CARE’s work in Kosovo – from humanitarian aid to changing gender norms
In February 1998, 20 years ago, armed conflict broke out in Kosovo, then a province of Serbia. The war continued for 16 months with devastating impacts on communities and families. A year into the conflict, in April 1999, about 600,000 residents of Kosovo had become refugees, the majority fleeing to Albania and Macedonia. Another 400,000 were displaced inside Kosovo. The numbers were staggering and meant that half of the two million residents of Kosovo had lost their homes. CARE had been present in the region to respond to the humanitarian needs of earlier wars in the Balkans, namely the Bosnia war that started in 1992. During and after the conflict, CARE provided emergency assistance in camps, including food, shelter and medical assistance.
Returning to zero
In the summer of 1999, when the conflict ended, over 850,000 people started returning to their shattered homes. A big concern were landmines that had been planted across the region. Emergency shelters for returnees were set up with CARE setting up one-fifth of the total shelters. CARE also provided firewood and building materials, agricultural tools, seeds and other support for families to build back their lives. CARE also worked to clear areas of landmines and unexploded devices.
Today, while many families still live as refugees in neighbouring countries, those who have returned to Kosovo struggle to make ends meet. Tensions remain between ethnic Albanians and Serbs that both call Kosovo home. The legacy of war has been entrenched deeply into society, and economic progress is slow. Kosovo is a young nation: over 40 percent of the population is below the age of 25. Young adults have few opportunities for jobs in the official labour market. Emigration is an omnipresent desire and the European Union draws many migrants from Kosovo. Remittances from those living abroad support represent almost 15 percent of the GDP, according to World Bank statistics.
Today, CARE is still active in Kosovo, supporting economic opportunities and putting a special focus on youth and gender roles and promoting peace and understanding across all groups. We support local farmers, agricultural producers and food processing companies to improve the quality and marketability of products. And since 2007, together with partners across the region, CARE actively works to engage young men to overcome traditional gender roles and prevent violence.
“Be a man – change diapers!”
Through social clubs, workshops, positive role models and public campaigns, the Young Men Initiative offers an alternative to the limits of what masculinity traditionally means in the region. The Young Men Initiative has since received a number of awards including the Global Education Network Europe award for excellence in innovation. In Kosovo, the project works in the capital of Pristina and in Mitrovica. CARE actively engages with schools, universities and ministries to spread the learning. The learning manual that has been designed by the Young Men Initiative has been officially accredited by the Ministry of Education and is being used to train teachers, professors and other leaders.
But the Young Men Initiative also relies strongly on public engagement to change mindsets: In 2016, a campaign called “Super Babai – Super tata - Super Dad” was launched. CARE and its partner organizations, PEN network, Pristina and Sinergija from Mitrovica reached out to 2,500 fathers from humble backgrounds, encouraging them to play an active role in raising their children. “I always say that there is no law that is going to make you get up at 2 AM in the morning to calm your crying baby”, says CARE’s coordinator for the project in Kosovo, Besnik Leka. “You just have to know it’s your job.”
In Kosovo, CARE works almost exclusively through local partners and social networks. Our goal is to support the people of Kosovo in living a life free from violence, harmful gender stereotypes and economic hardship.
Please support CARE’s work -> Donate here
CARE’s work in Kosovo is kindly supported by ADA – Austrian Development Agency, the European Union and the OAK Foundation.
Follow CARE’s work in Kosovo and the Balkans:
Young Men Initiative
Regional Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/youngmeninitiative/
Kosovo Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KlubiBonuBurre/
For more of our work in Kosovo, click here.