Kosovo: Situation of single women in Pristina, including their ability to access employment, housing, and social services; whether Catholic Albanian women would face particular challenges accessing housing, employment and social services when relocating to Pristina from a different area of Kosovo
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||8 April 2013|
|Citation / Document Symbol||KOS104350.E|
|Related Document||Kosovo : information sur la situation des femmes célibataires à Pristina, y compris leur accès à l'emploi, au logement et aux services sociaux; information indiquant si les femmes catholiques albanaises auraient des difficultés particulières à accéder au logement, à l'emploi et aux services sociaux lorsqu'elles s'installent à Pristina en provenance d'une autre région du Kosovo|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Kosovo: Situation of single women in Pristina, including their ability to access employment, housing, and social services; whether Catholic Albanian women would face particular challenges accessing housing, employment and social services when relocating to Pristina from a different area of Kosovo , 8 April 2013, KOS104350.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5188f45d4.html [accessed 20 January 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
1. Gender Equality Legislation
Several sources characterize Kosovo as a "patriarchal" society (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013; Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013; Freedom House 2012). Sources indicate that Kosovo's Gender Equality Law of 2004 provides the legal framework for equal treatment, but that its implementation has been problematic (Kosovo 2012, 23-24; KGSC 27 Mar. 2013; YIHR Dec. 2012, 8-9, 13). According to the Republic of Kosovo's Ombudsperson Institution, which has a Gender Equality Unit to review gender-related complaints in accordance with the law, gender inequality "is very much present" in most societal and institutional aspects of life in Kosovo (Kosovo 2012, 23). The Ombudsperson's Institution, in its 2011 annual report, explained that their office can only make recommendations after examining complaints and claimed that the Law on Gender Equality "continues to remain only a letter on the paper, which is inapplicable in the practice by the judicial and administrative bodies" (ibid., 24). Similarly, the Office of the Prime Minister's Agency for Gender Equality states that equal rights between genders is "restricted not only by patriarchal mentality, but also difficulties in the implementation of laws" (Kosovo , 105). According to the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center, economic conditions, disparities in educational levels, and cultural and traditional influences have restricted women from achieving the equality prescribed by the law (KGSC Mar. 2011, 15).
2. Situation of Single Women in Pristina
2.1. Access to Employment
Sources indicate that unemployment is a problem for women in Kosovo (UN 20 Mar. 2013; ibid. n.d.; Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013). While estimates of the unemployment rate among the general population in Kosovo range from 40 percent (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013) to 44 percent (Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013; INPO et al. Oct. 2011, 36) or 45 percent (UN 20 Mar. 2013), estimates of the unemployment rate among women range from approximately 60 percent (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013; INPO et al. Oct. 2011, 36; UN 20 Mar. 2013) to as high as 70 percent (KGSC Mar. 2011, 17) or 75 percent (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013). Two sources indicate that only 35 percent of women actively participate in the labour force (KGSC Mar. 2011, 17; KWBA Sept. 2011, 6). In addition, two sources indicate that only 12 percent of women in the labour force have permanent full-time work (UN n.d.; KWBA Sept. 2011, 6).
Sources report that it is more difficult for women to find employment than men (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013; Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Ombudsperson Institution stated that women have a "marginalized position" within the labour market, and describes them as the "most vulnerable" group affected by the economic situation (ibid.). Likewise, the UN Development Program describes women as one of the "most disadvantaged" groups in the labour market (UN n.d.). The Kosovo Director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), in correspondence with the Research Directorate, explained that the reason why it is "extremely difficult" for women to find employment is because the Kosovar labour market is "dominated by patriarchal structures where the male is considered as the main breadwinner and therefore has priority over getting jobs" (14 Mar. 2013). Similarly, Freedom House reports that women have limited access to employment and education due to "patriarchal attitudes" (2012). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center said that women are mainly expected to stay at home, although some work (KGSC 27 Mar. 2013). Kosovar governmental sources indicate that women in Kosovo are less educated than men and have a higher rate of illiteracy (Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013; ibid. , 107). The European Commission expressed concern that there are low numbers of women represented in key sectors of society (EU 12 Oct. 2011, 40).
According to a progress report by seven Kosovo-based NGOs, women in Kosovo face employment discrimination (INPO et al. Oct. 2011, 34). The representative of the Ombudsperson Institution reported that sometimes jobs are advertised specifying gender as a condition for employment (Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013). The Ombudsperson Institution also received complaints from women who lost their job contracts when they got pregnant (ibid. 2012, 25). The Executive Director of the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center noted that young married women have particular difficulty obtaining employment in the private sector because of a law that requires one-year's pay for maternity leave (KGSC 27 Mar. 2013). In addition, Kosovo's Agency for Gender Equality notes that women are paid less than men and face a greater risk of losing their jobs (Kosovo , 109). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Program Manager and Lead Researcher of the Kosova Women's Network indicated that women in Kosovo tend to be employed in lower paying, non-decision making positions, such as secretaries or salespersons (KWN 28 Mar. 2013). Sources indicate that less than 5 percent (US 24 May. 2012, 22) or 6 percent (KGSC Mar. 2011, 17) of businesses in Kosovo are owned by women.
In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Peace and Governance Advisor for Regional Program at UN Women in Kosovo noted that women who are looking for jobs in Pristina can go to the Bureau of Employment, but that it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the "lucky" ones to be offered employment (UN 20 Mar. 2013). She explained that, while unemployment is a "huge problem" for women in general, it affects young women in particular since the majority of Kosovo's population is under 30 years of age (ibid.). Sources corroborate that unemployment is particularly high among youth (Express 22 Sept. 2012; UN n.d.; EU 12 Oct. 2011, 39).
2.2. Access to Housing
Sources indicate that single women do not legally require a co-signer to rent an apartment in Pristina (UN 20 Mar. 2013; BIRN 14 Mar. 2013; Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013). The representative of the Ombudsperson Institute noted that they have not received any complaints regarding housing discrimination against single women and expressed the view that if a woman was employed and could afford an apartment in Pristina,she would not need a co-signer (ibid.). Representatives from three different women's organizations in Kosovo corroborate that women generally do not experience discrimination when trying to rent an apartment in Pristina (KGSC 27 Mar. 2013; KWN 28 Mar. 2013; UN 20 Mar. 2013). Sources indicate that landlords are accustomed to renting apartments to female students who come to Pristina to study (ibid.; KGSC 27 Mar. 2013). Sources also note that it is common for female students to share apartments (UN 20 Mar. 2013; KWN 28 Mar. 2013), particularly with someone they know, such as a friend or cousin (ibid.). However, the advisor at UN Women in Kosovo explained that the apartments in Pristina are expensive and that it would be difficult for a single woman without money or employment to rent one (UN 20 Mar. 2013).
The Kosovo Director of BIRN said that single women are pressured by their families and society not to rent on their own or live on their own in Kosovo, in order not to appear "'immoral'" (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013). She also explained that it is not typical for single women to rent apartments on their own, as it is difficult for them to get jobs and to prove to the landlord that they are able to pay the rent (ibid.). She noted that single women frequently have men sign the rental contracts for them in order to have "a more convincing case" to rent the apartment (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
2.3 Access to Social Services
Sources describe social services in Kosovo as "very poor" (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013) or "very weak" (UN 20 Mar. 2013). According to the UN Women advisor, everyone has access to social services, including single women, but "basic needs are not fulfilled by the state" (ibid.). She said that there is no health insurance in Kosovo, but that everyone is allowed to receive services at the public hospitals (ibid.). Similarly, the Executive Director of the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center said that women have equal access to social services, but that many of the systems for social services were destroyed during the war and are being rebuilt slowly (KGSC 27 Mar. 2013). According to the BIRN director, the education and health care systems in particular suffer from "nepotism and corruption" and most people need to have political connections or pay bribes to receive services that are supposed to be free (14 Mar. 2013).
According to the Kosova Women's Network's Program Manager and Lead Researcher, gender-based discrimination in accessing social services has been reported, but there is little data available on the subject (KWN 28 Mar. 2013).
2.4 Property Rights
Sources indicate that customary law and tradition dictate that women do not inherit property, even though the law calls for women to have equal rights to inheritance (Kosovo 2012, 25; US 24 May 2012, 23; Balkan Insight 21 Apr. 2010). These customs reportedly date back to the Code of Lekë Dukagjini (ibid.; KGSC Mar. 2011, 22), a medieval code that has set rules, norms and punishments that many Albanians in northern Albania and Kosovo follow (Balkan Insight 21 Apr. 2010). Eight percent of property is reportedly owned by women (KWBA Sept. 2011; KGSC Mar. 2011, 17). Two sources note that the lack of assets affects a woman's ability to obtain bank credit and to act independently from men in the economy (ibid.; Balkan Insight 21 Apr. 2010). According to the Ombudsperson Institute, there are many cases in which women who request their right to property are subject to physical and psychological threats by their husbands or male relatives (Kosovo 2012, 25). According to a study by the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center, the inheritance law lacks a mechanism to enforce or execute decisions made by the court, causing women to abandon their inheritance rights (KGSC Mar. 2011, 24).
3. Situation of women moving from other areas of Kosovo to Pristina
Representatives from the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center and the Kosova Women's Network expressed the opinion that women moving to Pristina from other areas of Kosovo would not face additional barriers accessing housing, employment and social services, other than "gender-based stereotypes" (KWN 28 Mar. 2013) or having less information about accessing services (KGSC 27 Mar. 2013).
The BIRN Kosovo director explained that although there are no legal barriers, "social and cultural barriers run completely against a single woman" relocating to Pristina (14 Mar. 2013). She expressed the opinion that it would be "extremely difficult" for someone who does not have money, political connections or social connections to find employment or access social services in Pristina (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013). In addition, the BIRN Kosovo director said that, due to the long waiting list, it would be "almost impossible" for a single woman moving to Pristina to be able to access social housing, which she described as "the only affordable housing" for someone without a job (ibid.).
The representative from the Ombudsperson Institution explained that Pristina, as the capital city, is "overloaded" with people, particularly with those displaced after the war (Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013). As a result, she claimed it would be "very difficult" for single women to relocate and access housing, employment and social services, especially for those coming from rural areas (ibid.).
The Advisor at UN Women said that single women with money would not face barriers relocating to Pristina, but that a woman relocating without money or a job "cannot survive" (UN 20 Mar. 2013). She noted that there are no programs or shelters available to single women relocating to Pristina (ibid.). She expressed the opinion that a single woman relocating without personal or financial support would be in danger of becoming a victim of human trafficking or prostitution since internal trafficking is a "big problem" (ibid.). Freedom House corroborates that human trafficking occurs in Kosovo, noting that it is a source, destination and transit point of smuggled people (2012).
4. Situation for single Albanian Catholic women who move to Pristina
Sources describe Kosovar society as "secular" (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013; UN 20 Mar. 2013; The Irish Times 12 Apr. 2012). According to Catholic News Service, Catholic Kosovars have a long history in Kosovo and have had "positive relations" with their Kosovar Muslim neighbours (9 Feb. 2009). The representative from the Ombudsperson Institution stated that they have not received any complaints of discrimination against Albanian Catholics (Kosovo 22 Mar. 2013). According to the advisor for UN Women, Albanian Catholics would not face discrimination in Pristina and would have access to the same social services as others (UN 20 Mar. 2013). Representatives from the Kosovo Women's Network and the Kosovar Center for Gender Studies also expressed the opinion that religion would not be a factor in accessing services (KWN 28 Mar. 2013; KGSC 27 Mar. 2013).
For her part, the BIRN Kosovo director explained that Albanian Catholic women are an "extreme minority" in Kosovo, and because there are so few of them, it is unlikely that one "would have the right family and political connections that are needed to set her up in equal status to others" in Pristina (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013). She explained that despite the secular nature of Kosovar society, "family connections are what matters" and that there are few Catholic families living in Pristina to provide social support to someone new to the city (ibid.). The UN advisor said that it would be difficult for an Albanian Catholic woman to relocate without support from her family (UN 20 Mar. 2013) In contrast, the Executive Director of the Kosovar for Gender Studies Center said that Catholics are also likely to have Muslim social contacts, since "religion is not a concern in Kosovar society" (27 Mar. 2013)..
Media sources indicate that approximately 3 percent of the population is Catholic while more than 90 percent is Muslim (AFP 10 Aug. 2012; Catholic News Service 9 Feb. 2009; Express 9 Feb. 2012). The US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 indicates that Catholic communities are concentrated near Catholic churches in Gjakove/Djakovica, Kline/Klina, Prizren, Janjevo and Pristina (US 13 Sept. 2011, 1).
Media sources indicate that approximately 60,000 Kosovar Catholics live abroad (Catholic News Service 9 Feb. 2009; Express 9 Feb. 2012), which accounts for more than those residing in Kosovo according to church and census data (ibid.). The BIRN Kosovo director said that many of the new generations of Catholic Albanian families emigrate because of the lack of education and employment opportunities (BIRN 14 Mar. 2013).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Agence France-Presse (AFP). 10 August 2012. Ismet Hajdari. "Kosovo Crypto-Catholics Quit Closet." (Factiva)
Balkan Insight. 21 April 2010. Mevlyde Salihu. "Kosovo Women Sacrifice Inheritance Rights to Tradition." [Accessed 13 Mar. 2013]
Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN). 14 March 2013. Correspondence from the Director of the Kosovo Office to the Research Directorate.
Catholic News Service. 9 February 2009. Victor Gaetan. "In Kosovo, Whole Families Return to Catholic Faith." [Accessed 25 Mar. 2013]
Deutsche Welle. 8 September 2011. "Kosovo Struggles to Define Islam as Devout Groups Become More Vocal." (Factiva)
European Union (EU). 12 October 2011. European Commission. Kosovo 2011 Progress Report. SEC(2011) 1207 final [Accessed 19 Mar. 2013]
Express [Pristina]. 22 September 2012. Zekirja Shabani. "Unemployment Alarm." (BBC Monitoring European 26 Sept. 2012/Factiva)
____. 9 February 2012. Nexhmije Ahmeti. "Percentages of Republic." (BBC Monitoring European 10 Feb. 2012/Factiva)
Freedom House. 2012. "Kosovo." Freedom in the World 2012. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]
Initiative for Progress (INPO), Kosovo Democratic Institute, Institute for Development Research, Foreign Policy Club, FOL Movement, Kosovo Center for Security Studies and Youth Initiative for Human Rights. October 2011. Progress Report: Made in Kosova 2011. [Accessed 19 Mar. 2013]
The Irish Times. 12 April 2012. Mary Fitzgerald. "'Islam-lite' Kosovars Determined to Stay Secular." (Factiva)
Kosova Women's Netowork (KWN). 28 March 2013. Correspondence from the Program Manager and Lead Researcher to the Research Directorate.
Kosovar Gender Studies Center (KGSC). 27 March 2013. Telephone interview with the Executive Director.
_____. March 2011. Women's Property Inheritance Rights in Kosovo. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]
Kosovo. 22 March 2013. Ombudsperson Institute. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.
_____. 2012. Ombudsperson Institute. Eleventh Annual Report 2011. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]
_____. . Agency for Gender Equality, Office of the Prime Minister. Kosovo Program for Gender Equality. [Accessed 13 Mar. 2013]
Kosovo Women's Business Association (KWBA). September 2011. Mirlinda Kusari Purrini. Economic Empowerment of Rural Women through Enterprise Development in Post-Conflict Settings. Prepared for UN Women Expert Group Meeting (EGM/RW/2011/EP.2). [Accessed 13 Mar. 2013]
United Nations (UN). 20 March 2013. UN Women, Kosovo. Telephone interview with the Peace and Governance Advisor for Regional Program.
_____. N.d. United Nations Development Programme in Kosovo. "Millenium Development Goals." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]
United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Kosovo." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]
_____. 13 September 2011. Department of State. International Religious Freedom Report for 2011. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]
Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR). December 2012. Anti-Discrimination Law: Implementation Mechanisms. [Accessed 19 Mar. 2013]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact an academic at the American University in Kosovo was unsuccessful. A representative of the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society was unable to provide information.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Catholic Relief Services; Catholic World News; ecoi.net; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; United Nations - Refworld, WomenWatch.