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Meet Diana Topcic Rosenberg from Croatia

From public policy to politics in Croatia: an impossible mission?
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What do you do if you decide to come back home after decades of circumventing the globe, designing and delivering public policies, only to find a society that is much more conservative and less inclined to follow meritocratic principles than the one that you left in the 1990s? If you are a public policy expert and a relentless civic activist alike Diana Topcic-Rosenberg, you join a newly formed liberal party and start a quest to normalise Croatian politics from scratch.

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This is, in brief, the story of Topcic-Rosenberg’s entrance into politics that started three years ago, when she joined the Civic Liberal Alliance of Croatia, known better by its abbreviation, GLAS. She came back to her Adriatic homeland after earning a Public Administration Master’s degree from Harvard University and a twenty-year career in the field of international development, with organizations such as the International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps. But she was not satisfied with what she encountered.

“I think that, over a period of time, women were pushed to the margins of public and political life and there has been an attempt to redefine our role solely as mothers, as family caretakers,” she says. In a way, this aspiring politician sees her role in politics to be one of the antidotes to these developments. “This is where we, as liberal, and particularly as female, politicians, should be going – creating space for women to be perceived not as someone who only has a role at home, but as one who plays important roles in all areas of life.” 

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“Actually, this is one of the reasons that propelled me into politics – I didn't want to allow the silencing of women who think differently,” she concludes.  

Topcic-Rosenberg’s own primary cause since she came back to Croatia has been child’s rights, in particular – adoption. She found ADOPTA, the Organization for the Support to Adoption, that grew into a think-tank about adoption with a strong professional and advocacy influence, even outside the country. She created the organization after over 20 years of experience of project management in the humanitarian and public policy sector that brought her to disaster-stricken countries, from the former Yugoslavia to Central America and Africa.

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“Working in some of these countries had taught me humility, I realized how privileged my upbringing and life had been. It really filled me with awe of the people I met, people who have done amazing things despite the horrors that they have lived through,” she says.

In contrast to these humbling experiences, her life back in Croatia made Topcic-Rosenberg indignant about the prevailing attitudes of her compatriots regarding her country’s place in the world. “When I came back to Croatia, there were a few things I was struck by. One of them was how insulated we are as a country, and how preoccupied we are with the past, and just focused on neighbouring countries and ourselves.”

For her, the most potent way to fight stereotypes and discrimination that women face is to get more female faces in positions of authority.

 

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