North Kosovo faces a number of challenges in the realm of domestic violence at the local institutional level. In fact, the first and foremost is the lack of resources necessary for the provision of effective assistance to victims. Moreover, the prevailing social mentality has often prevented this phenomenon from being addressed within local communities. On top of this there is no existence for a safe house, which would provide shelter and help for victims of domestic violence in the four northern municipalities: Mitrovica North, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic.
Related to this, NGO Aktiv from Mitrovica North supported by the Embassy of Finland implemented two projects during 2013 and 2014. The first project was more focused on the awareness raising campaigns and a research related to domestic violence in North Kosovo. The conducted research revealed that 34% of all women in the North Kosovo are victims of domestic violence and 95 % of the women lack confidence in the ability of the institutions to deal effectively with the issue.
Aktiv’s 2014 project addressed the deficits in the institutional response to domestic violence as well as in the legal framework for the establishment of a safe house. During the course of this project it was found that there exists a strong consensus among public institutions for the need of a safe house as well as for the strengthening of cooperation with Centers for Social Work and the Kosovo Police. Thus the project has received strong support from local stakeholders. The employees of Kosovo police, social work centers and health care institutions have been trained and the project has increased awareness among public sector workers. A legal and institutional framework for the establishment of a safe house has now been created and the next step is to seek for donors for the project.
The final activity of the project was the Donor Conference organized on 14th of May, aimed at bringing relevant donors together to support Aktiv’s plans for the construction of a shelter to serve local communities. Besides donor community members, present at the conference were the representatives of the local and public institutions, media and civil society activists from North Kosovo.
Anne Meskanen, Head of the Mission at the Embassy, noted on her statement the importance of the existence of a safe-house and its impact on victims of domestic violence. “The victims will be encouraged to report cases of violence and seek help”, she stated. Besides this, Meskanen emphasized the importance of the sustainability of the safe house which can be achieved only with the involvement and financial commitment from central and local institutions.
In order to ensure the sustainability, Aktiv’s plans are to integrate the safe house into municipal structures and institutions. The municipality of North Mitrovica has already committed a parcel of land for the shelter and Aktiv is now raising funds for its construction. The safe house will not only serve the victims of domestic violence but also as a means of improving the work of public institutions in the provision of services to victims. The shelter would also cover the needs of the all four municipalities.