Responding to the spread of radicalisation in the Western Balkans, Women without Borders (WwB) is currently implementing its ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ Model in Kosovo under the umbrella of a multi-country project funded by the L’Oréal Fund for Women. This ongoing MotherSchools project builds on a previous successful roll-out as part of WwB’s international ‘MotherSchools 2020’ project, as well as programmes implemented in sixteen other countries to date. WwB’s growing Parenting for Peace movement builds resilience in homes and communities that are vulnerable to violent extremism and heightens global awareness of mothers as changemakers and agents of prevention.
In the Western Balkans, messages of religious militancy have resonated profoundly with vulnerable youth populations and gained considerable traction in isolated communities over the past decade. Kosovo’s capital of Pristina, which has high concentrations of Albanian-speaking adolescents and young adults, has been particularly susceptible to past recruitment efforts by ISIS. Violent extremist groups have taken advantage of voids in and pressures on identities that have been and continue to be shaped by struggles with the lingering legacies of violent conflict and a history of shifting geopolitical circumstance. Since recruiters have immersed themselves in and paid particular attention to Kosovo’s complex social-political makeup to effectively target and radicalise vulnerable youth, it boasts some of Europe’s highest per capita rate of individuals who left to fight in Iraq and Syria. The recent wave of returnees to Kosovo threatens to introduce new toxic ideologies, exacerbate the issue in already affected areas, and bring violent extremism into other communities across the region.
Since 2018, Women Without Borders (WwB) has been implementing MotherSchools in Kosovo in cooperation with its local implementing partner Jahjaga Foundation. The first project, ‘MotherSchools 2020’ ran from 2018-2020 in Kacanik and Pristina. The current project, planned to run between 2021 and 2024, includes another three rounds of MotherSchools in Kosovo. The first round took place in 2021 in Fushë Kosovo and Pristina, the second round was in Klina in 2022, and the third round is currently being implemented in Pristina in 2024. The following sections outline further details of the two MotherSchools projects in Kosovo.
To date, WwB has hosted three Graduation ceremonies in Kosovo. Prominent speakers have included: President Atifete Jahjaga (Former President of Kosovo, Founder of Jahjaga Foundation), Përparim Rama (Mayor of Municipality of Prishtina), Edit Gusia (Agency for Gender Equality), and Georgia Holmer (Senior Associate Fellow, RUSI; former OSCE and USIP).
MotherSchools II-IV| 2021-present
WwB returned to Kosovo in 2021 as part of a multi-country project funded by the L’Oréal Fund for Women. This project, which also includes rollouts in Bangladesh, India, and Zanzibar, foresees three rounds of MotherSchools in Kosovo between 2021 and 2024. The first round in 2021 focused on Fushë Kosovo and Pristina, and a second iteration in the municipality of Klina was implemented in 2022. The third round is currently being rolled out in Pristina and the graduation ceremony is expected in the first half of 2024.
Interest in the MotherSchools programme continues to flourish in Kosovo. Following the initial project implementation in 2018-2020, WwB considered the monitoring data and testimonies from participants to gauge how future engagement could capitalise on the capacity and momentum that WwB has built through the programme in Kosovo. Based on the findings, WwB recommended targeting more remote and rural communities, a goal that is being successfully met through the current project with rounds in Fushë Kosovo and Klina. Further recommendations included deepening the MotherSchools impact through additional iterations in original sites of implementation and involving husbands more decidedly in the ‘Parenting for Peace’ Model.
MotherSchools I | 2018-2020
During the initial MotherSchools iteration in Kosovo, WwB trained a pool of local professionals in Kaçanik and Pristina as MotherSchools Teachers and Notetakers who went on to deliver the Curriculum to mothers who were concerned that their community environment could make their children susceptible to radicalisation. Despite numerous challenges and setbacks brought about by the global pandemic, upon graduating, the mothers as participants had each received at least forty hours of training to become role models and prevention stakeholders in their families and communities. The Curriculum, which employed developmental psychology, self-confidence training, and theoretical sessions, guided the mothers in developing their competence and confidence at the individual, family, and community levels. Evidence of this progress was supported by findings from a qualitative data analysis of semi-structured Entry and Exit Interviews conducted before and after the programme. This ‘MotherSchools 2020’ project, funded by the US Department of State, also included WwB MotherSchools roll-outs in Bangladesh, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.