"AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN"
Within the project, supported by the Swedish organization Kvinna till Kvinna, which was of regional character as covered all of East Herzegovina, that is, six municipalities comprising it: Bileca, Nevesinje, Gacko, Ljubinje, Berkovici and Trebinje, four activities took place simultaneously:
Round tables throughout East Herzegovina
Doctor on Monday's;
Legal aid and court representation;
Activities including doctor on Monday's and psycho-social support are, based on experience from 2004, continued since they proved to be very useful and necessary for strengthening and encouraging women in the area. A significant increase in the number of reported incidences of violence, by the victim of violence herself, is best proof of how successful we were. In 2001, 5 cases were reported, in 2002 - 11 cases, in 2003 - 15 cases in 2004 - 18 cases, while in 2005 - 28 cases. Data refer to Trebinje municipality, while in other municipalities, significant changes have not been noticed. Police were provided with educational courses on the topic: "Multidisciplinary approach on how to suppress domestic and other types of violence against women and children", conducted by the NGO "Medika" from Zenica, in partnership with us. The newly-established activity of providing charge-free legal aid and court representation contributed to this result, but also roundtables which gave visibility to our activities and results, disseminated information on legal possibilities for protection of women from various kinds of violence against them (Law on gender equality, RS Criminal law, RS Family law, pre-draft and draft Law on protection from domestic violence).
During the reporting period, 12 Roundtables were held in six East Herzegovina municipalities, two per each municipality on the topics of: "Women's center yesterday, today and tomorrow..." and "Female human rights and current legislature, effective in RS which applies to domestic violence". During roundtable discussions the work and accomplished results of the Women's center were presented, which prompted considerable attention not only from citizens but also attendant representatives of institutions, who accepted our organization as a serious partner in the battle against domestic violence. Roundtables included representatives from the municipality, police, welfare center, medicine, media, NGOs, school, kindergarten, prosecution, court, municipal commissions for gender equality and citizens. Roundtables were held in Trebinje February 26th, 2005, Ljubinje March 31st, 2005, Bileca April 28th, 2005, Nevesinje June 30th, 2005, Berkovici September 7th, 2005 and in Gacko September 13th, 2005, and attracted 134 attendants. During these roundtables, results of the Agreement on cooperation and Protocol were presented, signed by our Organization and 18, mostly governmental institutions in Trebinje municipality. Roundtables organized on the topic: "Women's human rights and currently effective RS legislature which is applied in domestic violence", were held in Trebinje March 5th, 2005, Bileca May 19th, 2005 Nevesinje July 25th, 2005, Gacko July 26th, 2005, Ljubinje November 3rd, 2005 and in Berkovici November 9th, 2005, which attracted a total of 101 attendants.
The team for psycho-social support conducted both individual and group work in the premises of Women's center, each Tuesday and Friday from 3:00-6:00 pm, and on several occasions provided services in the field. A total of 98 women sought assistance, many repeatedly, while others participated in group work. It was not seldom that joint meetings were organized between this team and a female attorney and doctor in the presence of the victim, or without her, if a specific case required. In the past year, a raise of awareness occurred for both the victims and their family members or friends, thus in several instances, fathers and male friends turned to our organization seeking help for their close female relatives or friends.
Monthly, on the average, 15 to 23 persons sought help. In 95% of cases, help was requested by women, victims of domestic violence and almost as a rule, they repeatedly turned to us due to the complexity of this issue. On an average, each of them had two children. Approximately 50% of the clients were permanent beneficiaries of various services provided by the Women's center. In cases, which were justifiable and feasible, we worked with other family members, most often during house visits, which were made outside the regular schedules.
Lately, it was not seldom that help for overcoming domestic violence was requested by older children because sadly, domestic violence is noticed in ageing families in which the "battle for help", of older spouses has been transformed into violence. Occasionally, violence becomes generalized behavior, that is, conduct characteristic for the entire domestic system and all its subsystems. In such cases, an attempt of working with all family members was applied. During the reporting period, we continuously worked with five such families and our engagement will continue in the future, due to the complexity of the problem. Treatment will be applied through individual and group activities. Work with two families produced positive results following five months of continuous work with the entire family and after inclusion of other actors in the community. We must notice though, that the involvement of all family members and their approval to cooperate is rare, although this kind of engagement produces the best results. More often, assistance is accepted by a part of the family, according to a rule, and includes women, victims of violence and children.
Every first Saturday of the month, group work is organized, that is, groups for self-help meet. These groups consist of 5 to 7 women, which, with assistance of a psychologist and social worker, assess negative experiences, place their experience into a new framework, then through exchange of opinion and mutual support strengthen personal capacities.
We emphasize that this team bases its work on a professional rule, which places the client into the center of attention, planned all its activities in accordance with needs expressed by clients and with their direct participation in projected activities. This is why we decided to provide assistance to the family as well, since a number of clients did not wish to externalize their problems and insisted upon receiving help in their homes. By applying principles of systemic domestic therapy in such cases, complete domestic systems were treated through repeated séances.
Strenuous efforts were invested into the development of a net of actors, throughout the reporting period as well, because good cooperation with schools, medical facilities, companies and also with PSC, Prosecutor's office and courts, were of importance for achieving good working results.
During the reporting period, two roundtables were held regarding the position of women in Trebinje and assessment of possibilities for greater affirmation of women. These activities are aimed at recruiting reinforcement to the Women's center, which will contribute to the development of gender equality through their work as well to development sensibility for themselves and others, with the aim of creating living conditions deserving for every person.
Since all our activities were regional, to be closer to our beneficiaries, we established a subsidiary office in Bileca, with premises provided by the Bileca Municipality.
Legal aid and court representation
During this period, female lawyers received 71 call regarding domestic violence. Women sought advice over the phone regarding domestic violence, which mostly referred to information on divorces, assignment of custody as well as property-legal issues. Out of 71 inquiries, 24 requested information regarding criminal procedures in cases of, or due to, reports on domestic violence. A total of 47 women and 4 men personally came to seek information on their rights and request assistance related to domestic violence. We have had cases when returnees turned to us for help.
Most frequently, violence occurs when the perpetrator is in an alcoholic state, but a fact for concern is that there are growing numbers of perpetrators whose behavior indicates a state of mental illness. Most victims who decide to report violence also report that the perpetrator possesses weapons.
During the year, Kvinna till Kvinna organized a visit to Sweden for us and provided a visit to this organization in Stockholm, and other organizations and institutions such as the police, trauma center, center for men and others. The visit enabled us to transfer good practices from Sweden, adjust them to our circumstances and apply to the work of our organization and local community (for example from technical details on how to file newspaper articles, how to lead campaigns to introducing male and female sketch drawings into the work of out-patient-clinics).
On several occasions our organization was visited by Kvinna till Kvinna representatives, from their office in Sarajevo.