Kosovar women graduate to a brighter future
During the Kosovo War in 1999, an estimated 20,000 women were subjected to systematic rape. Almost 20 years later, rates of sexual assault and domestic violence remain worryingly high. Every day women struggle for social and economic equality in a rigid patriarchal society where men have the final say in all family matters and women are left with very limited access to education, health, property, protection and job opportunities. Women for Women International, partnering with its local affiliate, Kosova-Women 4 Women working in Kosovo to provide 450 marginalized women with the knowledge, skills and resources to help them build better lives for themselves, their families and communities.
In theory, women in Kosovo have equal rights to employment and family assets. The country underwent a decade of international supervision following the 1998-99 civil war and in 2004 it adopted an egalitarian law packagelaying the foundation for the institutionalisation of gender equality and women’s social and economic development.
In practice, a complex system of social norms, tradition, poor economic conditions and weak institutions allows for continued exceptions to the application of existing laws. Women still have very limited access to property, hesitate to file for inheritance rights or to claim child custody, are not protected from domestic violence and do not have access to justice for crimes committed against them.
The persistence of violence within families, unequal access to education for girls, lack of economic opportunities and the continued underrepresentation of women in political decision-making at every level are all evidence that gender equality is still far from being achieved.
As a result, Kosovar women have the lowest employment rates and education levels in all Europe.
Women for Women International local affiliate Kosova-Women 4 Women works to provide 450 marginalized women with the knowledge, skills and resources to transform their lives and thrive.
Women enrol in a comprehensive yearlong empowerment programme where they come to understand their rights, value and possibilities.
During the transformative training participants learn how to:
- Earn and save money: Women learn basic business management skills and a vocational skill to make a living. They begin to save and receive support as they establish cooperatives.
- Develop health and well-being: Women learn vital information on health and wellness, including reproductive health, hygiene, nutrition and stress management.
- Influence decisions in the home and community: Women learn their fundamental rights, and those guaranteed in their country. They also learn the importance of civic participation and voting, as well as critical skills such as negotiation and conflict management.
- Connect to networks for support and advocacy: Women form close personal bonds with those in their programme class and build strong support networks. They share ideas, resources, and information, and help each other solve problems, protect one another, and build new businesses.
Capital resources such as seedlings, bees and sewing machines, will be available as incentives to the women. The training programme also include two months of individual mentoring especially around using the capital inputs and the development of associations or cooperatives, including the registration process.
“Time is our added value: we spend a year with our groups of women. We give them knowledge, means and skills, empowering them economically and personally so they can understand their value and become active citizens. But sometimes a year is not enough, so we keep working with them to find a job or increase self-employment opportunities. We can’t just abandon them. Sometimes the small steps we take after our core training make bigger steps possible in the future.”
- 450 women improve their agency, wellbeing and livelihoods. They improve their self-confidence, knowledge of rights and health, influence decision making, increase their ability to earn income and save money, and become economically self-sufficient.
- They increase their income through further support for their economic activities including associations and cooperatives.
Women for Women International first opened its doors in Kosovo in 1999, and with over 32,000 women trained through its 12-month core empowerment programme. In 2017, the country program transitioned to a local affiliate, called Kosova-Women 4 Women. Its work is concentrated in Viti, Kaqanik, Štrpce, Mitrovica, Ferizaj and Prishtina. They have built strong relationships with local employers in sectors that match vocational training paths for women, and maintain close ties with relevant stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and local governments as well as many civil society organisations.