Hajrije Zeqiri is a widow and mother of six, living in Shipol, Mitrovica in Kosovo. Without a job, living off the scarce social scheme allowance, she needed to find a way to improve her situation and secure a future for her children.
“After my husband died, I was without income and without any hope in life. Then I attended one of the EU training sessions where people spoke so convincingly, encouraging us to succeed. I began to recover, and started to see the light at the end of the tunnel again”, Hajrije says.
She is one of the many widowed women who benefited from the EU project that improved the employment of vulnerable groups in Kosovo. The EU trained women, who were previously beneficiaries of social assistance, and equipped them with skills in entrepreneurship and employment, leading to the launch of at least 8 start-up businesses. Hajrije Zeqiri is in fact one of those starting up a business. With a group of widows they now provide buffet-style lunch service for primary and secondary schools in the Mitrovica region. The business creates steady income for 32 women.
“We started with only one school; I registered the business and managed it successfully. Now we have expanded the business and are currently providing services to two other schools, serving lunch as well. My earnings allow me now to make some improvements back at home, I have bought a car, and can afford myself holidays. My life has just started. I will look ahead without turning my head back, ever again. I thank the European Union for this opportunity.”
Managed by the European Union Office in Kosovo, this initiative to support widowed women was part of a wider project to enhance employment and social inclusion of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, focusing on recipients of social assistance and people with disabilities. The project contributes with active labour market measures, increases employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, and has set aside approximately 3 million Euros for nine grants to local organisations.
One of the partners in the project, the Initiative for Agriculture Development in Kosovo used the EU funds to train over 100 women with skills in food production that opened for them new job opportunities in local companies. The transition from receiving social assistance to joining the labour market for these vulnerable groups, especially the disabled, is quite a challenge, says Magbule Hyseni, project manager at the Initiative for Agriculture Development. “The goal and mission of the project is both professional and humanitarian. We managed to create favourable working conditions, improving the quality of life and reducing unemployment among women, with the specific objective to increase the income of widows in the Mitrovica and Pristina regions. Today, 118 women have been trained in food preparation techniques and 42 women trained with entrepreneurship skills, resulting in the launch of 9 school buffets.”
In Kosovo, more than 280 EU-funded projects are carried out across a wide range of sectors, regions and cities. As the biggest investor, trade partner and donor, the European Union plays a leading role in the development of Kosovo and continues to support the reform efforts that should bring more jobs, better infrastructure, reformed education and stronger rule of law to all its people.