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Arta[1] is a 34 year old survivor of domestic violence. Mother of three children, she benefitted from the social housing programme established by the municipality of Gjakova with close cooperation from the Directory of Spatial and Urban Planning. As part of the mechanism for cooperation established with the assistance of the UN Women Kosovo Office, the municipality of Gjakova granted five apartments to single mothers who suffered from domestic violence and were left without any support. Arta now has her own apartment and gets her income from her work as a cleaner and from the social subsidies of the Ministry of Social Welfare. Strong-minded and hard worker, she is doing all of this for her children: ‘’I work hard only to keep my children healthy and to improve their living conditions. I will give them what I lacked as a child. If only my [ex-] husband would let me.’’

Married when she was sixteen, Arta started experiencing domestic violence very early in her life. After five years spent with her husband in Germany – during which she repeatedly reported his violent acts to the police and attempted to kill herself while being pregnant – Arta moved back to Kosovo with her newborn baby and divorced her husband. She then sought refuge at the Safe House of Gjakova, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in which she had been staying a couple of times in the past. Although she felt safer in the shelter, her three children felt trapped in a confined space and the other female residents were complaining about Arta’s threatening ex-husband who continuously drove outside the shelter to try to pick up his children.

Early 2016, the municipality of Gjakova granted Arta her own apartment. This action was part of a new rehabilitation programme for victims of domestic violence supported by the UN Women Office in Kosovo. Although, Arta still feels threatened by her ex-husband and dreams of moving back to Germany, she is thankful for the apartment as it allows her to keep her children close: ‘’It’s the best feeling to know that my kids are with me. They are my priority.’’ But the single mother recalls that the responsibility of the government and municipalities does not end with providing accommodation, financial support is also needed: ‘’each woman needs to be financially independent to stop relying on anyone, especially not on her ex-husband, to take care of her children’’.DSC_0009

Arta concluded a very emotional interview by calling on other survivors of domestic violence not to wait for someone else or for the institutions to put an end to their suffering. ‘’You need to act yourself. If you continue to forgive the one who is beating you it will only get worse. And never ever give up on your children. As long as I have my kids with me, I have everything’’, she concluded.

[1] For confidentiality purposes the name of the survivor has been modified.

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