Background: In Kosovo, the role of women in the public sphere is rapidly changing. Though women’s work force participation rate (18%) remains one of the world’s lowest (World Bank, 2018), this newly-formed Balkan country has had two women Presidents since 2011, and women currently hold critical Cabinet leadership positions and many seats in Parliament. In the context of a larger exploration of how Kosovar social workers are putting human rights into practice, this presentation focuses on the role of gender in social workers’ utilization of the rights-based practice methods of participation, non-discrimination, strengths-based practice, micro-macro integration, capacity-building, community/interdisciplinary collaboration, activism, and accountability.
Methods: In order to explore rights-based practices among Kosovar social workers, a survey was developed using Albanian translations of the eight Human Rights Methods in Social Work (HRMSW) scales: (a) participation; (b) anti-discriminatory practice; (c) strengths perspective; (d) micro/macro integration; (e) capacity building; (f) community/interdisciplinary collaboration; (g) activism and (h) accountability (McPherson & Abell, 2020). The HRMSW scales measure use of these methods using a 7-point Likert scale, where higher scores indicate greater engagement. Demographic data including gender, age, and years of social work experience was also included. The survey was distributed to practicing social workers in Kosovo’s governmental Centers for Social Work.
Results: The survey yielded a total of 100 responses, representing approximately 42 percent of the Center for Social Work workforce. The sample is evenly distributed by gender (52% female; 48% male) and predominantly middle-aged (77% older than thirty-five years). In our sample, utilization of rights-based methods was robust, though social workers endorsed the four micro practice methods— accountability (M=6.30; SD=0.69); strengths (M=6.15; SD=0.68); anti-discrimination (M=6.11; SD=0.82); and participation (M=6.06; SD=0.76)—at higher rates than the four macro-focused methods: capacity-building (M=5.98; SD=0.79); micro/macro (M=5.88; SD=0.79); community/interdisciplinary collaboration (M=5.75; SD=1.14); and activism (M=5.49; SD=1.24). It is noteworthy that male respondents reported using collaboration (M=6.11; SD=0.98) and activism M=5.89; SD=0.87) significantly more often than their female colleagues (M=5.60; SD=1.23; and, M=5.13; SD=1.41; respectively). At the item level, as compared to their male counterparts, female social workers were less likely to “collaborate with practitioners from other professions“ (t(2)=-2.62, p= 0.01); “reach out to local government officials in order to help clients and create change” (t(2)=-2.63, p= 0.009); or “feel comfortable joining with clients in political action” (t(2)=-3.48, p= 0.001).”
Conclusions: Though women are making huge strides in Kosovo and entering political and public life in new numbers, our results suggest that professional behavior is still impacted by traditional gender norms that ascribe femininity with less agency as compared to men (Krasniqi, Sokolić, Kostovicova 2020). Certainly, our research suggests that: these results should be shared with participants and their colleagues; all social workers should receive training on gender; and that women social workers should receive additional training in community/interdisciplinary collaboration and activism in order to more fully promote human rights in social work practice. Future research should explore the impact that the increasing number of women in political leadership may be having on the social work practice of women professionals.