Women’s Activism in Kosovo
The Women’s Activism in Kosovo collection belongs to the Kosovo Oral History Initiative, and contains Kosovan women's vivid personal stories, which often intersect with broader historic events within Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1999. It depicts women's specific forms of engagement and resistance in protests against the Yugoslav regime, as well as their fight for women’s rights. The Women’s Activism collection offers a unique online archive of oral records, giving visibility and permanence to a history of women’s experience, which has been consistently marginalized, if not forgotten. To date, the collection contains thirty interviews with women activists, of which twenty-five are Albanian, three are Serbian, and two are of other nationality.
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Name of collection
- Women’s Activism in Kosovo
Provenance and cultural activities
This collection was created and is maintained by the Kosovo Oral History Initiative (KOHI). KOHI was founded in 2012 through a collaboration between the Kosovo Women’s Network and Anna Di Lellio, professor at The New School, NY, along with students from the graduate program in International Affairs. The project quickly developed into an independent NGO, which continues collaborations with universities and institutions in the United States and Europe. KOHI is comprised of researchers of various generations, nationalities, and professions, and its mission is to record personal accounts that intersect with Kosovo’s broader history and with world events. These materials include oral interviews with women activists, thus chronicling the history of women’s activism as remembered and interpreted by the activists themselves.
Albanian women in Kosovo have often served more than a mere side role in politics. Even in the most recent past, it is evident that women were present in the underground national movement. Women’s efforts were pivotal in acts of peaceful resistance against the regime through their roles as teachers, doctors, and nurses within the health care institutions in Kosovo, and also contributed as political activists through their efforts as both women’s rights and human rights advocates. Stories collected by KOHI reveal the extraordinary agency of Kosovan women over the past decades, which contradicts perceived ideas of men’s dominance over women. Similar to elsewhere in the world, patriarchy is still hegemonic within Kosovo. Still, Kosovan women have fought for their own rights and the rights of others, and describe their experiences with a passion and dedication that upends stereotypes. Today, women comprise 30 percent of Kosovo’s legislature by law, and Kosovo elected the first female president in the Balkans, Atifete Jahjaga (2011–2016).
Whether engaged in protests against the regime, in campaigns to promote girls’ literacy, in nationalist movements, in acts of resistance against Milošević, or in the fight for women’s rights across ethnic divisions, women have provided vivid personal accounts that intersect with the broader historical events of the time. The oral interviews in the collection have a biographical structure because they focus on the personal lives of interviewees. Interviews in the Women’s Activism in Kosovo collection track the lives of the women involved in women’s emancipation projects in Yugoslavia after World War II, Ilegalja [Underground Movement], and peace activism efforts in the 1990s.
As forms of activism, pamphlets, newspapers, self-help groups, and women’s own forces of persuasion and creativity were used. Many activists created NGOs (like that of Drita Vukshinaj for people with disabilities, and Vjosa Dobruna’s Center for the Protection of Women and Children). Many women served as activists without outside assistance or financial support from donors.
Description of content
The collection contains a number of images, video recordings of interviews, and transcripts of interviews in three languages (Albanian, Serbian, and English), which are available online. The Kosovo Oral History Initiative is aware that interviewers, by their very presence, influence interviewee reactions; filming, which is a team effort, complicates the dynamic between the interviewee and the large amount of researchers present. In order to minimize the problem, interviewers who spoke the same dialect as the interviewee were selected. Interviewers asked only a few, general questions, in order to give priority to interviewees’ responses, rather than speaking to what interviewers hoped to hear. Further questions were asked to clarify or elaborate on what was said. Interview transcripts are written texts that reflect the pattern of speech, in an attempt to preserve the spoken language, with basic edits to paragraphs and punctuation to maintain clarity in the narration. The interviews were conducted in Albanian (video files). Translations into Serbian and English are available for all interviews (transcripts).
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- photos: 10-99
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 10-99
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
No academic work on this collection published. However, there were videos and films produced drawing from this collection.
Some of them might be accessed in the Films and Publications section, http://oralhistorykosovo.org/hava-shala-interview-sequence/.
Author(s) of this page
- Hetemi, Atdhe
Krasniqi , Erëmirë, interview by Hetemi, Atdhe, January 23, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection