In Kosovo, a TV debate show puts women’s lives front and center | women-and-media | DW | 07.03.2024
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Women and Media

In Kosovo, a TV debate show puts women’s lives front and center

Though Kosovo has had two female leaders, women there still face discrimination. A women-centered TV program, QIKA on Screen, examines structural barriers to equality, as well as ideas that could improve their lives.

During the COVID pandemic, women around the world often found that gains made over decades for equality – in the home and at work – faded.

As they retreated from their offices back into the home, they were met with increased caregiving duties. Some also eventually saw their chances for career advancement diminish or vanish altogether.

In Kosovo, one of the poorest countries in Europe, this trend also included increases in domestic violence and even femicide. Moreover, says one trained sociologist and practiced journalist, the country's media mostly ignored or downplayed what was happening.

"Male voices have historically dominated Kosovo's media landscape, with news coverage frequently centered on stories that appeal mostly to men and shows typically hosted by men with male guests," said Leonida Molliqaj, executive director and editor-in-chief at the Center for Information, Criticism and Action, or QIKA. "The lockdown laid bare the prevalence of patriarchal violence and exacerbated economic disparities."

A sociologist by training and journalist by profession, Molliqaj's work has focused on corruption, gender equality and social issues in Kosovo. Today, she works on the country's first-ever television program centered around women. Titled QIKA on Screen and developed together with four other female producers, she said, “we make sure that every bit and message produced by [us] is fair and powerful."

Kosovo Feministisches Fernsehprogramm

Leonida Molliqaj, executive director at the Center for Information, Criticism and Action, or QIKA, produces QIKA on Screen with three other women. Trained as a sociologist and with journalism experience, she and her colleagues aim to put women's issues at the center of public debate.

QIKA is a recipient of a grant sponsored by the European Commission and the German government within the framework of the SustainMedia Program, which is implemented by GiZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit), DW Akademie and Internews. The grant funds support the production of QIKA on Screen, which is now a monthly program on Kosovo’s T7 cable TV channel.

Progress in Kosovo?

All of this, however, contradicts Kosovo’s seeming progress. Considering its relative newness – Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 – and size – its population is less than two million – the country has had two women presidents and in its last national elections, in February 2021, voters catapulted more women into its Parliament than ever before. Today they oversee economic affairs, justice, culture, education and local government matters.

But these political gains stem in part from mandates of the United Nations, which administered Kosovo for almost a decade after its war for independence and instituted a quota system guaranteeing women 30 percent of the country's parliamentary seats.

Yet despite these guardrails, Kosovo remains a largely discriminatory and male-dominated society in which corruption and organized crime threaten security and democratic rule. A 2023 Amnesty International report drew attention to the country's authorities for failing to protect domestic violence victims or provide adequate support when women escape a violent environment.

A TV show for women

"QIKA's initiative has an important role, not just in Kosovo but in the region as well," said Norbert Sinkovic, DW project manager for the #SustainMedia project. "The initiative aims to address critical issues, such as violence against women and discriminatory laws."

Kosovo Feministisches Fernsehprogramm

QIKA on Screen, Kosovo's first and only television program focusing on women's issues, aims for a broad viewership. Data show that viewers are both young and old, and live in both rural and urban areas.

It’s against this backdrop that Molliqaj and her colleagues have sought to affect change, using televised debates on the issues that are holding women back in Kosovo.

One show has discussed why there is an 18 percent luxury tax on menstrual products. Another episode spotlighted women's unpaid care work in the home and how these duties deprive them of working for pay outside it – and how this could be fixed.

"[National] policies could include parental leave and childcare services," said Riola Morina, a QIKA researcher who works on the show. "It remains crucial to acknowledge this labor as a substantial contribution to both the economy and society."

Morina said that while she and her colleagues aim for younger viewers, "Our [viewership] data show that older age groups are interested, including from rural and non-central parts of Kosovo."

The show has prompted some backlash but the women are undeterred.

"What this pinpointed for us is the fact that the public was used to seeing men dominating their TV screens," said Molliqaj. "This has not only affirmed the importance of our work, but also strengthened our resolve to continue addressing sensitive and vital topics."

QIKA is a recipient of a grant sponsored by the #SustainMedia Program, co-funded by the European Union and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GiZ) in cooperation with DW Akademie and Internews. The grant funding supports the production of QIKA on Screen, Kosovo’s first feminist TV show and a monthly program on T7 cable TV.