Author: Blenda Asllani

Kosovo women regardless of ethnicity, class, region, and status, face many challenges rooted in traditional gender roles, socio-economic pressure and social expectations. 

As usual, social structures in conservative societies create norms that push towards social structures that perpetuate the oppression of women.

Vulnerability to oppression in any form increases for Serbian, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Bosnian and Turkish or queer women living in Kosovo. They face double discrimination, not only as women, but also as members of minority groups. The combination of gender and/or ethnic discrimination creates additional challenges for these women.

In addition to other challenges, my article will address three of the main challenges that affect every woman’s daily life: security challenges and gender-based violence, limited public participation and the burden of unpaid work.

Addressing these concerns is not only important regarding the promotion and advancement of gender equality but also to the shaking of patriarchal norms that limit and oppress all genders in different ways.

Women’s security challenges and gender-based violence

The report “Women’s Security Concerns in Kosovo” published by the Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS) emphasizes gender-based violence as one of the main threats to women. This is evidenced by the increasing number of murdered women in recent years. 54 women have been victims of femicide in Kosovo in the last 13 years.

Based on the database of the organization QIKA, in the period 2015-2021, 14,268 cases of gender-based violence were reported to the Kosovo Police.

Although the number of reported cases of gender-based violence has increased in recent years, they still remain unreported due to socio-economic factors and women’s lack of trust in security and justice institutions.

Return to retrial, prolonging the treatment of cases of violence, low sentences for the perpetrators, lack of sensitivity and expertise, the culture of blaming the victim makes women reluctant to report cases.

Lack of independence and economic security contributes the most to women’s lack of security, which often forces women to live with their abuser because they do not inherit property from their family, do not enjoy stable institutional support and financing of shelters for victims is insufficient and unstable.

The limited public participation of women 

The public representation of women in Kosovo, despite some progress, continues to face structural and systematic challenges. While Kosovo has had two women presidents in its history, this achievement does not reflect the general state of women’s political and public participation.

Political debates in Kosovo predominantly feature men analysts, and leadership roles in public sectors such as school administration and university faculties are mostly occupied by men. Moreover, public enterprises are usually led by men, and currently, no political party has a woman leader. 

According to the D4D research “Research on Women in the Republic of Kosovo”, 97% of women in Kosovo are politically inactive, meanwhile The National Democratic Institute‘s assessment on women’s political participation in Kosovo indicates significant gaps in achieving full and equal participation. While there has been progress, substantial barriers persist, such as hostile political environments and challenges in acquiring financial and political support.

As for state efforts, Kosovo has the Kosovo Program on Gender Equality (2020-2024) which provides a framework for integrating gender equality into laws, policies, and public services, but with its expiration there are no efforts towards drafting a new strategy.

This men dominance in public spaces is and remain a notable issue, by not giving space to women but also oppressing those who participate in public life by cyber violence, sexist comments about appearance and clothing, misogyny and public lynching.

The burden of unpaid work

Unpaid work refers to all services provided within a household and its members but that are not compensated financially. This includes a wide range of tasks such as caring for children and the elderly, housework, voluntary community work, and other domestic chores. 

Unpaid work is crucial for the functioning of households and the broader economy, yet it remains unrecognized in economic measurements and discussions in Kosovo, the region and the world.

In the context of Kosovo, and across all ethnic groups, there is a prevailing cultural norm that views care work and associated tasks as predominantly the responsibility of women. This societal perspective assigns the bulk of unpaid work to women, based on traditional gender roles. This unequal distribution not only reflects deep-rooted gender norms but also impacts women’s opportunities in education, employment, and public life. 

The report “Who Cares?” by the Musine Kokalari Institute provides crucial insights into this matter, revealing the extent and economic value of unpaid care work in Kosovo.

According to the report, an average individual in Kosovo spends about 4.9 hours daily on unpaid direct and indirect care work. This burden, however, is not evenly distributed between genders. Women in Kosovo, on average, dedicate 6.2 hours to unpaid care work, while men contribute significantly less, averaging 3.5 hours. This means that women spend 2.7 hours more on such tasks, equating to 44% more time compared to their male counterparts.

This gender disparity in unpaid work has profound implications. It not only underscores the traditional gender roles prevalent in Kosovar society but also highlights the economic implications of this labor. The total estimated value of unpaid care work in Kosovo is a staggering €2,824,248,757, which constitutes about 33% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This figure underscores the substantial, yet unrecognized, contribution of unpaid care work to the national economy.

The systematic overshadowing and oppression of women, which has its source in traditional gender roles and social expectations normed in our society, exploits the experiences, knowledge and contributions of women as individuals, as members of the family, society and the state.

Addressing these challenges and Kosovo’s journey towards gender equality and an inclusive society where the contribution of women in the public and private spheres is recognized and valued, requires an immediate response and a multifaceted approach including legal reforms and fair trials, feminist economic policies, institutional support, access to education and health for all women.

This content was funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Pristina. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department.

Alternativna in partnership with New Social Initiative.

Blenda Asllani

Blenda Asllani studied Political Science at the University of Prishtina. She is a feminist activist and works as a researcher at QIKA. Blenda has written on various political and social topics in the context of Kosovo and the region.

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