Prepared by: Nita Cakolli
Kosovo has undergone tremendous changes ever since the fall of Yugoslavia in 1992. Kosovo has been oppressed and controlled by other countries for decades, so breaking out of Yugoslavia was a true hardship for the Kosovar populace mainly because of the lack of experience to run a country. Struggling to stabilize a newly “free” country, Kosovo as a whole had forgotten about half of their population’s rights. Similar to many other countries, women in Kosovo have always been disregarded. Women’s voices were silenced and their rights were non-existent. Young girls in rural areas were forced to get married at young ages completely shutting off their dreams of a higher education and a better future. Unfortunately, to this day, young girls from rural villages are very likely to get married and create families early on. As children, they are taught to be dependent and obey their fathers, and as grown-ups, they continue to be dependent and obey their husbands.
My aunt, Drita, and my mother, Merita, were brought up in a wealthy family in a village. Even though they were raised in the same household, they both ended up with very different lives due to the time periods they were born and raised in. Aunt Drita was born in the year 1955, she managed to go to school up until 8th grade, but she wasn’t allowed to continue any further. Because her family was wealthy, my grandfather was afraid that the poor men of the village would kidnap aunt Drita and wed her. Additionally, my grandfather didn’t find it useful for his eldest daughter to get an education knowing that she would get married soon and start a family of her own. Aunt Drita had to learn to clean, cook, and raise children instead. My aunt will forever feel like her rights as a human being were taken away when she was forced to stay home. She wishes she had the same rights to an education as her brothers and younger sisters.
Aunt Drita got married at the age of eighteen in 1973 to a man she had never seen before. My grandparents arranged the marriage, and my aunt went through with it. During her interview, my aunt mentioned that she feels like the luckiest woman to have spent her life with a man like her husband. He was very supportive and open-minded which made their bond even stronger. However, she is aware that not all of the women who have been apart of an arranged marriage in Kosovo have been lucky enough to have the same outcome as her. Many Kosovar women ended up in abusive marriages with no way out. Divorce was looked down upon when demanded by women, especially in rural areas. Women were beaten and threatened to death if they disobeyed their husband’s orders, and it was considered more than normal. Beating your disobeying wife wasn’t seen as inhumane, but rather manly.
Unlike aunt Drita, my mother had the right to get an education and get married to a man of her choice. My mother was born in 1968 making her the youngest child of the family. My mother went to nursing school and became a nurse. She got a job at a hospital and did things more freely than my older aunts. My mother was able to secure her future financially without having to depend on her future husband; my father. Even though my mother was able to receive an education, as a woman she had to settle down for something less time consuming with more paid leave, so when she becomes a mother she won’t have to struggle balancing work and motherhood. According to “Women’s Realities, Women’s Choices” by the Hunter College Women’s and Gender Studies Collective, many “working women of all backgrounds have had to negotiate the demands of motherhood with the reality of wage-earning. In countries which child care is provided by the state and new parents receive extended paid leaves, the conflict between mothering and working is much less.”
As mentioned earlier, at the time women were expected to get married at earlier ages. Young women were portrayed as more beautiful and stronger, so men demanded younger wives. My mother was able to break away from that mentality, she got married at the age of 27 and my grandparents had no problem with her decision. This shows the amount of progression in her family’s mindset. Even though time brought positive changes in my mother’s life, the women of the family were still portrayed as caregivers and were considered inferior to the male figures in the house. Both my mother and aunt were able to learn from their family’s mistake. They have taken their primitive mindsets and used them as examples to teach their children right from wrong. I am the first child of my family. If I had been born before the 1900’s in Kosovo, being a first child and a girl would’ve made my mother seem as a weak wife. However, in 1999, when I was born my parents were more than happy to welcome their daughter for the first time in the world. They have always tried to treat me the same way they treated my brother. My mother always encourages me to become a better version of myself, and take advantage of the opportunities that this time period has given me.
She never fails to remind me that there are girls out there who dream of having the same rights to an education as me. Because my mother taught me to speak up against sexism and stand up for my sisters all around the world, I have recently become part of the project called Beat Sexism to raise awareness regarding young girls in Kosovo and their rights to an education.
Many families in Kosovo to this day grapple to separate traditional and conservative ideas from their daily lives. Parents are holding back their daughters from pursuing their career dreams because they genuinely believe that girls have no use for an education. I have taken this course hoping to shape my ways of thinking, and hoping to learn more about how to make a difference for Kosovar girls. My aunt’s and my mother’s experiences of sexism, and the ongoing issues in Kosovo and all around the world encourage me every day to become stronger and show people that my sex and other’s portrayal of me doesn’t determine who I am. The stereotypes and people’s opinions of me as a woman will not bring me down, they will only encourage me to be better and live my life the way I choose to not the way I’m expected to.