KW4W is proud to see the progress being made on the Women as Property Rights Agents project, funded by USAID and partnered the legal knowledge of CLARD. This project works as filling a niche in the legal and economic empowerment of women, focusing on the educative mission of awareness of a woman’s legal rights to inheritance and property. The Republic of Kosovo faces a problem of stringent traditional norms that prevent women from properly being informed of their due rights at the time of an inheritance split. The traditional procedure dictates that women will most often renounce their claim of land to their brothers, in the misguided belief that they can make the land more productive. There is a stigma attached to women who choose to pursue their legal rights and maintain their property, they are often seen as taking away what should belong to the brother and not thinking of the general will of the family. The problem also persists due to the notion that following marriage, a woman now belongs more to the family of her husband and therefore any land from inheritance should be kept squarely in the hands of the clan. This social mentality forms the basis of the skewed property rights that work against the welfare of women in Kosovo.
There are certain structural limitations that prevent the legal system from carrying out what is stipulated on the law books. The young Civil registry has not developed a robust enough method to accurately record the size and members of families in rural Kosovo, so many families when registering probate cases and discussions of inheritance, often exclude and fail to include sisters when dividing up the land. In the case of marriage, women are not entitled to a piece of property unless that deed stipulates that it is a joint-marital property. Even if a woman is married for twenty years and has kids with a man, their “traditional” marriage is not recognized by the state unless a civil license has been registered. Since this has not yet become common practice in rural Kosovo, women are faced with a precarious situation where divorce or separation could lead them to be landless. Here, KW4W sees a justification for this project, where the legal system has failed to provide these women their due share, awareness building and education can at least help cement a new mentality for the present and future generation of women.
KW4W emphasizes that the goals of this project is to bring about awareness and resources, and not to impose on these women how they should think or what they should do. KW4W wants to expand their role in the decision-making in the home without creating unnecessary tensions between tradition and modernity inside the homes of these families. The program is taking off in the municipalities of Viti, Kacanik and Shterpce through the work of our social empowerment officers. Thanks to our partnership with CLARD, these women are also receiving free legal training on their rights. It is all a work in progress. According to preliminary survey, a majority of women have a very rudimentary or even erroneous knowledge on their legal rights. Some believe they may have only access to half of the share of their counterpart mail heirs, and some even believe they do not have full legal right. It is this awareness that is essential to begin a transformation in the mentality of women and their communities for a more prosperous and egalitarian Kosovo.
The program, like most programs, took time to reach its current popularity. It is all a work in progress, as women initially were not sure how to take advantage of their newfound knowledge and legal resources. Nonetheless, through these women networks, they have discovered how to benefit substantially and have now become very active with questions when attending these workshops. The popularity has even reached into the core program of KW4W where these topics of property rights and legality are now being including within the social empowerment portion of trainings. These trainings for women are even being matched with information session for men so that they too understand the legal dimensions of inheritance and property rights and thus become allies to women when it comes time to partition land. This is a mission with a goal of sustainability, a project that works hard to raise awareness and begin to move a culture towards a positive direction. KW4W is proud to see this project progress.