The OSCE Mission in Kosovo concluded on 31 May 2023 a series of five workshops for high school students on sexual violence and sexual harassment. Organized in co-operation with the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), the workshops aimed at further enriching the participants’ knowledge about these topics and preparing them to conduct similar activities for their peers, following a round of five workshops last year.
The five workshops were held in Gjilan/Gnjilane, Mitrovicë/Mitrovica South, Prishtinë/Priština, Gjakovë/Đakovica and Prizren, and reached 71 high school students. Students learned about definitions of gender-based violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, available services and the importance of early reporting, as well as the roles of different institutions in addressing and handling cases of sexual violence and sexual harassment.
“Based on the OSCE Survey on Women Safety and Wellbeing published in 2019, almost a third of all women, or 29%, say they have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment since the age of 15. Violence against women is especially high among students, 60%, and is a cause and effect of gender inequality, driven by existing norms and attitudes,” said Valentina Bejtullahu Turjaka from the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.
“On the other hand, although early reporting of sexual violence is crucial to ensure access to justice for victims during court proceedings, it remains low mainly due to lack of support from the family, school and society, followed by stigma and fear of being threatened. Many students are not aware that sexual harassment is a criminal act and punishable by law in Kosovo, and many of them do not have information on available services and reporting mechanisms. Therefore, increasing the awareness of new generations on this sensitive violation of human rights is a must in order to break the silence, empower girls and prevent any form of discrimination and violence among them,” she added.
During the workshops, through group exercises, participants also discussed the methodology and developed an action plan on how to conduct workshops for their fellow students. So far, with the support of the OSCE Mission and schools’ psychologists, the trained students have organized 12 information sessions on sexual violence and sexual harassment for around 290 of their fellow students. In addition, they have also developed artwork and posters with messages on sexual violence and reporting mechanisms. Throughout 2023, with the support of schools’ psychologists, students will organize additional information sessions on sexual violence and sexual harassment for more students.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated to protect and promote human and community rights, as well as democratization and public safety sector development.