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 began to take a conscious look at their own history, gender-based violence remains a widespread problem.

Women’s rights in Southeastern Europe

  • 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.
  • Compared with their peers, children of rape survivors are more likely to suffer psychological problems including depression, angst and low esteem. They often experienced emotional neglection, when their severely traumatised mothers were incapable of giving them the care and attention they needed. Also they are confronted with other everyday problems: it is difficult to register as students, for example, when important documents are missing.
  • 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 persons who experienced sexualised wartime violence. Since February 2018 survivors can apply for a monthly pension of 230 euro. The survivors have to apply for compensation by 2023. Affected women, now living abroad, are also eligible. 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.

(Last updated: 2019)

Practical Examples:

Around 100 health care specialists were trained in 2018 by Medica Zenica in our stress- and trauma-sensitive approach.

In June 2018, around 1,000 participants demonstrated on the streets of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Our partner organisations KRCT and Medica Gjakova are two of the initiators of the campaign that is fighting for reparations for survivors of sexualised wartime violence.

190 applications for a war pension for survivors of sexualised wartime violence have already been passed on to the relevant committee by Medica Gjakova. 54 of them were approved. (As of March 2019).

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Partner organisations:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Medica Zenica, Vive Žene, Forgotten Children of War, SEKA Gorazde, Budućnost, Maja Kravica
Croatia: ROSA
Kosovo: Medica Gjakova, KRCT
Serbia: Roma Novi Becej

Project regions:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Cantons of Zenica Doboj, Central Bosnia, Una Sana, Bosnian Podrinje, Tuzla, Brcko District, Republika Srpska
Croatia: Dalmatia
Kosovo: entire country
Serbia: Vojvodina

Project priorities:

  • provide psychosocial counselling, gynaecological care, legal advice and income-generating activities for survivors of sexualised wartime violence
  • improve access to stress- and traumasensitive health services
  • advocate for survivors’ rights
  • foster knowledge exchange and networking of women’s organisations

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Federal Foreign Office (AA)
Foundation of War Trauma Therapy
Anne-Marie Schindler Foundation
Louis Leitz Foundation
donations/own resources


Source: annual report 2018

Overview of all partner organisations of medica mondiale

25 years of medica mondiale – an overview