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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
(As of 2016)
- Together with the partner organisation Medica Zenica, 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.
- 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.
- Since it was founded in 2012, the co-operative has grown to around 75 members. The women are also clients of Medica Gjakova. Many were raped during the Kosovo war or have experienced other forms of gender-based violence. Alongside economic support, women also receive psychosocial and legal counselling and medical care.
Bosnia-Herzegovina: the cantons of Zenica Doboj, Central Bosnia, Una Sana, Bosnian Podrinje, Tuzla, Herzegovina-Neretva and the Republic of Srpska
Kosovo: entire country
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
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Medica Zenica, Vive Žene, Budućnost, Žena BiH, SEKA Gorazde
Kosovo: Medica Gjakova, Hareja
Croatia: Ecumenical Women’s Initiative
Funding: Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), Federal Foreign Office (AA), Stiftung Anne-Marie Schindler, Louis Leitz Stiftung, Association Soltierra Viva, Donations/own resources
Project expenses 2016: 398.605,10 €
The Budućnost’s women’s shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina improved the well-being of 90 women and prepared them for gainful employment.
In 2016, the Duart e Dardenes co-operative in Kosovo received advice on financial planning, sales analysis, customer satisfaction, pricing and marketing to promote know-how and sales.
Source 'facts & figures': annual report 2016