On 5 November, …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA Organization participated in the presentation of a research study report analyzing the existing approaches to violence against women and girls in the Western Balkans and Turkey hosted by European Commission (EC) in Brussels. The report findings and recommendations were presented both to representatives of EC and Council of Europe, as well as European Union (EU) Delegations’ staff from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
The ‘A Thousand Ways to Solve Our Problems’: An Analysis of Existing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Approaches for Minoritized Women and Girls in the Western Balkans and Turkey research study has been conducted by a British feminist organization Imkaan within the framework of the UN Women Implementing Norms, Changing Minds Programme aiming at ending discrimination and gender-based violence against women. This programme, supported by EU, pays special attention to experience of women and girls from multiply marginalized social groups, such as women with disabilities, women from ethnic minority communities, rural women, etc.
The moderator of the research study report presentation entitled Intersectional Approaches to Ending Gender-Based Discrimination and Violence Against Women was Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, the Director for the Western Balkans of the EC Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. In her introductory address, she highlighted that principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunities advocated by the report about to be presented are human rights cornerstones. All EU member states, as well as countries aspiring to join it, must do everything in their power to make human rights observation and providing for their exercise and protection a reality for all their citizens, including women from multiply marginalized groups. Yolanda Iriarte from the UN Women Western Balkans and Turkey Regional Office emphasized the importance of a gender-sensitive insight into the realities of minoritized women, documenting their experience and educating the broadest public about their position and challenges they had been facing. Without such a comprehensive approach, advocating for systemic improvement of the position of women from multiply marginalized social groups at highest levels, an incentive this presentation was a part of, would have had remained a major challenge, said Iriarte.
Marai Larasi, Executive Director of Imkaan, spoke about the significance of collecting experience of women survivors of gender-based violence originating from multiply marginalized groups. Little is known or talked about their lives. Therefore, their social marginalization remains undocumented, with no witness accounts or evidence to confirm it, as if it has never been happening, nor will it happen ever again. This is why information and data on providing tailor-made, specialized support services to women from marginalized groups for the purposes of the ‘A Thousand Ways to Solve Our Problems’: An Analysis of Existing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Approaches for Minoritized Women and Girls in the Western Balkans and Turkey research study have been collected relying on intersectionality. Besides their gender, this approach takes into account other identity layers of women affected by gender-based violence (such as their ethnicity, race, disability, sexual orientation, etc.), along with the dominant social discourses as factors contributing to women’s multiple marginalization. Neha Kagal, one of the Imkaan researchers, presented the research study key challenges and recommendations. Representatives of ‘by and for’ organizations working in women’s rights and gender-based violence prevention of Roma and ethnic minority women, women with disabilities and rural women in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo illustrated the research study findings with case studies from their everyday work.
Information, data and experience presented in ‘A Thousand Ways to Solve Our Problems’: An Analysis of Existing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Approaches for Minoritized Women and Girls in the Western Balkans and Turkey research study have been collected from 42 ‘by and for’ organizations in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Such organizations provide specialized services to minoritized women that are otherwise unavailable to them within the existing framework of support mechanisms for women survivors of gender-based violence. The experience of these organizations bears witness of incompatibility of the existing general services with the needs of women from maginalized social groups, as well as the obstacles faced by specialized ‘by and for’ organizations providing adequate, needs-based services and support to these women in their local communities, the organizations otherwise usually less known to the general public.
The major challenges in the work of such organizations are inaccessibility of otherwise legally proscribed, mandatory services for women survivors of violence, systemic discrimination, inadequate funding priorities concerning support-provision to minoritized women, as well as a profound lack of understanding of the need for intersectional approach to the phenomenon of violence against women. Indira Bajramović from the Better Future Organization from Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Manjola Veizi from the Roma Women’s Rights Center from Tirana, Albania, Antigona Aljilji from the Women’s Forum Association from Tetovo, Macedonia, and Ankica Dragin from Organization Providing Support to Women with Disabilities …IZ KRUGA — VOJVODINA from Novi Sad, Serbia, brought these challenges to life at the research study presentation event by sharing the experience of their organizations’ everyday realities.
…IZ KRUGA — VOJVODINA presented the research study findings indicating that services for women experiencing gender-based violence are architecturally and information-wise inaccessible to women with disabilities. Besides reflecting basic lack of understanding of the position of women with disabilities in the context of gender-based violence, such state of affairs indicates that there is still ample space for improvement of the existing services, as well as the way relevant institution relate to and handle their legal obligations concerning the needs, position and rights of women with disabilities.
Out of the total of 54 recommendations of the ‘A Thousand Ways to Solve Our Problems’: An Analysis of Existing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Approaches for Minoritized Women and Girls in the Western Balkans and Turkey research study, several are deemed key to improvement of the position of minoritized women and girls experiencing gender-based violence. There is a need for a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of gender-based violence against women and girls as a combination of unequal social position of women and men and their belonging to marginalized social groups. Besides the need to provide minoritized women with a physically, professionally infrastructure- and communication-wise improved access to services for women survivors of gender-based violence, it is necessary to create conditions for funds allocated for the work of specialized women’s grassroots organizations to both match these women’s needs and support the work and development of ‘by and for’ organizations. The forthcoming state-induced licensing process aimed at organizations providing support to women experiencing gender-based violence must be implemented in a way that provides space for licensing of special services packages providing support to women from multiply marginalized social groups.
Written and translated from Serbian by Ankica Dragin