Women survivors of violence receive vital support from shelters in Kosovo

Category: News
Organizations: UN Women

Around 550 women survivors of domestic violence from Kosovo were admitted to shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic, with support from UN Women within the regional programme on ending violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey, “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,” funded by the European Union.

“I have experienced violence before, but it escalated during the pandemic. I was really afraid, so I sought help. The police brought me to the shelter,” said Zana Gashi*, a 46-year-old woman survivor of domestic violence, admitted to the Safe House in Gjakova, a city in western Kosovo[1], during the COVID-19 pandemic. She escaped to the shelter with her three children, aged 16, 13 and 8.

Her children were the reason she chose to seek help. “For me this pandemic did not start in March, I was quarantined for almost my whole life. My children witnessed everything and encouraged me to contact the police and the shelter,” said Gashi.

Zana Gashi received psychosocial support at the shelter. “I don’t know how I would deal with this situation if I hadn’t received help in coping with anxiety, fear and stress,” she said. In the shelter survivors can practice fitness and yoga, while their children receive support with their homework. UN Women has equipped shelters in Kosovo with electronic equipment so that children can follow online education.

In Kosovo, the police have reported an increase in domestic violence cases in the first week of isolation measures. According to the study “Addressing COVID-19 from a Gender Perspective: Recommendations to the Government of Kosovo,” the circumstances surrounding the pandemic made it even harder for victims to report the crime, as they were locked down with their abusers. Even before the pandemic, the stigma surrounding domestic violence contributed to the underreporting of cases.

“Isolation and financial insecurity added power and control to the perpetrator, and they used violence as a solution,” said Sakibe Doli, director of the Safe House, one of the eight domestic violence shelters in Kosovo that has operated uninterruptedly to admit survivors while taking precautionary measures against COVID-19.

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