The goal of the association is improvement of physical, mental health and living conditions of Kosovar women traumatized as a result of experiencing all kinds of violence during and after the war, with special focus on assisting women who survived sexualized violence, regardless from their nationality, religion and sexual orientation. Reduction of symptoms enables integration of these women in the society.
“Medica Kosova” is established in Aug 1999 and registered as a local NGO since Oct 2003 for improving mental and physical situation of women affected by war. The support consists of psychosocial counseling, legal assistance and medical care in the center ambulance and the mobile unit traveling to the villages of Dukagjini Region. To this end, the organization implemented over 30 projects providing social and rehabilitation services, reproductive health care, women’s access to properties and other legal rights and since 2011 access to justice and documentation of war rape.
In 2006 and through 2009, Medica Kosova started developing income-generating agricultural activities since most of the beneficiaries are women farmers who lost their husbands and/or their sons during the war. With the delivery of cows, bees and tractors by the organization, 136 women achieved to generate average monthly incomes of 250 – 350 Euro, depending on the number of bees, cows and pieces of land they owned.
During 2011-2013, Medica Kosova for the first time covered empowerment of elderly women for promoting gender equality through an EU funded project that enabled opening of a Daily Center for elderly women. 50 elderly women and 90 widows and survivors of rape participated in joint center activities covering mainly gender equality education, psychosocial, legal and medical assistance; while 30 elderly women were actively involved in humanitarian activities by distributing clothing to the needy families they produced through knitting in the center.
During 2012 to 2013 the organization implemented a project aiming at addressing the status of survivors of rape supported by UN Women Office in Kosovo. The project - covering direct counseling, advocacy training for CSOs, a roundtable in Prishtina and preparation of the advocacy strategy - involved 70 women participating in the activities. Moreover 30 survivors supported the baseline study that delivered the OHCHR publication “Healing the Spirit” while the advocacy strategy was later used for claiming legal recognition of the survivors of sexual violence. Although these rights have been addressed for the first time during 2007 when a six-month campaign with a petition, roundtables and direct involvement of the women MPs took place with the UNIFEM support, the status of survivors of rape could not enter the governmental agenda due to priority of settling the political status of Kosova. Since then, Medica Kosova never stopped requesting the amendment of the existing Law for the recognition of rape survivors as civilian victims of war until it was finally approved during March 2014.
Another project aiming at de-stigmatizing sexual violence and redressing the rights of survivors during 2013 to 2014 was supported by Kvinna till Kvinna through activities covering awareness workshops of the survivors about legislation, their joint art therapy with elderly women, exchange meetings with survivors from Bosnia and exhibition opening of the paintings made by women in the project. 74 paintings delivered during art sessions were exhibited in Kosovo, London during the Global Summit in June 2014, and recently in Stockholm in the premises of Kvinna till Kvinna and the Swedish Post-Code Lottery.
Apart from rehabilitation and advocacy programs, Medica Kosova is the first NGO that addressed access to justice and documentation of rape as a war crime. This support starting from mid of 2011, continued during 2013 and 2014 with a project funded by the Finish Embassy with direct empowerment of the survivors to access justice, their legal preparation to testify and regular consultations with EULEX Investigators. The program covering 68 survivors supported also their economic empowerment through distribution of bees and capacity building in bee-care and honey collection as part of reparation and motivation of women to enter this painful process.
Documentation of war rape for the 3 witnesses was one of the key results achieved with this particular project. However, the organization continues with 2 other witnesses who approached the EULEX Investigator during the end of last year despite the official closing of the project in Feb 2014. To this end, two arrest orders for the perpetrators of rape were issued by EULEX Prosecution based on testimony provided by Medica Kosova women.
Since 1999 until the end of 2014, Medica Kosova supported over 6,700 women with above-mentioned programs, out of which over 1,023 women received psycho-social and legal support while more than 5,100 women visited the mobile and center gynaecological ambulance, including 300 women from RAE community. Out of this total number, 156 women are outspoken survivors of sexual violence during the war and 68 of them continue to come regularly to the center and attend rehabilitation and empowerment activities.
Currently the organization is supporting 110 women with an EU funded project addressing the status of single mothers and their empowerment and capacity building to become an “Association of Single Mothers” at national level.
Although the women demonstrate clear symptoms of war and post-war trauma related to sexual violence, Medica Kosova does not push the women to tell their stories until they are prepared to do so. Supporting their empowerment through working with their symptoms in building trauma-coping mechanisms is one of the key methodologies the organization applies during the work with women.
When organizing counseling sessions with women it is important to create a safe place where they feel secure and relaxed. This is why Medica center has arranged the counseling rooms to enable the women find this security, furthermore break their family and social isolation, and have their own space of reflection and operation. Having regular massages and balanced exercises either prior or after the sessions supports the women to have their muscles and neurological situation significantly relaxed and improved.
The methods used for trauma counseling groups aim at reconnecting the women more deeply to emotions in addressing loss and violence before, during and after the war. By using different symbols (colored stones, colored paper, etc) mK counselors aim at facilitating the women to speak about specific periods of their lives and pick up a symbol that characterizes that period. Looking at the stones or other symbols while describing their traumatic experiences, women can avoid eye contact with the others that helps them opening up especially during the first counseling sessions.
The work in the counseling groups is carried out on the basis of the four phases model of the trauma expert Judith I. Lewis which mK adapted to Kosovar context:
Phase 1: Security;
Phase 2: Stability;
Phase 3: Trauma confrontation through a) conscious remembering, b) mourning;
Phase 4: Integration of the traumatic experience in biography.
Succesful implementation of the four phases of rehabilitation leads to effective reconnection of traumatized women and girls with their families and communities, which relations and structures are significantly broken because of the trauma and stigma affecting the women.
Group training allows interactive approach among the women and their mutual sharing of experiences at personal level. mK trainers and lawyer use a simple professional language and practical examples to facilitate the women’s deep understanding on the issue. Besides, the division of women in smaller working groups supports their brainstorming with original ideas on the topics treated and supports them to develop skills and have their self-confidence and self-esteem increased.
Confidentiality is one of the key working principles of Medica Kosova while working with survivors of rape and presenting their situation in public. While presenting and documenting the collected data of women with codes, the same approach is applied during public activities necessary for awareness raising and advocacy actions taken to improve the situation of women.
Trust building between Medica staff and the women is one of most important phases before any rehabilitation or other components of support take place.
Most of the women who survived rape and some of them loss of their husbands and/or sons during the war live under hard social living conditions due to having also the burden of supporting their children and in-laws who continue to live in the same house. This situation of women, coming from rural areas with multi-fold trauma and facing poverty, required implementation of income-generating activities in the sector of agriculture where women had optimum resources to be involved.
This combination of trauma work and development of agricultural activities has significantly improved their social situation and rehabilitation through an increased decision-making power within their families and communities.