This week has been short (work-wise) but perhaps has been the most exciting week yet. On Tuesday, I attended a report launch on Men’s Perspective on Gender Equality in Kosovo led by the OSCE and UNFPA and the rest of the week, I was lucky enough to take time off from work and travel to Vienna, Austria to explore the city and visit my best friend.
The project that I’m working on with KIPRED has become more… codified. We’re looking into: (1) challenges that LGBTI members face when trying to access justice, (2) Gender-based violence, and (3) Women’s property rights–all in the scope of Kosovo. My first couple of weeks have been devoted to familiarizing myself to the available data on the first two issues… and then I started to hit a wall. Data and literature is particularly scarce on gender-based violence in the Balkan Region (around the world, really), but especially in Kosovo. It is one of the many underreported and under-researched yet pressing issues in the country, which is precisely why KIPRED is pursuing this project. The most recent research available on GBV was conducted in 2013 by Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), which is now considered outdated. I began to get thrown into a loop of looking into domestic violence, which is a kind of gender based violence, but doesn’t cover the entire scope of it. I was warned before doing beginning the research, but that didn’t make it easier or less frustrating when I started to slow down.
Despite the hick up, things have still been exciting at work, especially after attending the report launch. I met an alumnus from the University of Michigan–Dearborn who is currently serving her final year as a Peace Corps. volunteer in Kosovo and happened to be in the city for the Feminist Art Festival and chanced on the event. She saw my UMID, while I was picking it up to return the translator headsets and introduced herself! It was such an interesting experience to be able to engage with the larger research community that looks into the similar issues KIPRED is looking into (meeting a Michigan Wolverine is a bonus!). Talking to my coworkers has also allowed me to gain a lot of insight in terms of how large organizations work in contrast to how smaller institutions work, such as the one I’m working for.
I’ve been immensely enjoying my time here in Kosovo, especially since meeting more locals. I’ve since been adopted into a group of friends who are involved in a local organization called the UN Youth Task Force, which aims to empower young Kosavars to engage in local issues. I’ve had the most humbling and (politically) engaged conversations with these friends. They’ve shared their experiences as children growing up (at 4-5 years old) during the war and how they’ve strove to get to where they are. Despite the fact that it is difficult for Kosavars to travel outside the country (travel is restricted to the region and other visas to other countries are expensive and not guaranteed), a couple of my friends have obtained their education abroad (US, Italy) by winning scholarships. And in whatever they do, the interest of their country is constantly in the back of their minds and this is certainly evident in the work they’ve been putting in in the UN Youth Task Force. This group’s perseverance and desire to be a better generation is inspiring. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine within the group and by this I mean I’ve listened to and been in conversations with someone with strong opposing views. Passionate – yes. Respectful – yes. I’ve been lucky to have been accepted into my new little Kosovar family, and I’m excited to have created such a network here.