Editorial: For the strength of Kosovo’s women

Every woman of this country has a valuable history of sacrifice, resistance, faith and hope. Histories which we might have heard, which we might have shared with one another with pride, or which we have asked to be acted upon in order not to allow similar histories to occur ever again.

There are hundreds of thousands more histories which make up the life of our society, which speak to us about our past and which determine our present day and the future awaiting us. Histories which we do not know about and often willingly chose not to hear about.

During these five years as the President of the country, I have had a special privilege and honour to hear many of these histories, to cry and to be happy with them, to feel pain and to feel pride, to draw strength and courage from them, to become one with them and to promise that I will work incessantly every single day in order for strength which they represent becomes the strength which moves our society forward.

In many different countries of the world I have shared the history of the women of Kosovo, of their powerful voice in times of war and resistance, of their stoic endeavours to break the isolation, to document crime, to ask the world to say stop to it, unbreakable and ready for every sacrifice in order to protect their families and the country, to protect all of us.

I have listened with exceptional emotions also to the stories of many of our friends about the strength and pride they had seen in Kosovo’s women, those who had articulated and defended the rights of all citizens as well as those they had met in many refugee camps, in times when we had lost almost every single thing.
I have refused to, and as a matter of fact I still do, that this value of our society which must make us all feel proud every single day, be silent about, or remember it only on a single day like today, international women’s day.

Today, when we enjoy the freedom, when we are honouring the sacrifice of many generations, when we are building our state with lots of toil, we must remember that we resisted together for centuries, and therefore we must work much more today in order to continue this journey of our state building, the same way we started it, together, and to accept that this country belongs to us all.

Two years ago, on this day, I took a decision to lead the institutional and social discourse on one of the gravest consequences of war upon the innocent population of our country, a macabre crime of war which turned the bodies of thousands of our citizens into battlefields.

I decided to do this because we had kept silent for too long about this side of our history, making it a forbidden and secret part of our history, turning it to become unjustly a history of shame which weighed upon the shoulders and the souls of the victims and not upon those who perpetrated this crime.

I will always remember that day with pride, the first meeting of the National Council of the Survivors of Sexual Violence during the War, because together, institutions and civil society, we changed the course of our history, we recognized the sexual violence as a crime of war, we called the victims survivors with respect and by publicly recognizing, as never before, their sacrifice and the injustice committed upon them.

We promised to undertake every single measure to enable the rehabilitation, re-integration and re-socialization of the survivors of sexual violence during the war, to ask for justice for them. We relied upon our greatest value, not to leave anyone behind.

During these two years, through the Council we managed to demolish once and for all the institutional and social silence, the taboo in addressing of this war crime and we worked incessantly to fight the stigma which still surrounds this crime.

We managed to offer legal recognition for the survivors, to offer them conditions and good psycho-social and healthcare services, to compile a clear action plan in order to ease their access to justice and ro offer them more and more opportunities for economic empowerment.

We turned the world’s eyes on this crime of war which had occurred in Kosovo and we asked the world to recognize and punish it, by becoming part of global initiatives to prevent the use of sexual violence as a tool of war.

Through the Council we managed to accomplish a lot, pinpoint long term objectives for fair and dignified treatment of the survivors of sexual violence during the war, by offering to the countries of the world faced by similar consequences the good example on how should a society treat its survivors, by taking it under the leadership of the highest institution of the land, that of the President.

But, the institutions of the country have still a lot to do in order to fulfil all the obligations they have towards the survivors of sexual violence during the war. I expect that all the institutions of the country remain vigilant and undertake the implementations of all their obligations.

By now I expect that Government of the country fulfils its obligations and establish as soon as possible the Governmental Committee on recognition and verification and that the process of the legal recognition of the legal status of the survivors of sexual violence during the war and distribution of benefits as foreseen by law are implemented. Every delay on this issue is a loss of trust, trust which we have gained with so much toil.

I expect that the justice system of the country shall continue its endeavours and determination to offer the survivors the necessary protection and deserved access to justice in the future as well.

I expect that they continue the undertaking of steps in integration of survivors of sexual violence during the war in the whole legal framework in a dignified and equal manner, as we have done with all other war categories.

We must continue to ask for more engagement from the international community in order to recognize the crime of sexual violence which was perpetrated during the war in Kosovo and punishment for the perpetrators.

And above all, I expect and ask for, is that whole of our society recognizes this war crime, to respect the sacrifice of the survivors and to continue to support their engagements to build a life in peace, away from this crime.

I dedicate today’s day to them, to their strength, to the respect for them, by letting them know that I shall not cease to offer my support until the full realization of all of their rights. I will be always grateful for opening their hearts to me, for making me a part of them.

They no longer whisper, they now speak clearly, in a loud voice, asking for justice.
And it is our obligation too, that they continue to speak clearly, within the country and abroad, as institutions, as a society, that we shall not stop asking for justice for the victims of sexual violence during the war in Kosovo, and that we shall not stop until the full realization of all of their rights.

We must not stop until justice has been served.

A society which knows to take pride in values of its citizens, their sacrifice and their strength, is a society which can face every single challenge, in its vision for the future. I have complete trust in our society.

Atifete Jahjaga
President of the Republic of Kosovo

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