”Att ta hand om sig själv är ett politiskt ställningstagande”

Effektiv tidshantering är en av strategier för en hållbar aktivism. Det pratade Mariam Gagosh om. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Malin Askhamre

Mariam Gagosh pratar om effektiv tidshantering som en strategi för hållbar aktivism. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Malin Askhamre

Det växande hotet mot kvinnorättsförsvarare och det minskade utrymmet för arbete med kvinnors rättigheter leder till ökad stress, frustration och en känsla av otillräcklighet bland aktivister. För att stärka deras motivation och hälsa, både fysiskt och mentalt, har Kvinna till Kvinna tagit fram metoden ”Integrerad säkerhet”. Malin Askhamre bloggar från en workshop där ett tjugotal kvinnorättsförsvarare från Balkan och södra Kaukasien samlats för att arbeta kring hållbar aktivism i en trygg miljö.

 

Den feministiska kampen var en gemensam nämnare för samtliga, och allas kontextryggsäckar och erfarenheter dukades upp till ett inbjudande och lärorikt smörgåsbord. Ingen gick hungrig därifrån. Gemensamma nämnare var även hjältinnan/martyren-fenomenet och bördan av den stereotypa kvinnorollen, två svulster som många kunde relatera till, och vilka bidrar till ohälsa.

Att ta hand om andra, utföra obetalda, osedda hemarbetet, lägga ner tid på att ansa och sminka oss för att anses se ut som kvinnor ska: den stereotypa kvinnorollen är en mörk skugga, ständigt närvarande, molande med dåligt samvete och av otillräcklighet. Även den radikalaste feminist skuggas (i alla fall fläckvis) av den stereotypa kvinnorollen. Samhällets traditionella förväntningar och krav på kvinnor behöver lyftas upp till ljuset och blekna bort, vi har tröttnat!

Den andra aspekten, feministhjältinnan/martyren, som alltid ställer upp, jobbar dygnet och året runt, är en kontraproduktiv baksida av aktivisters välvilja och jävlaranamma att skapa förändring. Ingen vinner i längden på självdegraderande arbetsmoral. Det är inte själviskt att ta hand om sig själv, det är ett politiskt ställningstagande för hållbar aktivism.

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Unforgettable testimonies at court for women survivors

Demonstration opening Women's Court. The banderole says: "Women's court – feminist approach to justice". Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Milica Mirazic.

Demonstration opening Women’s Court. The banderole says: “Women’s court – feminist approach to justice”. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Milica Mirazic.

”I am a heroine!” said one of the younger women who testified. She had survived a long period of sexual violence, rape and torture as a teenager in one of the rape camps, a more or less forceful and violent marriage, divorce and a new beginning. ”They took most of my childhood. They took my youth. But the present, and the future are mine.”

Last weekend, May 7-10, Women’s Court in Sarajevo gathered some 500 women from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia, to testify and listen to witnesses and their personal life-stories about what happened during the Balkan wars in the 90s and thereafter – and how that affected, and still affects, women’s lives today.

The most powerful thing about the Court was that the women survivors and their testimonies were at the centre. They were made subjects, taking power of the space and of their own stories. The rest of us could only listen, and give our solidarity and standing ovations to their courage.

The process leading up to the Court has taken several years. As far as I know, the idea was first launched in 2001, and the work intensified during 2010. An enormous amount of work has been carried out in the last five years in each respective country as well as at the regional level.
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No Europe without women’s human rights

Advocacy trip to Brussels. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna

Recently, 14 women’s rights activists from the Balkans, together with Kvinna till Kvinna staff, visited Brussels to advocate for women’s human rights. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna

Violence against women and lack of justice for battered women is still a huge problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  At the same time, the country aims to be part in the EU. Sometime in the future. It is a golden opportunity for the EU to make demands and put pressure on the country to make a change for gender equality and women’s human rights! That is the message when women human rights defenders visit Brussels.

The new 2014 Bosnia and Herzegovina Progress Report*, recently published by the European Commission, was evaluated as the worst one so far. As expected, it reflects the lack of the collective political will by the government to implement reforms necessary for joining the EU.

Just like in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Commission keeps marginalizing issues concerning the protection of women’s human rights and gender equality, reducing them to a few general statements in the section of human rights. In dealing with other important topics, such as social policies, public health and trafficking in human beings, the report does not have a gender perspective at all.

In the beginning of November, a group of activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania had a chance to visit Brussels, thanks to support by Swedish foundation Kvinna till Kvinna. The activists meet with officials of EU institutions, talked to member states representatives to the European Union, visited the European Parliament and talked to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

I was part of this team of amazing women who have been cooperating for decades, without any political, national, ethnic or other obstacles. We are directly responsible for a series of successful peace building initiatives at both national and regional levels, and have contributed to the inclusion of women’s rights in laws, enhanced support to women and the increased visibility of women’s issues and problems.

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Yes We Can – Women in Kosovo bring Change!

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- What comes out of support to local women’s organisations? What difference does it make?

At times I am faced with these questions as a Kvinna till Kvinna co-worker. The questions arise in conversations with my neighbors, friends, colleagues or in meetings with donors.  Recently I was strengthened in my ability to give clear answers to these questions.

Under a blue and sunny sky in Montenegro Kvinna till Kvinna invited partner organisations in Kosovo to network and share their achievement stories. The million dollar question was: what change has been promoted by women’s organisations in Kosovo over the last few years?

After intense and creative group work several achievement stories were shared. It was clear that great change has happened with important contribution from women and their mobilisation. Allow me to present the top-five achievement list for Kosovo:

  • More women in local decision making
  • Better support to women subjected to domestic violence
  • Legal reform insuring justice and financial support to women subjected to conflict related sexual violence
  • Breaking the isolation of marginalized women
  • Re-claiming the concept of Feminism to promote women’s rights

Having this said, we need also to acknowledge that achievements do not come for free. “Great achievements takes sacrifice”, as Vetone Veliu from Mitrovica Women’s Association for Human Rights, phrased it during the meeting.

Vetone Veliu, Mitrovica Women's Association for Human Rights

Vetone Veliu, Mitrovica Women’s Association for Human Rights

So, dear neighbours, friends, colleagues and donors. You are all welcome to fire away with your questions. I have fresh and solid arguments for how women in Kosovo bring change and why support to local women’s organisations and their collaboration is crucial as we move forward.

Text: Anna Sundén, Coordinator for Kosovo

Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Laura Katona

 

Proud to be a woman – in Kosovo

Living in Kosovo entails in itself facing many difficulties on daily basis in all spheres of life, and as a woman, these life difficulties become even more apparent.

However there are days when all the life difficulties disappear, vanish from the face of earth and all what is left within is strong feelings of love, solidarity, accomplishment, inspiration … Today was one of these days. Not an ordinary day.  A day when something happens, and one feels moved. Today was one of the four days of the regional feminist festival “Femmes Fatales” in Prishtina organised by our partner organisation Artpolis, with participants from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia.

This festival has given me lots of emotions through performances, photo exhibitions, documentaries, poetry, music – all produced by women.

Courageous women who told their stories … their war … their dreams!

Women who enabled these stories to be heard … shedding light into women’s lives, women’s issues, women’s rights and building bridges of understanding, solidarity and friendship across ethnic, gender and other boundaries and YES, making a change!

Inspiring women who made me forget the difficulties … women who made me proud to be a kvinna in Kosovo, proud to have been working jointly with them  kvinna till kvinna (woman to woman).

Text and Photos: Yllka Soba/Kvinna till Kvinna – Field Office Kosovo

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Ana Ćurčin – ACT Women, Serbia.

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Photo exhibition on violence against women “You don’t kill a woman this way” by artists from Albania, Montenegro, Canada.

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Documentaries and launching of “Beyond HIStory” – Kosovo Oral History Initiative Website by Kosovo Women’s Network, Kosovo and New School University,US (www.oralhistorykosova.org)

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Presentations and discussions – Activism and Art in the Balkan region.

 

 

 

“The day we didn’t know any borders, nor nationalities, or religions”

March on 8th of March in Pristina. Photo: Vika Kolbaia, Avangard

March on 8th of March in Pristina. Photo: Vika Kolbaia, Avangard

The plane landed at the airport of the capital of the Republic of Kosovo Pristina late at night, and immediately I got the feeling of something familiar, which was hard to explain since it was my first time in this country.

People living in Kosovo are kind, open and childishly credulous. They go to work, do their studies, celebrate big noisy weddings, give birth and raise children, walk the streets, build new towns and villages, pave the streets, and live a normal life. Although, in spite of all these usual things, a visitor to the city, and also the country as a whole, cannot avoid some tension, anxiety soaring in the air which must be caused by a terrible, ruthless war that these people endured just a while ago.

Several years of Kosovo conflict entailed massive repressions, killing of civilians and ethnic cleansing from both sides of the conflict. Today, it is pointless to ask who was wrong: the Serbs or the Albanians. The tragedy of Kosovo is very deep and probably understandable only by those who went through something similar.

In Kosovo, we are a group of women from the South Caucasus, a region torn by “frozen conflicts”: from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georga and break-away regions of Ablhazia and Nagorno-Karabach. We are here to meet local women who put a lot of effort to reach reconciliation between the two peoples – Serbs and Albanians.

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