In the words of Lindita Kozmaqi Piraj: “Domestic violence is no longer a taboo topic in our town”
For the last 14 years, Lindita Kozmaqi Piraj has been the gender equality and non-discrimination officer in the municipality of Dragash, located 83 kilometers from Pristina, the capital of Kosovo*. For the last decade, Ms. Piraj has also been the chair of the Local Coordination Mechanism against Domestic Violence, a mechanism that serves as a cross-agency platform to prevent and address cases of domestic violence with a coordinated approach. In this interview, Lindita Kozmaqi Piraj shares her insights on establishing and maintaining a functional local coordination mechanism, a topic which she also tackled during the Fourth Regional Forum on Ending Violence against Women in the Western Balkans and Türkiye “Integrated Policies, Inclusive Partnerships,” organized on 29-30 November, within the EU-funded regional programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds.”
“As an isolated area with a high number of cases of violence against women and stigma surrounding the topic, the need to establish a Coordination Mechanism against Domestic Violence in the municipality of Dragash was obvious. Thanks to the support provided by UN Women and the European Union - advice, capacity building, and technical support - we are grateful to be one of the very first such mechanisms established to fight against domestic violence through a multisectoral approach.
Now I can say that our biggest achievement is having a functional Mechanism against Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence in our town. Also, thanks to the tireless work of its members and support from the municipality and donors, we managed to push forward many municipal policies on domestic violence, such as the Strategy and Municipal Action Plan against Domestic Violence, which was first passed unanimously in the Municipal Assembly in 2013. Since then, we have regularly revised those policies to correspond with the actual needs and situation on the ground.
In November 2022, for the first time in Kosovo, the mayor signed a cooperation agreement with the women’s shelter in Prizren for financial support. Also, the owner of a company from our municipality agreed to support the shelter and its work.
Another top achievement is that domestic violence is no longer a taboo topic in Dragash. To achieve this, we had to work very hard, considering the very conservative and patriarchal worldview present in both institutions and society.
We have also developed some good practices. First, regular meetings and coordination activities, including sharing data and concerns with all actors, enable effective response measures towards challenges that may come along the way. Second, the inclusion of public figures like the mayor of the municipality in campaigns – for example, leading the march against violence against women or being part of a media message – has its own effect in a place like our municipality, specifically in raising institutional trust in the eyes of society.
However, I cannot fail to mention that our main challenge is the lack of policewomen in Dragash, which sets us back when it comes to reporting rates of domestic violence. Also, there is no psychologist employed within Municipality or at the Centre for Social Work, which prevents us from treating the psychological effects of physical violence as well as cases of psychological violence, which is more widespread than physical violence. Our municipality must have their own psychologists and more women in the police.
Another continuing challenge is the under-reporting of cases, so awareness-raising is an ongoing necessity. This is highlighted in our strategic objectives, and we do the best we can to make progress in this area within our very limited budget.
There is also room for improvement. To increase the efficiency of referral mechanisms and better support victims of violence, all institutions, especially members of the mechanism, need to be further supported with various and continuous trainings to help strengthen their skills.
There are also broader interventions that could support the fight against violence against women, such as the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence as well as the Istanbul Convention. To implement these policies, there should be regular coordination between central and local level authorities, meaningful and active participation in prevention and response activities from all actors involved including members of society and media, and continued donor support.”
* For the European Union, this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For UN Women, references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).