Blind and partially sited persons in Kosovo have benefits that are specified in the Law on Blind Persons. Lately, the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) and the Committee of Blind Women in Kosovo (CBWK), a KWN member, have collaborated to address violations of the rights of blind women.
CBWK and KWN have raised their concerns regarding the pre-conditions set by the Association of Blind Persons in Kosovo, which requested that blind persons pay a membership fee in order to receive state benefits relating to discounted electricity bills and booklets of blindness. However, these should be provided free of charge in accordance with the Law on Blind Persons, Article 14. Meanwhile, according to this, the Association of Blind People in Kosovo is the ony association authorized to represent blind people in Kosovo when applying for these benefits. Therefore, the requirement of association fees hindered several blind women from claiming their rights in accordance with the Law.
Representatives of CBWK have constantly contacted the Department for Pensions in Kosovo in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW) to ask that they put an end to this violation of rights and implement the Law on Blind Persons.
Bajramshahe Jetullahu, CBWK Director said: ‘This issue is directly harming blind people’s identity and rights’. She quoted the law on blind people, firmly emphasizing that ‘they should be protected from all kinds of abuse, discrimination and insult and that blind persons should be able to claim their rights granted by law’.
With support from KWN’s Legal Assistant, CBWK met with the Ombudsperson of Kosovo, Hilmi Jashari. He agreed that this situation of the Association of Blind Persons conditioning rights on the basis of membership to their Association as a very serious violation of rights and that MLSW should undertake immediate measures to resolve this issue.
The Ombudsperson expressed his support to CBWK and KWN in monitoring further occurrences of this situation. Meanwhile, MLSW has demonstrated its good will by making the Association of Blind People in Kosovo issue a decision on 07 Feb. 2019, through which the Association commits to distribute booklets of blindness and to file for electricity payment benefits for all blind persons, not only its members.
KWN offered their constant support to CBWK in contacting responsible institutions and drafting letters to better adress the issue to responsible institutions. KWN also supported CBWK to send a letter to organisations supporting blind persons in Kosovo, explaining their rights deriving from the Law on Blind Persons and informing them about potential violations of these rights from the Association that represents them.
For CBWK, this is a positive step towards respecting the rights of blind and partially sited persons. However, they will continue to monitor the process and to offer unconditional assistance in related complaints.