Ministry to Release Long-Awaited Assembly-Approved Funds for Shelters

For years, the Kosovo Women Network (KWN) has advocated for the government of Kosovo to allocate sufficient budget for covering all the expenses of shelters for women and children who have suffered domestic violence. Indeed, assuring the wellbeing and safety of women and children, is in accordance with Kosovo’s constitutional obligations and legal responsibilities.

In recent years, the lack of sufficient shelter financing, coupled with delays in such financing, have placed women and children at great risk. Shelter closures due to insufficient financing in December 2018 and January 2019, left some women and children on the street and endangered.

Initially, the draft budget for 2019, once again did not include sufficient funding or a specific budget line dedicated solely to financing shelters. While some budget existed under the social services budget line of the budget of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW), it would not cover all of the needs of shelters.

Therefore, on Dec. 7, KWN addressed the deputies of the Kosovo Assembly with a letter, requesting to add a new budget line in the draft budget, in the amount of €660,000. Discussions directly with shelters suggeseted that this amount would cover all the expenses of these shelters and daily care centres for women and children who had experienced domestic violence, human trafficking and children with no parental guidance. This proposed amount was calculated based on the previous expenditures and known needs of shelter staff. The calculations also considered the expenses for two new shelters for Serbian women in northern and southern Kosovo, respectively.

After sending this letter, KWN was invited to meet with representatives of several different political parties. The Women’s Caucus proposed and advocated amendments to the law soon after, towards ensuring a special budget line for the shelters.

On Feb. 3, the Kosovo Assembly approved the Budget for 2019, supporting KWN’s request to set a permanent budget line for shelters and day centres. This year’s budget includes a completely new line called “Basic Expenditure for Shelters”, in the amount of €880,000.

As shelters still at the end of Feb. 2019 had not received funding for their operations during the last two months, several contacted KWN requesting support in advocating for the release of the funds recently approved by the Assembly. KWN sent a letter to MLSW requesting immediate release of these funds last week.

Yesterday, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Skender Reçica requested a meeting with KWN Executive Director Igballe Rogova. He confirmed that shelters and day centres will be directly financed from this budget line, in accordance with the rules of public finances. This will assure the adequate functioning of shelters and will avoid temporary closures and similar problems that they have encountered in 2018 due to the insufficient budget.

KWN and MLSW agreed to future cooperation to ensure protection for women and girls who have suffered violence. KWN will continue to monitor the implementation of the legal framework in the coming years, as part of its Strategy for 2019-2022.

Meanwhile, KWN, shelter and day centre representatives have thanked the Kosovo Assembly deputies for their work and approval of this crucial support. Moreover, KWN thanks the diverse actors that have been involved in these advocacy efforts: the EU Office in Kosovo, EU Special Representative, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, UN Women and other members of the Security Gender Group, among others.

In accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Kosovo has in its Constitution (Article 22), states have the responsibility to undertake all measures to combat violence, including protective measures and supporting services for victims. Setting a permanent budget for the shelters and covering their expenses, including counselling and caring for victims also is specified in the National Strategy of the Republic of Kosovo on Protection from Domestic Violence and Action Plan 2016 – 2020.

The long-term advocacy that contributed to this important development received support from the Austrian Development Agency and the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, who have financed the work of KWN staff members involved in drafting many letters, making evidence-based proposals and undertaking ongoing advocacy.

Photo credit: MLSW, 2019.