By Sarah Davoren
UNV Volunteer in Kosovo
Having worked with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for almost a year in Kosovo, I would like to share some of my experiences with the readers of the UNV blog.
Upon arrival in UNFPA I was immediately impressed by the enthusiasm and direction evident in Kosovo, where the UN agencies are working in a diplomatic quagmire to move forward and improve vital statistics in development.
As Kosovo approaches its two year anniversary of the self-declaration of independence; the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is being scaled down and handed over to the EU; the work of the UN agencies continues to be vital to support the most vulnerable people of the region.
The UNFPA office in Pristina carries out impressive work and together with the government and local partners is tackling the grave problems of access to and standards of Sexual and Reproductive Health care; Gender Based Violence and a lack of Census or other statistics to form the basis for population planning and policy.
Kosovo is a small country with an estimated population of 2 million; it also has the youngest population in Europe; over 50% of Kosovars are under 25 years and 21% is between 15 and 25 years. The male/female ratio is almost 50:50. Indeed, a young country, a young population. However what struck me most about these statistics is that when I read them next to the UNFPA research on Gender Based Violence in Kosovo it was clear to me that the young women and girls of this young and enthusiastic post-conflict generation are actually living in oppression and are denied their rights on a daily basis.
Recent research funded by UNFPA and carried out by the Kosova Women’s Network revealed that most women know about contraception, but few living in violent home situations can use it. Half of the women interviewed were “often” pressured to have sex without contraception. Nearly 40 % had at least one abortion, and nine underwent two or more abortions. Half had been prevented regularly by their partner or family members from visiting doctors or gynecologists.
Equally shocking is the fact that of 47 pregnant women experiencing violence, 87 % suffered violence during pregnancy. One third were prevented from visiting the doctor during pregnancy. Eight had two or more miscarriages. 73 % of professionals had encountered pregnant women experiencing violence. Violence resulted in injuries to the foetus, miscarriages, low infant birth-weight, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.
But there is a growing awareness of these problems thanks to the efforts of UNFPA; a dynamic and motivated Kosovar theatre group – ‘Artpolis’ have developed a theatre performance to highlight the issues of domestic and Gender Based Violence. With the involvement of young women and girls the performance is set in ‘the kitchen’ where women tell their stories of abuse and drawing attention using these stories to the different methods of empowerment.
Such an innovative method of marking International Women’s Day is to be commended. I believe that the work of the UNFPA Kosovo team will be effective and that the lives of women and girls in Kosovo will improve; moreover, I hope that when the much delayed census does eventually take place that we will see less startling statistics when it comes to Gender Based Violence.