During the Yugoslavian wars in the 1990s, tens of thousands of women and girls were raped, tortured and sexually exploited. Although Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are beginning to take a conscious look at their own history, gender-based violence remains a widespread problem. In Albania, poverty and prevailing patriarchal structures lead to women being oppressed. Rape happens very often. Affected women are then led to believe this is “adultery” or a “disgrace” and the fear of stigmatisation means they remain silent and therefore cannot seek help.

  • Memories of wartime terror, internment, abuse and brutal rape still shape the lives of tens of thousands of Bosnian women. During the Bosnian war (1992-1995), soldiers and paramilitaries raped approximately 20,000 to 50,000 women and girls, many of them a number of times and over many weeks and months. Most of them remain heavily traumatised since then, suffering from chronic diseases or anxiety disorders which have strong impacts on their daily life and make it impossible for them to work. Without outside support they are affected by extreme poverty.
  • There are hardly any women’s doctors in Kosovo – much less trauma-specialised gynaecologists. Women having experienced sexual violence and assaults are often left to their own devices as regards the consequences this entails for their health.
  • Kosovo’s constitution guarantees women and men the same rights. In practice, however, court rulings are still strongly influenced by the centuries-old tribal law of “Kanun”, which puts women at an extreme disadvantage – especially in rural areas.
  • Thanks to the great efforts of the opposition party and the political advocacy activities of the Kosova Women's Network (KWN), the law on war victims was amended in February 2014, so it now includes women who experienced sexualised wartime violence. However, many survivors of rape and sexualised violence still see themselves confronted with severe problems concerning access to rehabilitation services, compensation and legal assistance. Thus according to Medica Gjakova the provision of legal support for women is the most important goal of the project.

  • Women belonging to an ethnic minority bear a double burden in Kosovo. Roma, Sinti or Askhali are exposed to violence and discrimination almost all over the country. In addition, most of these women live in abject poverty and under difficult social conditions. A violent atmosphere that is particularly tough on women often reigns in their settlements.
Hundreds of women have started small agricultural production projects: they engage in beekeeping, sell hay and milk, gather sweet chestnuts for the local market. Copyright: Sybille Fezer/medica mondiale
Hundreds of women have started small agricultural production projects: they engage in beekeeping, sell hay and milk, gather sweet chestnuts for the local market.

In Bosnia and Kosovo our partner organisations support women affected by violence and discrimination, offering psychosocial, health and legal counselling as well as measures to secure the livelihood of the women. medica mondiale supports these initiatives financially and with professional skills.

Kosovo:

Shortly after the end of the Kosovo war, in 1999 medica mondiale opened an interdisciplinary women’s advice centre in rural Gjakova. The centre continues to provide comprehensive support for women raped during the war. A second organization was founded locally in 2011: Medica Gjakova. medica mondiale is supporting it to develop a new program and a sustainable organisational structure as well as funding strategies.

Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Today, the Bosnian organisation Medica Zenica wich was founded in 1993, is known throughout the country for its women's rights work. Poverty, unemployment and shattered families continue to maintain the levels of violence against women, women are still seeking support from the organisation. Medica Zenica could provide more than 400.000 support offers in the last 24 years.

Counselling Centre of Medica Zenica: psychosocial counselling, gynaecological care with psychosomatic orientation and legal assistance. Copyright: Cornelia Suhan/medica mondiale
Counselling Centre of Medica Zenica: psychosocial counselling, gynaecological care with psychosomatic orientation and legal assistance.
  • Together with the partner organisation Medica Zenica, since 2013 medica mondiale appealed for survivors of sexualised wartime violence to be awarded the status of war victims and granted an invalidity pension by a trauma-sensitive application procedure.
  • Medica Zenica offers specific support and assistance for women and girls who have experienced violence: gynaecological care, psychosocial counselling and legal assistance are the main elements of the support programme.
  • Since 2012 Medica Zenica and medica mondiale have been establishing protection networks. The goal is to prevent survivors and witnesses from retraumatisation during or after giving statements as part of the application procedure.
  • In 2014 Medica Zenica and medica mondiale conducted a study with 51 survivors of war rape and sexual violence from Bosnia and Herzegovina who had used Medica Zenica's services during and after the war. The study shows: also 20 years after the war the violence still has a strong impact.

Agricultural project and support groups in Kosova. Copyright: Sybille Fezer/medica mondiale
Agricultural project and support groups in Kosova.
  • This is bearing fruit: In autumn 2012, Kosovan clients, with support of Medica Gjakova, founded a women’s farming cooperative in order to become economically independent.
  • Medica Gjakova increasingly organises public awareness campaigns and proactively seeks out political decision makers to address tangible demands. One of their demands is for the government to recognise women raped during the war as war victims and grant them the corresponding pensions. 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.
  • Furthermore the organisation supports traumatised women: Individual and group psychosocial counselling, health education, gynaecological care and income-generating measures are further focal points of work.

Project region: Zenica-Doboj, Central Bosnia, Una Sana, Herzegovina-Neretva, Bosansko-Podrinjski (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Dukajini-Region (Kosovo), Dalmatia (Croatia), Belgrad & Wojwodina Region (Serbia)

 

Target group: female survivors of sexualised and gender-based violence perpetrated during or after the war, women and girls from ethnic minorities, widows

Project goals: To improve the physical and mental health of women and girls, to strengthen their self-help skills and reduce poverty, build community-based support structures, raise awareness in society and promote networking

Local partners: Medica Zenica (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Medica Gjakova and Hareja (Kosovo), SEKA Haus, Žena BiH, (Bosnien-Herzegovina),EWI - "ecumenical women's initiative" (Croatia), Women in Black (Serbia)

Funding: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Louis Leitz Foundation, private donations

Project expenses 2015:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: 208.453,51 Euros
  • Kosovo: 248.165,29 Euros
  • Croatia: 16.046,88 Euros
  • Serbia: 22.082,86 Euros

 1,541 women in Kosovo have availed themselves in 2015 of the gynaecological services provided by Medica Gjakova

143 women have participated in the psychosocial groups of Medica Gjakova, 72 women received individual psychosocial counselling.

About 1,300 women, 35 health professionals, and various representatives of health authorities were interviewed in a baseline study. The results of the study were taken into account when designing Medica Zenica’s health training programme. .

 

Source 'facts & figures': annual report 2015