Kosovo: UN Goodwill Ambassador Kidman hears chronicles of violence against women

16 October 2006

Visiting Kosovo on her inaugural trip as a Goodwill Ambassador with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Nicole Kidman heard first-hand about the impact of gender-based violence and war, and said today that women must be central to any decisions reached during the current talks over the province’s final status.

“I was very moved by the many women I met during my Kosovo trip,” Ms. Kidman said after her two-day visit to the province with UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer. “I learned so much from the experiences that they were willing to share – they spoke about how violence has disrupted their lives and the lives of their children.

“They talked to me about the tragedy of losing sons and husbands, but they also inspired me with their determination to build a better future for themselves and their families, and to claim their rights as individuals and citizens.”

Ms. Kidman, who became a Goodwill Ambassador in January, and Ms. Heyzer met women leaders, representatives of civil society, war widows, female victims of sexual violence and women still searching for family members since the end of the war in 1999. They said the strong message they received from Kosovo’s women was that they want to be central to the final status talks, which are still at the technical stage.

The Albanian-majority province of Serbia has been under UN administration since NATO forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid fierce ethnic fighting in 1999. Independence and autonomy within Serbia have been among options mentioned for the province, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by nine to one.

Ms. Heyzer added that she and Ms. Kidman were calling for governments and armies to stop using rape as a weapon of war, for all rape victims in war and conflict to be compensated and for greater justice for women, including support for witnesses who testify against the perpetrators of crimes against women.

“Too often these courageous women are victimized twice – once by the crime and then again by the experience of seeking justice,” Ms. Heyzer said.

Ms. Kidman, an Academy Award-winning actress from Australia, joins a small circle of UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassadors that includes Princess Basma of Jordan and Phoebe Asiyo of Kenya.

 

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