IFES Board Director Irena Hadžiabdić Discusses Her Career
On March 3, 2015, staff from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) met with one of IFES’ newest Board Directors, Irena Hadžiabdić, for a brief introduction to her career and to gain insights into how to build a career in election management and administration. IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney introduced Hadžiabdić, a former IFES employee who previously served as the first female Chair of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Central Election Commission (CEC) and currently is the only female member of the Commission. “Irena Hadžiabdić is a pioneer and a woman leader in global election administration,” Sweeney added.
Hadžiabdić detailed how she began her career in election administration with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) helping to facilitate the first elections in BiH following the end of the Bosnian War (1992-1995). After her work with OSCE, Hadžiabdić joined IFES Bosnia as Executive Director in 2001. By 2007, Hadžiabdić was appointed to the CEC by the BiH Parliamentary Assembly and was Chair of the Commission from January 2010 to September 2011. She represents the BiH CEC at the Executive Board of the Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO) and currently chairs the Oversight and Audit Committee of the Association of World Election Bodies (AWEB). During her impressive career in election administration, Hadžiabdić has observed and assessed elections in 14 countries with OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. In 2013, she received an International Electoral Award for outstanding achievements in election management.
During her remarks, Hadžiabdić told IFES staff that she felt she was “born to do elections.” Hadžiabdić also discussed how important her time at IFES was for the development of her career. “I owe all of my success to IFES, which is one big family that has always supported me,” Hadžiabdić said. With International Women’s Day around the corner on March 8, Hadžiabdić also discussed some of the challenges she has faced as the only female Commissioner out of seven Commissioners on the CEC and how to promote gender parity in election administration. “There is a lot that can be done to advance gender equality. You should speak with NGOs, participate in seminars and try to build relationships with young women.” At the end of her remarks, Hadžiabdić offered herself as a resource to IFES staff and encouraged them to reach out to her. In conclusion, Sweeney thanked Hadžiabdić for her time and commitment to protecting and promoting the right to vote as a fundamental human right.