Violence against women is still one of the major challenges we face in achieving a just and peaceful society. It is a violation of human rights; it endangers and harms the physical and mental health of women and has far-reaching effects on their children and society as a whole. In a representative study in Kosovo from 2015 with a sample of 1.300 women, 68% – more than two thirds – say they have been affected by violence (Kosovo Women’s Network, 2015, 37). At the legislative level, progress has been made in Kosovo and women’s rights organizations have also contributed to raising awareness. Thus far, support has been focused primarily on women directly affected by violence. But sustainable violence prevention must start in advance to break the cycle.
In response to and with the aim to end this violence, Women without Borders developed the prevention project “My Story – Our Capital” to support women in breaking the taboo on the phenomenon of violence against women and to question the silence and social stigma. The project will bring the women together in Story Telling Circles, offering a safe space to address their own experiences of violence and to break through the strongest barrier – individual isolation – by capitalising on group dynamics, trust, and bonding. Through these regular meetings, the participants will build up self-confidence, which is often impaired by latent or manifest experiences of violence. The women will be encouraged to respect and stand up for themselves, as shame and disgrace can only be overcome through empathy and a willingness to be open. The fears and experiences of violence will no longer be a subjective problem that must remain in the private sphere, but instead a social and societal challenge that we need to address together.
The “My Story – Our Capital” project is being piloted in Kosovo in the cities of Mitrovica and Vusthrri. Working with local implementing partner The Jahjaga Foundation, the first round of Story Telling Circles will begin in the first quarter of 2023. The second round, expected to follow later in 2023, will take into account the successes and the challenges of the first iteration to further refine the project and reach more women in the prevention of gender-based violence.