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DR. VJOSA OSMANI SADRIU
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO
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President Osmani's address at the “Improving access to social housing and economic empowerment initiatives for survivors of gender-based violence” conference

Dear Mr. Prime Minister Kurti
Honorable Ambassador Davenport
Honorable Ambassador Szunyog
Deputy Prime Minister Rexhepi,
Mrs. Minister Haxhiu,
Honorable municipality mayors,
Deputy Minister and all of you present,

Including all those present who are following us online in this discussion where we talk about an extremely important topic for the lives of our citizens, particularly to our women and our girls.

The reality is this: the safety of women is not guaranteed even within the walls of their homes. This fact has been further confirmed these last two years when the world is facing a pandemic and when gender-based violence has taken off.

It is already known that globally the number of victims of gender-based violence has reached its peak. Therefore, they are rightly referred to as a `shadow pandemic`. But we cannot
and should never be silent, nor just observe in the face of such a situation. Not only a reaction but we also need joint action without distinction against this global evil. Because silence and inaction against such a phenomenon makes us collaborators in this injustice.

Words are never sufficient on this engagement, so in this regard we must act concretely: we need to follow strict protocols for the rescue, rehabilitation and economic empowerment of survivors of gender-based violence.

Our society has proven many times throughout history that it knows how to overcome divisions and find the strength to face evil.

Therefore, today, in the face of this phenomenon, we should not be just observers and reporters, but ultimately also preventers.

A society will be safe only when women will feel safe at work, on the streets and in their homes. We, the institutions of the country, must offer and guarantee this security. However, reporting and addressing violence cannot be limited to the formal and legal aspects. We need to do more and understand more through analyzing the real causes and understanding the burden of consequences.

Providing support services to survivors is the least we can do as a society, it is the first level of response, it is a legal obligation, but above all, it is a human obligation.

The key step towards ensuring security is ensuring the security of a life lived with dignity, equality, and equal opportunities.

Therefore, in addition to emergency physical and mental health care, safe accommodation, psychosocial and legal counseling, sustainable housing and employment are critical to their long-term empowerment. There is no better protection for survivors of gender-based violence than their financial independence. This goal must be our daily goal. This would not only help women and girls on a personal level but also our society in general.

The pioneer of feminism, the writer Virginia Woolf, nearly a century ago said that for a woman to write literature, she must have money and a room of her own, these starting points of gender equality. The letter and the room of that time, are the education, independence and economic empowerment of our days.

Dear participants
The Kosovo Police report reveals an increase in gender-based violence in our country. In 2020, 2069 cases of violence were registered, while in the year we left behind 2456 cases. This increase should keep awake our consciousness and activism against gender-based violence, because from these cases of 2021, in 1986 cases, the victims are women and girls, while only 500 of them are boys and men.

Current statistics present an unpleasant picture, but we must not remain hostage to numbers, just as we must not stop trying to reduce these numbers every single day.

I am pleased that the Government has approved the National Strategy for Protection from Domestic Violence and Violence against Women for the years 2022 – 2025, an extremely important document and one of our main commitments for concrete action in this regard as well as the action plan that has come up with this strategy. While for some it can only be seen as an additional document, the fact that its approval was prioritized and realized within the committed period, as well as making the Istanbul Convention a guiding document makes me believe, and I really want to believe, that engagement in this regard will be treated with priority and urgency as it deserves.
To stop this violence epidemic, as we pledged at the United States Summit for Democracy, we will work to increase the minimum sentences for perpetrators by equating them with acts of terror – because domestic violence is terror, but unlike other acts, it is terror which the victim experiences continuously, every day of her life.

Finally, this effort should be accompanied by the improvement of the accompanying infrastructure for social housing and economic empowerment of survivors of gender-based violence.

Currently, there are only eight women's shelters run by non-governmental organizations throughout Kosovo. Ensuring financial and budgetary sustainability for shelters remains one of the most serious inherited problems, but definitely an obligation that we will all address as a priority and resolve soon.

Therefore, together, including the discussion at these roundtables, we should find a funding model for these shelters as a precondition for the dignified treatment of survivors of gender-based violence.

Such shelters make a comprehensive and important contribution to the reintegration of victims of domestic violence. In addition to accommodation and shelter, survivors also receive psychosocial or healthcare services. But most of all, they find a roof away from the roof of the house, under which they should have ultimately felt safe.
We must not allow double victimization of survivors of gender-based violence, so dignified and long-term housing and treatment is not the end of the commitment to them. We must move every stone to enable each of these survivors to generate the means of self-sufficiency, and we must support and strengthen their efforts and ambitions for independence and financial stability. We will fulfill this state obligation, when each of them, exactly each one, without leaving anyone behind will have a secure source of income, as a guarantee for their life stability, away from violence and protected from violence, and education and the necessary training to guarantee the sustainability of this independence, where they will also contribute to our society.

This economic empowerment means not only their security but also the avoidance of any possibility of re-abuse.

We must finally understand that the empowerment of women and gender equality contributes to a better and overall economic performance of society and our state and enable us to fulfill the goal of an inclusive and prosperous society.

Our goal is to have a humane, just and legal society where women alongside men contribute to a better Kosovo.
So, the fewer victims of gender-based violence, the more state stability, the more advanced and secure society, the more suitable environment for economic development and the higher and wider social welfare.

Finally, I want to say that, while access to and creation of opportunities for access to social housing is a proper and necessary step to contribute to addressing this phenomenon, it is the collective social commitment to ensure home security for every girl and woman, which will in turn provide a long-term solutions and serves as a prevention against this problem. The road ahead is long, but our will and determination to defend every life and to raise awareness in every stratum of society is unwavering.

Thank you!

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