On 14-16 June in “Skënderbeu” square, Prishtina, 665 people visited the exhibition “Break the silence: Ending violence behind walls”, hosted by the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN).
Symbolically this exhibition portrayed a labyrinth, resembling a home where domestic violence occurs. Stories and statistics about violence hung in frames on the walls. Through multimedia and interactive materials, visitors heard real stories of women and men who have suffered domestic violence in Kosovo.
An estimated 68% of Kosovar women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes, according to a 2014 national household survey by KWN. The harrowing stories and statistics within these walls affected those who had the courage to walk inside the labyrinth.
“When you were inside those walls, it was very hot and suffocating, but interestingly, once you walked out there was a fresh breeze of hope,” observed Reyes Charle Cuellar, Gender Adviser at the European Union in Kosovo.
Upon exiting from behind the walls, visitors found a host of institutions, the “retaining walls” available to provide support to persons who have suffered violence. These walls displayed the roles and responsibilities of institutions that deal with domestic violence, as well as where to report concerns if institutions do not carry out their responsibilities appropriately.
Visitors expressed their appreciation for providing access to such important information.
“Thank you very much for what you have done because these stories are my stories,” a woman told KWN, accompanied by her teenage daughter. “I just received legal aid, and my case is at court, but now I know which institutions to go to if I do not see justice, such as the Ombudsperson Institution. We have photographed every sign [of institutions], so I have this information in the future if I need it.”
The exhibition sought to encourage people to break the silence behind walls, and to seek support from institutions when violence occurs.
“Domestic violence is not a private matter,” said Igballe Rogova, KWN Executive Director, emphasizing society’s role in addressing it. “Domestic violence is a public matter and citizens must be active,” she said.
Gunther Zimmer, ADA Head of Office said that fighting domestic violence is an important priority for the Austrian government and that ADA has successfully cooperated with KWN to fight this phenomenon in Kosovo since 2012.
“We have seen important changes, such as the approval of the National Strategy for Protection from Domestic Violence, and finally the inclusion of domestic violence as a specific offence in the Criminal Code of Kosovo”, he said.
Vlora Nushi, Head of Office at UN Women; Hilmi Jashari, the Ombudsperson of Kosovo; and Deputy Minister of Justice Naim Qelaj, the National Coordinator against Domestic Violence also provided remarks at the grand opening. Several representatives of Kosovo institutions participated as well.
The exhibition will be open to visitors in five other municipalities in the upcoming months, specifically in Gjilan, Gjakova, Ferizaj, Peja and Mitrovica. It will also visit other municipalities in the future.
This exhibition was supported by the European Union (EU) through UN Women (#EVAW), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), TOML, Night Design, and several volunteers and businesses.
For more pictures of the exhibition click HERE.
In THIS interview, Adelina Berisha, Advocacy and Research Coordinator on Gender Based Violence at KWN, explained the exhibition in more detail (available in Albanian only).