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08 February 2012

Kosovo: Medica Kosova and Medica Gjakova

Estimates suggest 20,000 women were raped during the Kosovo War (1998-1999). Many are still suffering from the consequences of the violence. Since 1999, Medica Kosova has been supporting survivors with comprehensive advice and the establishment of self-help groups. In 2011, the newly founded organisation Medica Gjakova also began to work in the region with a similar programme.

Fifteen years of operations in Kosovo have shown: physical and psychological healing, social recognition, economic prospects and solidarity can lend women a fresh will to live and the strength to help themselves.

1999: Local beginnings

In order to offer direct assistance to survivors of sexualised violence, shortly after the end of the war medica mondiale opened an interdisciplinary women’s counselling centre in Gjakova, one of the largest towns in Kosovo, in the Dukajini region. There is still great need for medical aid. Initially under German management, then becoming an independent Kosovan women’s rights organisation in 2003, the staff at Medica Kosova offer med-ical and psychosocial counselling for women affected by violence. A mobile gynaecological clinic provides assistance for survivors in remote areas.

2004: Extending the assistance

In rural areas life is particularly characterised by patriarchal convictions. Property, re-marriage or a profession are forbidden to women under the traditional “Kanun” laws. In 2004, Medica Kosova began to set up self-help groups. In small agricultural groups women come together to produce honey, milk or cheese. These are then sold to provide them with a basic income. A female lawyer helps them with any legal issues and mediates between them and their families or the courts.

2011: New priorities

In 2011, former staff of Medica Kosova founded a new organisation to continue the work carried out jointly with the German supporters: Medica Gjakova. Its staff increasingly organise public awareness campaigns and proactively seek out political decision makers to address tangible demands. This is designed to increase the visibility of their work for women and girls in society and ensure the government is aware of the issues. One of their demands is for the government to recognise women raped during the war as war victims and grant them the corresponding pensions.

Shaping the future

Members of ethnic minorities, such as Roma, Sinti and Ashkali are also increasingly the focus of work at Medica Gjakova since they are particular targets of racism and prejudice leading to violence. Many live in social isolation and poverty without access to education. In local communities, Medica Gjakova offers direct psychosocial support and works – partly as a member of the “Kosova Women’s Network” – towards participation in society for women of all the country’s ethnic groups.