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6 March 2020, Prishtinë/ Pristina

In such meetings women gather to share their recent experiences of living in Kosovo as returnees. When problems of today are compared to those years ago, they seem to be very technical and relatively small. Most of them are very optimistic for a shared and better future.

When identifying problems of a community, the best way is to talk to women who deal first hand with them. They have always played an important role in every society and their voice is often not heard.

On 20 February 2020, the United Nations Development Coordinator, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and Jahjaga Foundation facilitated a discussion on women empowering with the former President of Kosovo, Mrs. Atifete Jahjaga, and the participation of women representatives from Kosovo Serb community, as well as relevant authorities.

At the end of the day, the biggest responsibilities fall on women’s shoulder

The strategy of gathering and talking to women of the voluntary returnee families in Kosovo, is the approach that UNHCR has decided to follow in order to improve the well-being of those families.

Many families have voluntarily returned in different time periods, some as early as 2000. They are all excited when it comes to meeting people who helped them all along their journey.

Returned families, even though having very low monthly income, try to live a decent life mostly benefiting from the rich land. Most of them deal with agriculture, but their creative ideas range from growing peanuts to a community initiative of co-owning a meat factory.

After many years of progress this community lives in better conditions than ever before but there is still work to do in order to be fully integrated. Problems such as transportation, low quality houses and lack of job opportunities are the ones that they need help on.

Not even problems as these weaken their determination for the important stuff, such as taking their children to school.

“My daughter is the only Serbian child in our village and me or my husband drive her every day 10 kilometers to a school in another village”, said a returnee woman, unwilling to sacrifice the future of her daughter. Her husband returned to Kosovo in 2007 and she, together with her daughter, joined him in 2010. Now they live in their house in Klina and own ten hectares of land.

She remembers the first week when she returned. “The village had only a few inhabitants and it was mostly covered with woods… now it is much better”, she said. She and her husband work on their land and try to provide for their family.

Her family received some agricultural equipment which they used for a long time, now they are quite old and not that functional “we still use what we have but we are in a desperate need for a tractor, just a tractor would be perfect for now.”

In such meetings women gather to share their recent experiences of living in Kosovo as returnees. When problems of today are compared to those years ago, they seem to be very technical and relatively small. Most of them are very optimistic for a shared and better future.

“We all share the same wishes, common interests and we will try to find a common solution”, said Mrs. Ulrika Richardson, the United Nations Development Coordinator encouraging women to talk about the problems that they are facing and together find a solution. She expressed the support of the United Nations in building a society where everyone has equal opportunities.

Families that returned have been in close contact with different International Organizations and are the best witnesses of the progress that has been made.

“My door is always open to all my neighbors”

Mazić family was the first to return to Klina. “We only wanted to get back to our house, we didn’t even know in what condition it was and we didn’t know what we needed.”

With the help of the International Community she furnished the house and she wants more than anything to stay there for the rest of her life.

She lives alone but the friendship that she has with her neighbors doesn’t let her feel lonely. “I never made a difference between Serbian or Albanian neighbors, to me they are all the same. My door is always open to all my neighbors.

She continues to show her gratitude towards international organizations that made her return possible and never stopped helping her family.

 

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