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.

Practical Examples:

13 health care specialists participated in the Medica Zenica training programme enabling them to pass on the stress and trauma-sensitive approach to others.

150 applications for war pensions were received by Medica Gjakova by the end of 2017. They will be submitted to the relevant commission as soon as the pension comes into force.

Partner organisations:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Medica Zenica, Vive Žene, Budućnost, SEKA Gorazde
Kosovo: Medica Gjakova, Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT)
Croatia: Ecumenical Women’s Initiative (EWI)

Project regions:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: the cantons of Zenica Doboj, Central Bosnia, Una Sana, Bosnian Podrinje, Tuzla and Republic of Srpska
Kosovo: entire country
Croatia: Dalmatia

Project priorities:

  • Support for survivors of sexualised wartime violence and other forms of gender-specific violence through direct holistic services: psychosocial counselling, gynaecological care, legal advice, incomegenerating measures
  • Training for health professionals as to improve access to trauma-sensitive health services
  • Advocacy and awareness-raising initiatives seeking to improve the access of survivors of sexualised wartime violence to compensation and justice
  • Supporting networking of women’s organisations to improve initiatives to deal with past experiences and peace building

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 'facts & figures': annual report 2017

Overview of all partner organisations of medica mondiale

25 years of medica mondiale – an overview