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SUPPORT TO ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN RS

supported by Kvinna till Kvinna

Summary of the project

In 2019 this project enabled continuation of repeated support provided by our organization to women victims of domestic violence by providing the direct psychosocial support, but also through regular meetings with the multidisciplinary team for prevention of domestic violence in Eastern Herzegovina. Thus, they obtain the coordinated support by all members (institutions/organizations) signers of the agreement, 63 of them, of course in accordance with their needs. I remind you that the support is not legally obliged for services providers (for example that all pre-school institutions including the private ones offer free-of-charge service for two children victims of domestic violence).

The project is mostly based on providing support for economic empowerment of women victims of domestic violence through advisory service developed by our organization and our partner organization Lara in terms of a pilot programme and through lobbying of employers to employ this category of population. The reason for this is because we regard that only an economically independent woman can be a strong woman, and for victims it is also the only way to leave the violent family.

In line with these activities we are sharing the experience and we are presenting our example of good practice with the CURE Foundation, in order to use our synergy to help their efforts to transfer the results achieved in RS into FB&H. They refer to introduction of victims of domestic violence as a new category for incentive with the aim of their (self) employment by FB&H Government and/or their Cantons.

Results of change processes

During the reporting period we should have achieved these results:

R. 1.Women victims of domestic violence are encouraged to report violence in Eastern Herzegovina

In order to achieve this result, we should have provided the support to victims of domestic violence through psycho-social advisory service and free legal aid as well as through coordination of multi-disciplinary team for preventing domestic violence in Eastern Herzegovina, through over 36 common meetings and steady communication, what we have completed.
During 2019, psychological advisory service and free legal aid provided in total 183 interventions.
The psycological-legal team of the Zenski Centar, with a psychologist doing most work on interviewing women who are not strong enough to report an abuser and who do not feel safe to talk to someone around them about their problems. Therefore, the psychologist was working on their motivation end empowerment by emphasising that they were not alone, that they were not guilty for their problem, that an abuser was not going to change and that he was an excellent manipulator who would turn the following situation to his benefit – and to the detriment of a woman. We managed to make women who would come on a regular basis report the violence with the support of a person of trust. The legal team talked to women about their legal rights regarding the divorce proceedings, custody over children, as well as rights regarding property division, i.e. material security. The material (in)security for women from Eastern Herzegovina is the most common reason for not reporting the violence caused by fear that they would be left without basic livelihoods, both they and they children.
At the regular meetings of multi-disciplinary team (36 of them) in every municipality it was discussed about concrete cases of domestic violence in order to help them.
At these meetings the intervention (synchronised joint action) was agreed for following: free-of charge pre-school services for six children; for 14 women victims of domestic violence synchronisation of support provided by schools, Centers for Social Work, police and our organisation; free-of-charge certificate of injuries for 6 cases; money raising and other necessities for one woman victim of domestic violence and one man victims of domestic violence; intervention towards the Municipalities for various types of help/support for seven women victims of domestic violence; intervention and help in other countries for four women victims of domestic violence (Montenegro, Serbia and Hungary).
The above mentioned leads to the conclusion that the steady and quality support to women victims of domestic violence is a result of coordinated responses of the community in Eastern Herzegovina.

R.2. Increased efforts in providing support to economic empowerment of women victims of domestic violence/who survived domestic violence in RS

Thanks to our activities, the Government included victims of domestic violence as a constant category in their programme of (self) employment. They have even increased a number of those who can obtain (self) employment through this Government programme. Through this activity in partnership with Lara Foundation, we have undertaken the following activities:
- Through the three-month period the both organisations were providing advisory services in terms of spreading information to women victims of domestic violence about the possibilities of their (self) employment through the Government Public call which is realised by the RS Employment Agency. In addition, we were providing the help regarding both writing their CVs and the first interview with an employer, as well as with recognition of their own competencies and development of a business plan. Over 600 women victims of domestic violence have been informed about this programme , i.e. every woman who addressed our organisations in the reporting period due to violence (via SOS help line, personal appearance in the office and all women used the service of safe house led by Lara), and we personally contacted and animated our beneficiaries from the earlier period. The information have been shared on the online platform of the Zenski Centar, social networks, the media as well as at the meetings of the multi-disciplinary team.
The direct help in accessing the labour market was provided for 56 women (for 29 in Zenski Centar and 27 in Lara). It was worked with 33 of them during the Public call announcement by the Employment Agency. (Self) employment was achieved for totally 17 women who were our beneficiaries with only one who obtained employment as a violence victim, the others rather used a possibility of status according to other vulnerable category such as age, rural women, refugee status and so on. Some of them were reluctant to share their experience of suffering within the family and by their spouse with their colleagues, whereas the others are still in the marital communities and out of fear of their husbands did not dare to seek that basis for (self) employment. For all beneficiaries it was significant to appoint a meeting, to prepare a bibliography and other documentation for presentation and to accompany them to a meeting with an employer. Moreover, it was worked on enhancement of their social skills in presenting their own abilities and negotiation about a salary. A part of beneficiaries has continued to use the advisory service after the employment in order to learn additional skills, depending on the work they perform or to share their success or stressful situations at work with an advisor. We are glad that not only women victims of domestic violence from Eastern Herzegovina and the Bijeljina region used this Public call, but women from other municipalities in RS.

- In the reporting period the both organisations held numerous individual and group meetings with employers (mostly from the private sector) as well as with the representatives of institutions responsible for fulfilling rights of victims of domestic violence on social protection and economic empowerment.
We held meeting with overall 26 (Zenski Centar with 17 and Lara with nine employers) out of planned 60 –thus the effects were poorer. Due to delay of payment of the first portion of funds, we started implementing this activity rather late, because the Public call in the meantime closed and the meetings would be pointless. Some of these companies expressed willingness to employ a victim of violence anytime, regardless of the state incentive. However, there is a certain amount of caution because of possible incidents by an abuser and that victims due to their family obligations will not be able to fulfil their work responsibilities.
The partner organisation held the first meeting with the directors of the affiliates of the Employment Agency in Trebinje and Bijeljina in February 2019. The aim of the meeting was to secure information about the Public call for incentive of employment of victims and to secure and agree on the joint cooperation. There were a small number of women reported as victims of violence in the registers of the Agency and managers of the Agency were interested in cooperation in order to provide access to this target group. In addition, it was agreed to share information about employers who show interest to employ victims of violence, upon the announcement of the public call. The Agency representatives also informed us about employers who seek seasonal workers or seek workers frequently and they promised to inform us about job advertisements. On the demand of Lara, the Agency started sending to Lara the weekly announcements of the public calls for employment which are regularly announced. The second meeting was held upon the announcement of the public call, and during three meetings more. The representatives of the Agency together with the representatives of Lara and Zenski Centar participated at the meetings with some employers with whom we discussed the employment of victims of violence. The overall cooperation with the Employment Agency was good. The representative of the Trade Chamber also attended one of the joint meetings between the Zenski Centar and employers in Trebinje.

In March, April and May Lara had meetings in local administrations in Bijeljina, Lopare and Ugljevik with officers of the department of finances, social affairs and centres for social work. The meetings had two thematic focuses; one was accommodation of violence victims in the Safe house and the second creating of support for economic empowerment and employment of violence victims. At the meetings it was also discussed how a woman acquires a status of violence victim and as a such category they would be taken into the record of the Agency and they would have an access to means for self-employment, employment and other rights. There are many prejudices on this matter among the officers and there is still an opinion that the status of violence victim is conditioned by final judicial order against a perpetrator, and not simply by reporting an act of domestic violence to the police and/or centre for social work. The representatives of Lara used the Act on Protection from Domestic Violence which strictly proclaims that the victim’s rights do not depend on whether there is or was the judicial proceedings against a perpetrator as well as the provisions of the Istanbul Convention. The general impression remains that it is necessary to continue working on sensibilization of the public and public officers about the rights of victims of violence. The encouraging fact is that the majority of the meetings participants agree that economic independence of victims is the key element in preventing violence against women.
The Zenski centar from Trebinje used their regular meetings across Eastern Herzegovina to discuss this matter with the representatives of the Centres for Social Work and the Police. We asked them to inform all their beneficiaries from their records, who addressed them because of domestic violence not only in that, but in the previous years, as well. Moreover, the meetings served to remove any obstacles in these institutions regarding their role in this public call.

Although it was achieved that women victims of domestic violence have an access to possibilities of (self) employment in the target regions in RS entity, it is evident that additional efforts must me made to break a stigma about the status of “victim of domestic violence” in both employers and in women victims of domestic violence themselves. It needs to be explained to employers that women victims of domestic violence are the most loyal workers, especially due to their status because on the one hand, they are fully aware how necessary that job is for them (economic independence) and on the other hand how hard it is for them to find a job. It needs to be explained to women that a status of a victim of domestic violence does not diminish them as personalities, that it is not a shame but only a factual condition which they should not be ashamed of.

R.3. Created synergy between the two organisations which work in the field of economic empowerment of women victims of domestic violence (The Zenski Centar Trebinje on the territory of RS and CURE on the territory of FBH).

With the aim of achieving this result, our organisations shared their experience, and the director of Zenski Centar participated in all activities organised by CURE:
1. In December 2019 the Foundation organised a conference for the media:” Women who suffered domestic Violence-Economically strong, economically independent”.
2. In December a conference of the BiH Zenska mreza (Women’s network) was held – 10 years of working on protection and promotion of the women’s and girls’ rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina which was implemented within the project “Women’s rights – Agenda for positive changes” financed by the European Union, and implemented by CURE Foundation and Foundation for Women Empowerment, and a project “Institutional support to the BiH Zenska Mreza” supported by Trag Foundation from Belgrade. At a conference within the panel “economic empowerment of women” one of the panel speakers was also Ljiljana Cickovic who presented, as an example of good practice, our path towards the introduction of women victims of domestic violence in the Government package of measures for (self) employment and their significance for victims.
They want and work on that to completely overtake our model to literally have women victims of domestic violence recognised in public calls for incentives created by the Federal Bureau of Employment.

In their submitted report it is stated that it was very useful that they performed mapping of the condition based on us and the directions got by us were beneficial to direct their work.

The above mentioned achieved activities have led that the joint cooperation and experience exchange between the organisations, Zenski Centar Trebinje and CURE alleviates creation of positive climate in FBH to have women victims of domestic violence included as a separate category in the Government programmes with the aim of their economic empowerment.