Few Kosovars can afford to hire a lawyer when they need legal advice or assistance. Thus, NGO Venera in Peja has regularly received requests from citizens for assistance with various legal matters. At the same time, young women lawyers had approached Venera with their concerns: as young women, they struggled to secure jobs in Peja or work experience that would enable them to apply for jobs. Seeing the challenges faced by young women and local citizens, NGO Venera representatives had an innovative idea.
Venera decided to pilot a small initiative through which young women lawyers would provide free legal aid for people who could not afford it otherwise. In this way, young women could hone their skills as lawyers, furthering their work experience. At the same time, they would meet important needs within their community.
With support from the Kosovo Women’s Fund (€2,666), Venera hired two young women lawyers who began offering free legal services to citizens in August 2013.
“I used to work as a lawyer at the Municipal Assembly,” said Shqipe Sheremeti, a lawyer at Venera. “But this job is very fulfilling for me. Here, I am closer to people, and I can help them.”
Under the careful direction of seasoned lawyer Miradije Gashi Sheremeti, Executive Director, by November the organization already had helped 17 people who would not have had access to such services otherwise. This included assisting with official authorizations, legal advice, and paying and/or contesting fines, among other services. In total, they provided the equivalent of more than €2,570 in legal services, free of charge to their clients.
“I had written so many requests to the Municipal Assembly about my problem,” one of Venera’s clients said. “But here with Miradije, Shqipe, and Syzana it’s different. They are very kind and easy to talk to. I was very happy when they offered to help me for free.”
Although Venera’s support from the Kosovo Women’s Fund ended on 30 November, they can see from their work to date that the needs are great. They are continuing to work on a voluntary basis, including assisting their clients in completing the processes that they began in prior months. They plan to apply to the Kosovo Women’s Fund, as well as other donors in the future towards reaching additional beneficiaries in years to come.