Stereotypes stigma are believed to exist in Kosovo related to gender-based discrimination, especially towards women. Several forms of gender-based discrimination at work exist, such as in hiring, equal opportunities for promotion at work, maternity leave rights violations and sexual harassment. Often, women do not know where to turn when such rights violations occur, or they lack resources to pay for a lawyer.
The Kosovo Law Institute (KLI) is working to improve women’s labour rights so that discriminatory behaviour is punished and prevented in the future. KLI is conducting research and will monitor court hearings, including the performance of all Basic Courts in Kosovo and the Appeal Court in civil and administrative cases providing legal aid to women in asserting their legal rights. KLI also plans to coordinate with the Ombudsperson Institution (OI) in referring cases to KLI either for legal aid or legal representation with special attention to women’s labour rights.
Since February, KLI has monitored 17 cases in which women had disputes related to their employment relationships.
However, due to government-mandated isolation measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, since mid-March Kosovo courts only treat urgent cases. In March, KLI only monitored four such sessions.
Meanwhile, KLI has joined the regional social media campaign, which informs workers about violations they may experience during pandemic working conditions. They have been sharing information and reaching thousands of people via social media networks. They also have made TV appearances to discuss these issues, expanding the reach of such information. KLI has used media to advertise their hotline, through which they offer free legal aid regarding discrimination at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far 275 people have contacted them as a result of the media campaign.
In April, KLI helped 76 women in civil and administrative matters, including with legal procedures to address workplace labour rights violations.
In one case assisted by KLI, a worker had struggled to receive her contract during the pandemic.
“I’m pregnant and that’s it among the main reasons why the employer didn’t provide me the contract. In this regard, I sought help from KLI Legal Aid and they immediately answered me and guided me on what to do and how to act”, said A.M.
KLI’s initiative has received €19,950 through the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) Kosovo Women’s Fund. KWN and its partners in the Coalition of Women’s Rights Organisations against Gender-based Discrimination in the Western Balkans have awarded 14 grants to civil society organizations (CSOs) across the region through the Kosovo Women’s Fund, amounting to €198,275. The grants are part of a joint initiative, “Furthering Women’s Labour Rights”, funded by the European Union and co-funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.