Supporting women in Western Balkans
Women were targets during the Balkan wars. Now, in post-war life, they’ve been pushed out of sight. In Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina, they contend every day with rigid patriarchal societies that struggle to redefine themselves as 21st century democracies and leave them with very limited access to education, health, property, protection, and job opportunities. We’ve been supporting marginalized women in Kosovo since 2013 through Women for Women International’s flagship empowerment programme, providing them with skills, knowledge, and resources to regain their footing, learn new skills and strategies and set goals for the future. This third grant will enable 350 women in Kosovo to graduate from the programme and 450 women in Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina to further strengthen their micro-businesses via the connections made in their respective associations or cooperatives.
Today, years after the Balkan wars ended, Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina are still struggling with inertia, insecurity, and instability. In such a volatile environment, a complex system of social norms, tradition, poor economic conditions and weak institutions continues to keep women underrepresented at every level, excluded from decision-making in the household and society, and with very limited access to education, property, protection and job opportunities.
Women for Women International’s signature empowerment programme (Stronger women, Stronger nations) provides marginalized women with in-depth training and mentoring that range from gender and rights, health and wellbeing to savings and business skills, capital investment in income-generating activities, networking, and advocacy. In Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina graduates receive advanced vocational and business skill training to further strengthen their ability to earn an income, as well as assets and linkages such as seedlings, bees and sewing machines as incentives to develop cooperatives, formalize associations and strengthen connections.
The women who graduated from the programme in Kosovo between 2017 and 2020 report a 47% average increase in earnings, while 48% report that they have been able to save since graduation. Moreover, the women who received advanced business training achieved a 94% increase in monthly earnings (from $76 to $148). Similar improvements in ability to earn and save are expected for the new cohorts of women.
- 450 women in Kosovo and Bosnia will take part in the programme.
- In Bosnia & Herzegovina, up to 17 graduates’ business associations or cooperatives will join the Network of Women’s Associations for Rural Development, strengthening their connections with local government, their digital literacy and their civic engagement.
Under this grant, Women for Women International proposes to better understand how its empowerment activities support women’s resilience – to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates growth – in their lives, households and businesses, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The result of this learning agenda will be a white paper with recommendations on how other organizations can promote women’s resilience to shocks.