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03 July 2014

Interview with Mirlinda Sada, Executive Director Medica Gjakova: "Governments must ensure that human rights are protected and equal opportunities for all are pursued."

In February, the experienced financial manager and women’s rights campaigner Mirlinda Sada took over as the new Director of Medica Gjakova. During her visit to the main office of medica mondiale in Cologne, Ms Sada spoke about current challenges, the recently amended law on war victims and their compensation, and where she personally draws her strength from to carry out her everyday work.

How would you describe your first few weeks as the director of Medica Gjakova?

My first impression was gratitude. I am thankful that Medica Gjakova is a well-oiled machine with competent, dedicated staff members. All the staff, as well as other stakeholders, know what they are doing and work incredibly hard – from what I have observed so far. So they just carried on while I got myself up to speed. I’m also grateful that our former executive director, Helen Balanoff, will remain on staff to smooth out the leadership transition and complete some key issues of the project. I have a steep learning curve to overcome and am pleased to know I have this safety net.

The second thing I noticed so far was the depth and quality of the work that Medica Gjakova carries out with women survivors of sexualized and gender-based violence. I’m impressed by the extent to which our programs and projects have enabled women to access psychosocial, health, legal and economic assistance. I met with some staff and also with people external to the operation during this period.

My third impression is optimism: I am optimistic that what I have to offer to Medica Gjakova will be useful to it as an organization and to the women it serves. We work in an environment where women survivors of SGBV have no value, no life, no recognition as an individual – their life was finished. I’m hopeful that my expertise and background in working in the civil society sector, particularly with women, will bring perspectives and energy that help women to overcome the huge social stigma and break the taboo themes that are present, in order to rehabilitate, to reintegrate and to return their dignity.

Please describe the current main issues of work of Medica Gjakova?

The current main issues at Medica Gjakova are:

  • to improve the mental and physical health situations of women survivors of SGBV
  • to influence social policies for supporting the welfare of women and girls
  • to economically empower women survivors of SGBV
  • to integrate women survivors of SGBV into all areas of life

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for Medica Gjakova at the moment?

There are many hurdles to be overcome and barriers to be broken down, and finance needs to be provided to help set up projects in the process of gaining justice for all. Governments must stand up for and be accountable to their citizens in ensuring that human rights are protected and equal opportunities for all are pursued as a matter of great urgency, ensuring a beneficial and respectful outcome for all.

What do you think about the current (March 2014) amendments to and implementation of existing legal rights of wartime rape victims?

Thanks to the “Amended Law on the status and the rights of the martyrs, invalids, veterans, members of Kosovo Liberation Army, civilian victims of war and their families”, the President of Kosovo has established a National Council (of which Medica Gjakova is also part) to investigate the situation of the survivors of sexual violence during the war, with the specific agenda of coordinating the institutions and government agencies to work together, to gain insight into their position, and to put in place measures to rehabilitate them and award financial benefits as compensation for their sufferings, in the form of pensions.

Now the focus should be on implementing the changes in the law and making sure that concrete steps are taken to progress the issue of compensation for the victims of sexual violence and trauma inflicted during the war. It is a big issue that needs a positive and very clear solution. We know this work will be a challenge but we believe that with the creation of the right mechanisms to implement changes of the law and the provision of finance to put this into practice, it will greatly improve the life of women survivors of SGBV and other women victims in Kosovo.

What is your personal way to avoid losing power, energy or hope?

My personal mission statement: to serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference. It’s important for me because I believe that you can’t lead others unless you have a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for. Living a balanced life for me means nourishing the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of my life, so I can maintain a sense of well-being and self-esteem.

Mirlinda Sada
Executive Director – Medica Gjakova