Flora, a rural woman in her forties, was systematically tortured and abuse by her husband for more than a decade. At the beginning of her marriage everything seemed to be perfectly fine. But during the years her life was taking a course of isolation and despair.
She was never blessed with a child and she could not even know whether the health problems were related to her or her husband. After couple of years of her marriage, they adopted a child which was indeed a son of her brother in law. This way, she dedicated her last years of her marriage to her son and to her abusive husband.
Unemployed, abused and abandoned she was living her life in fear from her husband. She was not able to neither walk to the other rooms of her house, nor visit the yard without her husband’s permission.
Many people think that domestic violence is a private, family matter. But in Flora’s case the neighbors were those who took note of the “family anomalies” and reacted. This shows that closed social systems are undergoing a positive transformation in Kosovo, the old ‘sacred and holy values’ of keeping the private matters indoors are being changed and Flora’s neighbors were those who filed a report at Kosovo’s Police Service.
When she showed up at one of the regional safe houses, she had visible scratches and wounds all over her body. Besides the physical wounds, she had severe symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Her physical and psychological abuse had a huge impact on her general wellbeing. Flora was treated in a supportive way and received the medical and psychological aid from doctors and social workers at a shelter.
Nevertheless, her personal story broke the silence and taboos in Kosovo about domestic violence, when she decided to share it with the public in a documentary film “Nale Doren” produced by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Kosovo.
Positive impact and Progress The informal aspects of culture, values and norms are hidden and forbidden to be considered by others. The story of Flora shows the increase of community involvement on issues which were previously considered as private and at the same time shows the substantial increase of awar eness among women in Kosovo about their basic rights.
Right after the conflict in Kosovo, domestic violence was not considered as a priority topic, however many international institutions in Kosovo prioritized this negative phenomenon. In this regard UNDP Kosovo through its projects helped on improving the safety of women and girls in Kosovo through different tools and means.
Women’s Safety and Security Initiative (WSSI), an UNDP project in Kosovo has been focused on matter of domestic violence and trafficking of human beings within last four years. WSSI helped on drafting National Action Plan to combat domestic violence and the Law on domestic violence.
WSSI/UNDP’s focus also remains on awareness raising campaigns on domestic violence which are organized every year and which prove to be fruitful.
Today, all five shelters throughout Kosovo are receiving sustainable support from UNDP through WSSI. The grants for shelters enabled the long – term support for victims of domestic violence and victims of trafficking as well.
The will for a change
“Since I came to the shelter, I was born again; I started over, a new life, I found a job and I realized that life has so much to show me”, says Flora who lived in a shelter for a six months before she moved at her parents place. Her adopted son had to return to his biological parents since Flora was not allowed to take him. However, she is soothing her pain by babysitting her friend’s daughter twice a week, while her earnings she is saving for her son. Her husband has been sentenced to nine years prison.
Though, the traumas he caused to Flora will not vanish so quickly.
*All five shelters in Kosovo are places where victims of domestic violence and victims of trafficking can recover and start re-socializing. UNDP Kosovo through Women’s Safety and Security Initiative (WSSI) provided support for all the shelters (2009 /2010) and helped the integration of victims into the society.