Kosovo is a country in the Balkan region of Europe that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Women in contemporary Kosovo seem to have perfect equality, but this perception can be deceiving.

Following a civil war from 1998-99, Kosovo was subjected to a decade of international observance, culminating in the country’s unilateral independence in 2008. During this period of change, they instituted an egalitarian law package in 2004, which was demanded by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). These laws fulfill all European Union requirements and include laws on gender equality, inheritance law and family law.

Women’s empowerment in Kosovo is assumed to be at an all-time high: it has a female president, two female former Deputy Ministers and several other female high-level officials. In addition to this, the Assembly of Kosovo has the second-highest representation of women in the region.

In practice, women still struggle to gain access to property, social resources, personal security and cultural equality. Women’s empowerment in Kosovo has struggled, as women continue to live within the confines of a rigidly patriarchal society, a system in which men have the final say in all family matters, as well as having primary access to all social and economic resources. Many of the main structures of women’s oppression in Kosovo stem from cultural norms that link women’s social value to men.

Another problem facing women in Kosovo is domestic violence. Many women are often at the mercy of a justice system that fails to protect them. Kosovo is unique in the fact that it is cut off from key instruments of European justice due to the unresolved political situation in the country.

Despite the struggles being faced, there are many strides being made for women’s empowerment in Kosovo. The most significant of these is being made by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo.

The OSCE promotes women’s empowerment, gender equality and women’s rights by supporting the development and implementation of non-discriminatory legal frameworks and policies. It also focuses on women’s participation in public decision-making and gender-responsive budgeting, ensuring the interests of women and men are equally considered. Additionally, they raise awareness of the need to eliminate gender-based and domestic violence.

With the work of other initiatives that seek to impact women’s empowerment in Kosovo, the situation is constantly improving and positive strides are being made.

– Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr