Medica Kosova and Djepi i Buzëqeshjes Show Great Support for War-time Sexual Survivors of the Kosovo War

Approximately twenty thousand women were sexually assaulted during the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. The suffering of these women continues today through social stigmatization, more than two decades after the war ended. 

In order to further assist these women, Medica Kosova and Djepi i Buzëqeshjes, implemented the five-month initiative “Using Community-based and Trauma-informed Approach for Improving Access of Additional Survivors of War Rape to their Status Recognition”, supported by Kosovo Women’s Fund (KWF) of the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN).  

54 people from the Municipality of Gjakova, Deçan and Rahovec directly benefited from this initiative. Specifically, 44 women participated from these three municipalities, as well as 10 representatives of civil society organizations and institutions. 

19 women participated in trauma recovery sessions. 8 women gained assistance in fulfilling the application form for the status of survivors of sexual violence during the war, while eleven women are in ongoing counselling sessions to regain a certain level of emotional stability in order to cope with their trauma.  

These women, civil society activists and institutional representatives jointly-discussed topics as follows:  

  • Causes and consequences of sexual violence,   
  • The impact of trauma in psychological, cognitive, emotional aspect and in well-being as well, 
  •  How can we increase safety and confidentiality for the survivors?   

The participants were also introduced to the Law No. 04/L-054 on the “Status and Rights of Martyrs, Invalids, Veterans, Members of the Liberation Army of Kosovo, Civilian Victims and their Families”, as well as the work of the commission to recognize and verify the status of war civilian victims.  

The discussion of these topics was warmly welcomed by all present, each of who have a crucial role towards furthering the rights of women survivors of sexual violence during the war. Special importance and value were placed on the impressions of the survivors. Two of them expressed as follows: 

“If there was no counselling on how to cope with the process, I would not have been able to describe the details of what happened to me in the application form. I would be feeling worse than I did before I came to apply”.  

“I did not think that I could come apply for status recognition without having to go directly to the members of the Commission to tell my story. I even thought that there would be cameras around to record my story”.

More than 1,800 people from the participating municipalities had the opportunity to hear more about these achievements, thanks to a program on the Gjakova local radio. During this radio program, the Executive Director of Medica Kosova, Veprore Shehu, appealed to families and communities for supporting the survivors. 

Veprore Shehu, Executive Director of Medica Kosova during a discussion for the local radio of Gjakova, March 2019

In addition to women, Medica Kosovo and Djepi i Buzëqeshjes also held meetings with the Gjakova Gender Quality Office, and the Department for the Families, Martyrs, and War Invalids within the Municipality of Gjakova. They were there to advocate for the adequate therapy treatments and other assistance that these survivors need.  

“I thought I knew a lot about the effects of trauma in relation to sexual violence and ways that we can guide survivors to receive the necessary support. This training showed me how to balance my desire to support without doing more harm than good.”, said the Gender Equality Officer from Gjakova.    

In March 2014, the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo approved the amendment of Law no. 04 / L-054 on the “Status and Rights of Martyrs, Invalids, Veterans, Members of the Liberation Army of Kosovo, Civilian Victims and their Families”, to officially recognize and include the status of civilian victims of sexual violence during war in Kosovo. The status entitles survivors of sexual violence in Kosovo to monthly pensions and other benefits stipulated by law. The necessary legislation and sub-legal acts were developed by the National Council for the Survivors of Sexual Violence during the Kosovo War, established in 2014 by former President Atifete Jahjaga. 

Acknowledging that in 2017, the Kosovo Government authorized Medica Kosovo along with three other women’s organizations, to represent the survivors during the process of recognizing the Status of Survivors of Sexual Violence during the War; the support that the survivors gained about the process of application for status recognition was highly professional and productive.  

By supporting these two member organizations, KWN has proved its continuous and longstanding efforts seeking dignified treatment of Survivors of Sexual Violence during the War. 

This initiative was supported by the Kosovo Women’s Fund (KWF) of Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) and funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).