supported by Kvinna till Kvinna
In the period from the 01st of January to the 31st of December this year and within the project “Independent woman II” we continued the main activities from the previous year, which are psycho-social support, health education within the activity “Doctor on Monday” and free-of-charge legal aid and representation in the court.
Beside the continuation of these activities, we implemented also Round tables in all municipalities of Eastern Herzegovina. These activities are enriched with pre-election activities that include the preparation of promotional posters and a Round table. It is necessary to add to this that we prepared for the first time an Annual report that includes all our activities and results finishing with 2005, which are updated on the newly opened web portal www.zenskicentar.org.
Every Monday from 1 to 5 p.m. doctor Branka Vujović organises mini lectures on women’s reproductive health and distributes appropriate written materials. The doctor informs women, on each of these lectures about the provision of a new ultrasound appartus with vaginal probe in the Health centre Trebinje (on the initiative of our organisation) and about the possibility for all our beneficiaries to have a free-of-charge gynaecological and ultrasound check-up. A total number of 311 women participated on mini lectures and/or asked for advice and information, personally or on the telephone. According to our information, the majority of women in this region do not have appropriate health information. This indicates that the best thing to do is to start the health education in primary and secondary schools, which we realised through the Protocol on co-operation with all primary and secondary schools in Trebinje. Namely, it is agreed to organise on a monthly level discussions with young people aged from 12 to 18 about women’s issues including the AIDS issue and unwanted pregnancy. According to the report of the doctor the issue of unwanted pregnancy is a big and common problem not only for young girls but also for mature women. This problem can be also associated with the report of the team for psycho-social support wherein they mention frequent controls of the victim by the violator through “accidental” unplanned pregnancy or about the reason why young women enter a marriage even if it hopeless from the beginning – due to an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy, which could have been avoided if they had appropriate health education.
Beside these issues, the most frequent questions and needs were about illnesses of reproductive organs, obesity and cardiovascular issues. We can make a conclusion that in this region in the last few years the most common reasons for the mortality of women are illnesses of reproductive organs and cardiovascular illnesses. A high number of cancer patients initiated the foundation of the Association “Iskra” with a planned SOS help line, which unfortunately still does not work appropriately.
Women in their middle age and older refer to us most often regarding advice but more and more schools use us a source of information and they send their students to our professional staff to inform themselves not only about our work but also about concrete topics from the health education field (addiction illnesses, AIDS, pregnancy, domestic violence, trafficking etc.). It is noticed that a high number of women who come to us and who belong to the category of “aware and emancipated” women with their own careers have the same problem – the double ballast. On one side, they build their careers, which requires a lot of energy and effort but on the other side they did not do anything in their houses/families to free themselves from family obligations and everything is still lying on their shoulders (children upbringing, household obligations, cleaning, cooking etc.).
In the frame of these activities the doctor supported the Public tribune that was organised on the 19th of June regarding the purchase of the ultrasound apparatus and dissemination of information.
Some of our members did not use during this reporting period the possibility for the use of a massage and therefore we refunded these resources. All participants of these events received promotional materials as well as on street manifestations that we have organised with the aim to spread information about the purchase of an ultrasound apparatus with vaginal probe but also to contribute to the health education of women. We had also two supervisions that helped as a support to the supporters to not “burn out” with all these topics.
All the in the project anticipated individual and group activities have been realised in the reporting period. All activities had the goal to strengthen the victims, develop their capacities, and adopt new ways of behaviour with the aim of improved personal and family functioning. The group activities – groups for support had the aim to process the negative experiences with professional support and to put them in a new frame and to empower the personal strengths of the victim and the family system through experience exchange and mutual support.
The organised Round tables had the aim of primary prevention of violence, sensibilisation of the community and the development of the network of actors within the community.
The team for psycho-social support offered advisory support every Tuesday and Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. Within these time terms – periods, individual support was offered in the Women’s Centre rooms or on the telephone. During this year 57 people asked for support and 19 of them needed support several times. Nearly in all cases women were the ones who asked for help, mostly victims of domestic violence, in three cases parents were the ones who asked for support and in one case a man with mental disability who was exposed to violence from his violent brother. Around 70 of beneficiaries are permanent users of various services offered by the Women’s Centre. In cases where it was justified and possible, we worked also with other family members, most often through house visits, which were organised outside of these times. Violence becomes often a general way of behaviour or behaviour specific for an entire family system and all its sub-systems. In cases like this we tried to work with the entire family. During the reporting period we worked continuously with 12 families of this kind and 50% of them will need in the perspective individual and group treatments due to the complexity of the problem. Our work with six families gave positive results and we will only follow their functioning in the future and offer support as needed. We asked for support from other institutions when this was necessary or when this was indicated. The signed Agreement on co-operation among actors in the community that work with these issues made the support much more efficient and timed, particularly regarding the co-operation with the police. When it was possible we included children victims of violence, direct or not direct in various programmatic activities of the Women’s Centre or other actors in the community with the goal to overcome the trauma of violence. Other forms of support were also offered to children from these families – summer holidays were organised for a number of them and two girls were included in the English teaching course.
We have to stress that there are very few cases where it is possible to co-operate with all family members, even though this kind of work gives the best results. In the majority of cases only one part of the family accepts the help, usually women victims of violence and children.
Once a month, on the first Thursday in a month, group work was organised and groups for self-support met. These are groups with 5 to 7 women who, with the professional support of the psychologist and a social worker, “process their negative experiences”, put it in a new frame, and strengthen their personal capacities through exchange of experiences and mutual support.
Despite the fact that it is not planned in this project, we also organised group work with children, direct or not direct victims of domestic violence because we want to meet the needs of our clients. These activities are also organised once a month in duration of two hours. It is important to stress that these children are also involved in activities from other projects implemented by the Women’s Centre or by other actors in the community.
We emphasise that this team – led by the professional principle “client in the centre” – planned all its activities according to the expressed needs of beneficiaries and with their direct involvement in the planning of activities. Therefore we decided to offer support also directly in the family because a number of clients does not want to make public their problem and they insisted to receive support in their homes. In these cases the entire family system was usually treated by using the principles of the family therapy.
The signatories of the Agreement on co-operation met once a month to exchange information and experiences and to plan activities and all this with the goal to offer more appropriate support to the victims.
We organised also three Round tables on the topic “Violence on children and how to recognise it” with teaching staff in nurseries and playgroups in municipality Trebinje, teachers and the police.
In the reporting period we continued the development of a network of actors and to recruit new forces who will give their contribution in the fight against domestic and other forms of violence.
All activities had regional character and therefore support was requested also from the citizens from neighbouring municipalities.
It is important to mention that governmental institutions from the region recognised the capacities of the Women’s Centre and they asked often for our support in the realisation of activities from their field of work.
All women receive materials and booklets that we prepared by ourselves /scripts. These scripts are distributed on all our public appearances (Round tables) but they are also available in our office.
The SOS help line does not proved to be functional because people in this region adopt unfortunately very slowly new methods. Therefore they still do not recognise the SOS help line as a possibility to talk anonymously about their problem but they see it as a mechanism to report violence.
The drawing that I brought from the study trip to Sweden was adapted and included in the package of documentation that is issued by the doctor in the Urgent medical service when he issues the injury sheet. According to the police, this sheet is officially used in our region also for other forms of violence and not only for domestic violence for which it was originally introduced. This is a very good example of experience exchange (in this case from Sweden) and an example of good practice (in this case spreading to other cases as well).
A number of 72 people from the entire region of Eastern Herzegovina asked for advice and/or support regarding domestic violence. But around 13 people asked for legal advice due to gender discrimination, usually at work and 4 due to violation of labour relations by the employer. It is visible that women became braver to ask for divorce and to report violence to the police, which indicates that victims became aware of the fact that they are not left on their own. On the joint meetings of the Project team or the layers, the team for psycho-social support and the doctor concrete cases were discussed in order to offer them more appropriate and multiple support but also on the meetings of the signatories of the Protocol on co-operation in order to organise activities synchronised.
In the majority of domestic violence cases the victim is usually a woman and the violator is usually a man – husband. But, in the last period we noticed an increased number of cases where the violator is a person that is addictive from drugs or alcohol. We had a case where a sister from Zemun/Serbia reported and started the procedure against her brother because of violence on their old mother.
“On the 21st of September 2006 Radulj born Tasovac Branka from Zemun, Gospodska 4 addressed to the lawyers Spomenka Tešanović and Nada Ćorić because of a criminal act of Domestic violence done by her brother Tasovac Rajko on their mother Tasovac Radojka.
On the 25th of September 2006 the lawyer Nada Ćorić made an insight in the documents of the District Court and had a conversation with the prosecutor Rajcevic Obrad after what we informed the client that the suspect Tasovac Rajko will be kept in prison because there is a danger that he might repeat the criminal act knowing that he was accused in the past for the same criminal act against the same person – his mother. The client was also informed that the suspect will undergo a neuropsychiatric expertise with the expert Crnogorčić dr Gospava in order to determine if he was wayward at the time when the criminal act was done because it was done while he was under the influence of alcohol.
Until the end of 2006 our lawyer Spomenka Tešanović followed at several occasions in the District Court and then in the Primary Court in Trebinje the dynamic of the criminal procedure against the accused Tasovac Rajko and determined that he was kept in prison even after the accusation was raised and that a imprisonment was declared for the named criminal act in duration of one year and that he is now in prison. In an earlier decision of the Court, beside the pronounced sentence there was also pronounced a safety measure, which is the inevitable treatment from addiction illness – the alcohol. This safety measure was not realised because he did not want to undergo the treatment voluntarily”. – In this summary from the report of our lawyers it can be clearly seen that the Law on Protection from domestic violence is not applicable because it is not used and there are practically no criminal sanctions for those who do not respect it, in our case it is Tasovac Rajko.
Regarding the legal advice it is noticed that there is a greater knowledge of beneficiaries about their rights relating to domestic violence, particularly of those women coming from urban areas.
During the project period we have organised 6 Round tables on the topic “Woman today – problems and challenges” as follows:
These Round tables had on one side informative character (information on the existing positive legislation that regulates women’s issues) and on the other side they had the goal to collect information from the field and lobby for female politicians. Therefore we decided to organise our Round tables just before the General elections in order to lobby for female candidates from all political parties. We noticed then lack of confidence of women themselves in female candidates who do not trust them from the beginning. We used these Round tables to promote female politicians and to explain to the female voting body why it is so important to give their voice to a woman from their favourite political party.
During this Project and our Round tables we recognised the need to contribute more to the promotion of female politicians from the Election unit 6, which was very neglected before and after the elections. In the frame of our additional activities, we prepared posters and one Conference “General elections 2006 – challenges and possibilities for women’s issues”, which was organised on the 05th of September 2006. Participants were male and female candidates from the lists. From a total number of 18 political parties in this Election unit only 7 political parties participated or 29 present participants. One thing that became very obvious is the continuous disinterested behaviour of male candidates who wanted to demonstrate their power. All media covered this Conference and they emphasised the disrespected behaviour of one representative of the Serbian Radical Party who sent a clear message that women should not vote for the Radicals because they cannot provide gender equality.
support by Filia die frauenstiftung
Through the work with young women we faced various personal stories that gave us a clear picture on the stereotypes that are present in this region. At several occasions we noticed that the young women themselves think that all the properties have to be registered in man’s names, that they have to marry after they finish their secondary school – otherwise they have no future in such small communities, that it is a shame to be divorced etc. This indicated the need for the realisation of this project. We noticed also that there is a low level of knowledge on contraception, sexual illnesses, puberty and reproductive health.
We worked mainly through our activists who gathered together, organised these workshops and worked with young women. After that, the girls themselves spread the information and brought other groups. We worked in an interactive way and there was a good communication with the groups.
The reactions from the surrounding were various – from radical opinions that we are chauvinistically oriented towards men to real understanding and offering of support to our activities.
Our already built credibility that we had in the community helped us a lot to enter the families and to gain the confidence of the young women. This is particularly relating to small communities and rural areas where every gathering of women is not seen as useful and well meant.
Occasionally a strong patriarchal stream that wanted to put our activities in a completely different light. Fortunately, they were not successful.
We think that we contributed significantly to the realisation of our final goal through this project. But, the awareness change is a long term process and it requires continuous education. Therefore we think that it is necessary to work continuously with young people and to provide for girls but also for the boys an appropriate education in order to achieve real gender equality.
We got the impression that it is necessary to provide further work with young girls in schools – to involve young population aged from 12 to 18 into inclusive interactive workshops where we could give them appropriate answers to their questions. It would be very important to open a pre-marriage counselling place because young women are devoted mainly to the needs of their families and not to their own needs. There is also lack of information and lack of maturity when entering a marriage.
We think that we “touched the top of an iceberg” and that young women, that were involved in our education, will have a more mature and more responsible approach to themselves and their needs as well as to their future role in the society and the family. Already after the education, a number of them started to use a gender sensitive language.