How to lead a media empire in Kosovo

By Evliana Berani, Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo |

Photo: Aferdita Saraçini Kelmendi, a successful Kosovan business woman

Aferdita Saraçini Kelmendi leads one of the biggest businesses in Kosovo: a well-known national radio and television, RTV 21. Building and running one of the biggest television stations in Kosovo, in an extremely competitive media environment, is obviously quite a difficult and challenging task. Changing the mindset and breaking gender stereotypes over decades is even more difficult.

She has already lived many a role in her business life: in the 1970s she worked as a teacher, during the 80s, she worked as a journalist for various media outlets in the Kosovo, the Balkans and the world. In the 90s, she established the Media Project Training Center for Young Women, and the first radio internet “Radio 21” that later developed into TV 21. She is a mother of two children and chairwoman of several Kosovan and international bodies. Kelmendi shares some insights with us in the interview below.

What do you consider as the biggest personal achievement and how difficult was the journey to get where you are today?

I find it hard to praise myself and talk about achievements. Achievements and success stories, especially in our profession, are appreciated by others. In my case they are appreciated by the public itself. So far, I’m happy with the evaluation and appreciation received by the public opinion. Concerning my work, I think I tried my best to carry it out professionally at all times, but above all to do it in an honest manner.

But in this job, you cannot master things alone! There were my co-workers… They are all professional and honest people. That’s why they stayed close to me. This job requires sacrifice. It fully engages you and becomes a way of life. And when it becomes life itself, you just live it and there will be success.

In doing the job, there were also difficult moments, but it was very important, and it still is to maintain one’s self-balance. It is important never to lose faith.

RTV21 lives and exists by following professional and ethical principles. Even TV21 in Macedonia has these principles embedded. This message is transmitted across all Media 21 channels, which are 7 in total.

Photo: Celebrating a milestone. Aferdita Saraçini Kelmendi at the 20th anniversary of “TV 21” with her staff

Women are the main driving force for change in Kosovo. You are one of them. What does it mean to be part of that extraordinary development force in Kosovo?

I agree that the women in Kosovo are a driving force, a force for positive change. They carried on their shoulders the burden of significant problems, starting with smaller ones related to gender stereotypes and their role within families up to the bigger problems related to the safety and wellbeing of Kosovo’s overall society. From my perspective, they are the driving force of many positive processes in Kosovo. They make changes every single day. At a first glance, these changes may not be very noticeable, but women’s goals are not overnight results, their goal is to change something in the long-term and with far greater impact.

Kosovo has overcome many challenges. And Kosovo’s women, in particular, have gone through twofold challenges, both as a pillar of the family and as an extremely active promoter of social change. In this context I do not differ much from all those entrepreneurial women who strived for decades to become what they are nowadays, a catalyst of change. We differ from each other only by profession.

Does this mean that you were also a role model for other women?

Maybe, in the public domain, I am exposed more frequently due to my profession. I think the fact of who I am and the fact of what I did was an advantage for other women as well. We must recognize that in the last two decades there is different context, which is much more favorable for all those women who want to be innovative and entrepreneurs. There are much better education opportunities and yes, they already have role models who managed to succeed in different business areas.

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