Since its establishment, domestic violence has been the focus of the work of NGO “Women’s center”. Accordingly, most of the activities were turned to this direction and the result is increasing reports of domestic violence in Trebinje municipality, as a consequence of the encouragement of the victim and return of trust into Institutions with support and assistance of our organization.
To adequately answer to this challenge, we created a net of actors in the local community, built on moral obligations and trusted by everyone. Namely, in 2004, a Protocol on cooperation was signed, which defines obligations and cooperation between the Women’s center and eighteen governmental and nongovernmental bodies with the goal of combating domestic violence in an organized manner and to provide necessary support to the victim. Signatories of the Agreement were Trebinje municipality, Center of Public Safety Trebinje,Welfare Center, Trebinje, Out-patient clinic Trebinje, Public prosecutor’s office which covers the entire region of East Herzegovina including Foca, media (including the TV unit in Trebinje), all primary and high schools, four kindergartens and the Red Cross. Since this Agreement was general, during this year Protocols on cooperation have been signed, which clearly define the rights and obligations of the aforementioned actors. This example may serve to all other municipalities/countries in the surrounding as an example of good practice. Throughout the year, individual and joint meetings were held with signatories of the Agreement and Protocol in order to exchange opinion and information regarding previous and projected activities, experiences and problems.
Protocol on cooperation between the Center of Public Safety Trebinje, Welfare center Trebinje and Women’s center Trebinje was endorsed September 9th, 2005 in Trebinje. As a result of this cooperation, several joint operations have been carried out, which resulted in improved support to victims and their increased protection. Education for professionals was organized, improved information flow was established as well as team work. These two institutions also forward beneficiaries, who are in need of our help, to us (SOS line, legal aid and court representation, psychosocial support, doctor on Mondays, creative center for children and others). The result of our cooperation is a synchronized chain of support towards the victim, which simultaneously has a warning effect upon the perpetrator, encourages the victim, renders available and timely information, encourages the victim, develops volunteering and team work, recognizes the need for capacity building within Institutions as well as their joint education, utilizes common resources and programs for victims of domestic violence (SOS line, charge-free legal aid and court representation, psycho-social support, and others). Although we have had, since the beginning of our work, generally speaking, good cooperation with the police, by means of this Protocol we’ve strengthened it additionally and secured it on grounds of partnership.
Protocol on cooperation between NGO Women’s center, Trebinje and the Out-patient clinic in Trebinje, signed October 24th, 2005 in Trebinje. According to the Protocol, proposed drawings have been adopted, of men/women, boys/girls on which the doctor indicates the point of injury, in order to increase the visual effect along with issuing an injury list. This sketch map, introduced following an educational tour to Sweden, provided for us by Kvinna till Kvinna, was adapted to our circumstances, certified by doctors, along with the injury list submitted to the police, which forwards it to the Prosecutor and court. According to information at our disposal, this sketch map has begun to be utilized not only for victims of domestic violence but also for other injuries, which are processed by the police and who have declared it as an example of good practice. Aside from this, the Emergency ward commenced with recording statistics on family trees of both the perpetrator and victim, which has not been a practice so far. We have reached an agreement with the Children’s clinic according to which, during routine and other check-up, in cases when evidence of violence are traced, including neglect, the Welfare center or our NGO are contacted immediately, which has not been a practice up to now. As a result of this kind of cooperation, one life has already been saved: a girl was facing anorexia and by involving the Welfare center, the parents were alerted thus, with adequate medical therapy and supervision, the difficulty was overcome.
Through GAP, we provided the Out-patient clinic in Trebinje with an ultrasound apparatus with a vaginal probe and secured our beneficiaries with charge-free gynecological and ultrasound examination.
Protocol on cooperation with the Trebinje kindergartens “Our joy”, “St. Eugenija and Empress Milica”, “Wonderland” and “Ciciban”, was signed October 28th, 2005 in Trebinje. Each kindergarten took upon itself the obligation to provide charge free, full day service for two children from families affected with domestic violence.
This is a unique example in BiH in which different actors within the society are engaged voluntarily to attend to and support victims of domestic violence in such a manner. For these children, this mode of support is especially significant, because it enables separation from dysfunctional families for several hours, in an environment with entertainment and laughter, which helps the child to relax and overcome the trauma with full attention of the teachers. For the families, this assistance is a financial relief because domestic violence generates a new category of pauper people because the victim is deprived of personal property and financial means by the perpetrator. For our partners – the kindergartens, our organization provided education in how to recognize violence against children and is at their disposal if they have additional needs.
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:
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.
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.
The creative center for children works within the Women’s center. In 2005 significant results were achieved although conditions were poor, thus work was done mostly on a voluntary basis. The Creative center was founded owing to assistance from the Canadian Embassy, which enabled the procurement of equipment and furniture. The Creative center offers five sections: acting, reporter’s, photography, art and music and was intended for children, victims of domestic violence but it is rendered available for all children from 6 to 15 years of age with the aim of their socialization.
In 2005 two double issues of Children’s amateur journal were published, prepared, arranged and printed by the children themselves. The journals were published in an edition of 300 samples, owing to the lack of financial support, which were distributed in three Primary schools in Trebinje, 100 samples per school. The acting section, with financial assistance from UMCOR, prepared a children’s costume performance entitled: “Will the lady eater begin to like ice cream?”, presented in all East Herzegovina municipalities and which was performed 9 times during this year. The show was presented in the Youth center in Petrovo Polje. Along with artistic and creative work from the art section, children from this Center presented their work on several occasions during street manifestations in our town.
The Creative center numbers approximately 100 children, of which approx. 30 are victims of domestic violence. It’s work is of great significance because it helps children, victims of domestic violence to properly channel their feelings of love and hate through creative activities, discover and develop, consequently build their self-confidence, directly strengthen their personalities and overcome their traumas. Also, in this way the “bad child” label is stripped off them, since it is expected that they continue living in the “circle of violence” and to turn to the world of criminality.
Through the project “Youth center in Petrovo Polje” , supported by UMCOR, education in the field of domestic violence and gender equality was held for children aged 12 to 18, aimed at raising awareness of the need for developing equal, relation of partnership between men and women.
During this year we initiated and completed, with support of the RS Gender Center, approval of a short four-digit number – 1264 – for all SOS lines in the RS. This single SOS line was a result of two years of our work, which commenced with our first request to RS Telecom in August 18th, 2004, thus all organizations engaged into this activity including “Lara” from Bijeljina, “Association of women” Banja Luka and “Buducnost” Modrica have a single number.
With the goal of obtaining a single humanitarian number our organization was in continuous communication and negotiations with the Regulatory agency and RS Telecom. SOS line began to function in March 15th, 2005 owing to support of the UK Embassy. Also, help was obtained by dialing the number 059 260 026 (we reiterate that this connection was free of charge). Following several month-long negotiations, we requested help from the RS Gender center and following our communication No. I-47/05 dated April 6th, 2005, which contributed to the finalization and award of the short four-digit number- 1264 – for all SOS lines intended for victims of domestic violence in the RS. Between NGO “Lara” from Bijeljina, “Associated women” Banja Luka and “Buducnost” Modrica, service providers and RS Gender center, which coordinates the work and further development of the SOS line, a Memorandum on cooperation and understanding was signed, June 10th, 2005, which defined the rights and obligations of signatories of this Memorandum.
During 2005 this line transmitted only 16 calls, which indicates that additional time, effort and persistence from our organization was needed for this, completely novel type of providing support in our area, to be understood and adopted.
Upon proposal from the RS Gender center, forms were created to provide records of a unique statistical database on the RS level. Owing to good communication with almost all institutions and organizations in the region of East Herzegovina, posters promoting the SOS line were distributed and exposed in all medical institutions, police stations, schools, kindergartens, welfare centers and large companies which mainly employ women.
The SOS line does not have continuous financial support. To date, financial assistance, amounting 3000 KM was obtained only from the RS Ministry of Governance and Local Self-Governance.
Throughout the duration of the project dubbed “My female human rights”, from April 11th, 2005 until July 11th, 2005, supported by UNDP, Women’s center established an office in Bileca and held a total of 9 interactive workshops. The project encompassed two groups of women and men from Bileca municipality as well as representatives of institutions, government and non-governmental organizations in Bileca (Municipality, Welfare center, media, NGOs, Misdemeanor court, members of the municipal Gender commission). Participants of the workshops, in total 237, received key information during interactive workshops on violence according to gender, that is, on the Law on gender equality, its possibilities, as well as mechanisms for its implementation.
Results of this project were as follows:
Topics of interactive workshops for two groups
We are of the opinion that opening a subsidiary office, as well as dissemination of key information from the gender perspective in the fields of economy and labor, health and welfare, public life, education and elimination of violence against women, contributed to a better understanding of the position of women, such as identification of mechanisms for their detection and support.
To economically strengthen women, a project dubbed: “Cross border tourist cooperation”, was implemented.
Being a female organization, which fights for economic empowerment of women, through active engagement in developing tourism in BiH, we wished to contribute to revitalization of women through tourism. On October 13th, 2005, a Conference on tourist cross-border cooperation between the Dubrovnik- Neretva County, municipalities of the Boka-Kotor Bay and East Herzegovina, under the auspices of CEI and EU in BiH, was held in Trebinje.
The Conference was inaugurated by the Head of Delegation of the European Commission in BiH, Mr. Michael Humphreys , while special guests included representatives of embassies of the Republics of Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro, Consulate of the Republic of Croatia, OHR, Agency for economic development REDAH and the RS Trade Chamber. Active participants of the Conference included representatives of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, municipalities and tourist agencies/associations of Tivat, Herceg Novi, Kotor (SCG), Trebinje, Bileca, ljubinje, Berkovici and representatives of NGOs from Nevesinje. I wish to emphasize that this was the first official meeting, which was held in East Herzegovina between the three regions following the last war, which adds additional value to this Conference due to the development of relationships in the region. The goal of the Conference was the development of cross-border cooperation at all levels, and within this context, improvement of the status of women in the region, which our Organization in particular, was engaged in. A multimedia CD presentation of Trebinje was prepared for this Conference, entitled: “Trebinje, a Mediterranean town”, in Serb and English, which was evaluated as the best promotional material produced so far, for the municipality. Except for the CD, we prepared promotional mini catalogues of all 6 East Herzegovina municipalities, which were distributed to participants of this event.
Conclusions from this Conference were forwarded to all relevant international and national actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, republic of Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro.
The aforementioned events were not the only activities carried out in the field of cross-border cooperation between municipalities of Trebinje and Dubrovnik. Namely, our Organization organized, for two consecutive years, celebration ofEurope Day in Trebinje which was supported by EU in BiH. The manifestation was inaugurated by the Head of delegation of the European Commission and attended by representatives of Embassies of Serbia and Montenegro, Republic of Croatia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain as well as other numerous officials from international and domestic organizations and institutions (Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, JICA, Kvinna till Kvinna, Star Network of Worl Learning, OHR, OSCE, EUPM, EUFOR, and others). On this occasion, an international youth judo sport competition was organized, with participation of a club from Dubrovnik.
We consider that our activities conducted so far, presented this region well and contributed to its promotion and established basis for further negotiations on tourist and other aspects of cross-border cooperation between East Herzegovina, Bay of Boka and Kotor and the Dubrovnik and Neretva County.
With the aim of contributing to the economic empowerment of women, during 2005 we participated in two seminars, organized by the NGO Solidarity for the South, including:
This year on several occasions we provided packages of food, toys, clothing and other adequate presents for our needy fellow citizens, primarily children and women, victims of domestic violence. We participated in gathering aid for two children for children whose lives were in jeopardy, one of which was our beneficiary. Funds worth 1700 KM were collected.
We provided funds for excursion for six of the most pauper children attending eighth grade primary school “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj”.
We also provided modest financial assistance to the NGO “We all share the Sun together”, in their project for collecting humanitarian funds for children with special needs.
During last year our organization was visited by representatives from Kvinna till Kvinna, Canadian embassy, American embassy, UMCOR, embassy of Great Britain, USAID…