Advocacy Leads Kosovo’s New Government to Establish Budget Line for Shelters

Ongoing advocacy efforts by the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) for a permanent budget line for shelters and day centres serving persons who suffered domestic violence, trafficking in human beings, and children without parental care has led the new Government of Kosovo to commit to allocating €900,000 from the 2020 budget to support shelters and day centres in Kosovo.

Shelters in Kosovo continuously have faced financial struggles. In 2017 some shelters even closed due to insufficient financing. Women and children were turned out, into the streets, and some were forced to return to live with perpetrators, placing them at great risk of recidivism.

Since 2012, KWN has advocated for a sufficient budget to cover all expenses necessary for shelters to protect women and children who have suffered violence. More recently, on 7 December 2018, KWN together with representatives of shelters and day centres, addressed a letter to Members of Parliament (MPs) of the Assembly of Kosovo amid discussions on the draft budget for 2019. They called on MPs to allocate a budget for shelters and day centres. The parliament allocated funding for shelters for 2019.

However, shelters still faced problems receiving these funds. Despite KWN’s and shelters’ advocacy, the allocation of funding was very delayed and less than anticipated. The lack of sufficient financing, coupled with delays in receiving such financing, placed women and children at risk.

To address this and to identify a more sustainable solution, in February 2020, KWN met with the recently elected Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, then new Minister of Justice Albulena Haxhiu and then new Speaker of the Kosovo Assembly Vjosa Osmani, respectively. During these meetings, KWN advocated for a permanent budget line dedicated to shelters and day centres.

Responding to these requests, Osmani promised to support KWN in its aim to establish a separate budget line for shelters. “Kosovo’s newly formed institutions will increase their care and attention toward different social categories, especially for domestic violence victims”, Osmani said.

Indeed, on 15 March, the parliament approved the budget for 2020, which includes €900,000 for shelters and day centres in Kosovo.

Such support to shelters is crucial. According to a 2017 KWN report, From Words to Action?, supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), domestic violence remains widespread, with 62% of Kosovars having experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes (68% of women and 56% of men); 31% had suffered domestic violence in 2014 alone (41% of women, 20% of men).

While shelter is never an ideal solution, it is essential to have such services available for the worst-case scenarios, in which women and children have nowhere else to turn. Shelters offer a temporary, safe place to live for persons at risk of violence.

Kosovo has a National Strategy on Protection from Domestic Violence and Action Plan 2016-2020, which clearly states the legal and institutional obligation of the Republic of Kosovo to financially support the work of these institutions.

Despite progress, shelters in Kosovo still face serious challenges. Long-term living solutions and reintegration programs for women and children transitioning from shelters into society remain under-funded or non-existent. However, the passage of this budget represents a positive step in the right direction.

Addressing gender-based violence remains a programmatic focus area in the KWN Strategy 2019-2022. Much of KWN’s advocacy work on this issue is supported by ADA, leading to this and other important changes towards protecting persons suffering from violence.