoples’ rights is the ultimate personal and professional satisfaction.”

The secret to her success is to be persistent, and to not give up until her dreams are fulfilled. “I simply don’t stop, I don’t get discouraged along the way. And what I would strongly encourage a young woman or a man to do is to volunteer. I volunteered a lot as a young woman and I can guarantee you that it shapes you incredibly as an individual. It makes you a better person,” says Krenare.

Along the conversation, she makes it clear that in order to achieve such success it is important to gradually develop both academically and professionally.  Krenare studied law at the University of Pristina and her career in the rule of law sector took off after she completed her master’s degree in European Law at the University of Parma. For more than a decade she led the Legal Department in the Ministry of Defense, then she moved to the Office of the Prime Minister, before taking her current position.

As a mother of two, Krenare says that she’s managing to keep a healthy work-life balance simply by being a hundred percent present whether she is at work or at home. Her main motivation and fulfillment are her children: “My family, my kids are the foundation of my life and that is how I accumulate all my positive energy.”

Finding work-life balance has been a worldwide topic of discussion for years now, especially for women who juggle work and family. Krenare believes that women leaders should create a healthy working environment where both women and men are and feel empowered: “There shouldn’t be the need to choose between work and family. A balance is achievable and I continuously promote that in my organization.”

On this note, we end the conversation with Krenare recalling her favorite image from her work as Commissioner: “It was a quiet working afternoon and through the noise of fingers typing on computer keyboards I heard the footsteps of a little girl running down our hallway to hug her parent. And that is the most beautiful sound and image that always sticks with me.”