Strengthening CSOs, CSOs platforms and networks for monitoring and
reporting on human rights instruments

CSOs, in particular women's organizations, play a crucial role in the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based discrimination and harmful gender stereotypes. They are key advocacy stakeholders for mobilizing governments from commitment to implementation of international normative standards. Furthermore, women's organizations are key stakeholders in ensuring that the perspectives and voices of minority and marginalized groups of women are heard by policy-makers and accounted for in policy.


‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds’ strives to empower CSOs to hold governments accountable for the enforcement of national and international commitments to end VAW by:

  • Building the capacities of CSOs and CSO networks to monitor and report on the implementation of government commitments to ending VAW (EVAW) at every level – local, national, regional, and international – and for all women, with a specific focus on marginalized groups of women; and

  • Increasing the collaboration of CSOs working to EVAW by establishing new CSO networks and strengthening existing networks.


In Albania, a network of 48 organizations - the Monitoring Network on Gender-based Violence – was established as an advocacy platform to raise priorities and concerns in the area of EVAW. On behalf of the Network, the Centre for Legal Civic Initiatives submitted a shadow report to the CEDAW Committee in March 2019 on the implementation of four recommendations on which Albania reported in January 2019. A shadow report was also submitted for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the context of Albania’s review due in May 2019. In addition, representatives of the Network were also present during the pre-session organized by OHCHR in Geneva, where they presented key issues and recommendations in relation to gender-based violence. Around 40 recommendations issued for Albania in the third UPR cycle relate specifically to gender-based violence, with the majority of them mirroring recommendations made by the Monitoring Network.

Further, members of the Monitoring Network collaborated to produce the CSO report on Beijing+25, which was submitted in July 2019, making Albania the first country to submit a CSO report. Members of the Monitoring Network then represented Albania at the Beijing+25 regional Review Meeting in Geneva at the end of October 2019, endorsing efforts to speed up measures and efforts to end violence against women and girls.


Alongside this, the Albanian Women Empowerment Network (AWEN) and Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC) developed a monitoring methodology and trained 12 representatives of local CSOs in six municipalities to effectively monitor the implementation of the National Strategy on Gender Equality 2016-2020.


At the local level, around 220 representatives of CSOs in 11 municipalities received training on international standards against gender-based violence and the use of these standards for advocacy initiatives. Furthermore, following technical trainings, 45 women’s organizations are better equipped to monitor the government’s actions in implementing international obligations and to report to the relevant human rights and monitoring bodies, including the CEDAW Committee, GREVIO, and the UN Human Rights Council.


In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 22 women’s organizations – including those representing Roma women, women with disabilities, and single mothers – are better able to monitor the implementation of the Istanbul Convention and collect data for alternative reporting to GREVIO as a result of a capacity building process led by CSO United Women Banja Luka. Additionally, this platform of CSOs has developed a toolkit for monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The toolkit consists of indicators and areas of focus chosen by the national platform, as well as instructions for CSOs on how to contribute to monitoring by collecting data on cases in the field.


In Kosovo, through capacity-building trainings and awareness-raising sessions conducted by the Lawyer’s Association ‘NORMA,’ 20 CSOs have strengthened capacities to advocate for the implementation of the Kosovo National Strategy on Protection from Domestic Violence and the Action Plan 2016-2020. In addition, the first Monitoring Report of the National Strategy was launched in November 2018. In 2018, more than 70 women representatives of CSOs enhanced their advocacy capacities through their participation in capacity building training and awareness-raising sessions conducted under the programme. The training was based on the legal education guide developed recently by NORMA, which articulates a profound understanding of violence against women through an explanation of international legal commitments enshrined in CEDAW and Istanbul Convention.


In North Macedonia, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (HCHR), delivered training for 26 representatives of 9 women’s rights CSOs and CSO networks to build their capacities on the general and practical use of human rights complaint mechanisms under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in cases of gender discrimination or VAW.


For the first time, a case of discrimination based on gender and ethnicity has been submitted to the CEDAW Committee. In May 2019, the Helsinki Committee (MHC) submitted the Communication to the CEDAW Committee in Geneva, using mechanisms under the CEDAW Optional Protocol (the cases of S.B. and M.B. against The Republic of North Macedonia). The case was regrading discrimination and denial of primary health services to two Roma women. The CEDAW Committee confirmed that a list of issues has been sent to the state, and their response is to be provided within the following 6 months.

Coalition Margins has completed a scoping study on gender-based violence in public spaces in Municipality of Tetovo, which reveals the impact of different forms of GBV on preventing women and girls from equally utilizing public spaces. The scoping study also highlights the increased risk of violence in public spaces for marginalized groups of women, such as women with disabilities, sex workers, and Roma women, as well as the various self-protective measures women take when passing through public areas perceived as unsafe. The research is available in Macedonian and Albanian languages.


Additionally, Coalition Margins developed a Proposed Local Action Plan for Prevention and Protection Against Gender Based Violence in Municipality of Tetovo. The plan aims to improve prevention of all forms of VAW, increase the capacities of the local institutions dealing with cases of VAW and DV, strengthen multi sectoral coordination and co-operation in dealing with cases at local level, and allocate financial support to specialized services for victims of VAW by the local self-governments. The Proposed Local Action Plan was developed in cooperation with the representatives of Municipality of Tetovo, Local Ombudsman Office, The Centre for Social Work and NGO Women’s Forum. Lobbying activities were realized with local authorities aiming at adoption of the Proposal Local Action Plan. 


In Montenegro, a coalition of four women’s CSOs led by the Women’s Rights Centre (WRC), produced and submitted a GREVIO shadow report in June 2017 on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, providing insight on VAW and domestic violence in the country. Additionally, the programme is undertaking an intensive capacity-building process for CSOs in order to enable them to fulfil the conditions for accreditation and licensing as official service providers for victims of violence. This would allow them to become strategic partners of the state in the prevention, protection and prosecution of cases of VAW.

Women’s Rights Center also conducted a Training of Trainers on the implementation of the new Protocol on Treatment, Prevention and Protection from Domestic Violence and Violence against Women. Training participants were representatives of key sectors in charge of domestic violence (police, social centres and judiciary) who in turn will train their colleagues to improve their capacities on how to respond to cases of domestic violence in accordance with the Protocol. The trainings are supported by the Montenegrin Institute for Social and Child Protection, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare of Montenegro.


The advocacy work of NGO IKRE from Rozaje resulted in the establishment of a multidisciplinary team to monitor and respond immediately to cases of violence against women. The team consists of representatives of relevant CSOs, the Centre for Social Work, the police, first responders, state prosecutor, vocational high school, grammar high school, religious high school Medresa Rožaje, and presidents of the local departments of the political parties. The team improves intersectoral cooperation and strengthens the position of CSOs as partners in the fight against violence.  


In order to provide services to survivors of violence in Montenegro, CSOs must be officially licensed by the state. As a result of intensive support and capacity building provided through the programme, service provider CSOs received official licenses in 7 services.


In Serbia, through trainings held by the Roma Women Network (RWN), 15 Roma women’s organizations improved their ability to collect data according to uniform methodological standards in order to report on Roma women’s human rights violations to the CEDAW Committee and GREVIO. Additionally, under the guidance of Bibija Roma Women’s Centre, the network developed a shadow report in the last quarter of 2018 to submit to the CEDAW Committee and GREVIO following the submission of the sixth periodic report on the implementation of CEDAW by the state, as well as the first state report to GREVIO on the specific position of Roma women and girls in Serbia.


Finally, as a result of strategic mentoring organized by SOS Network Vojvodina to increase the capacities of 10 women’s organizations, shadow reports were submitted to GREVIO and the CEDAW Committee. The reports present the perspective of a broad civil society coalition on the status of women in the country, including situational analyses and recommendations for the following particularly vulnerable groups of women: Roma women, migrant women, single mothers, women with disabilities, rural women, elderly women, LGBT women, women victims of violence, and women victims of trafficking.


In Turkey, 65 women’s CSOs are better equipped to monitor and report on the implementation of CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention through their participation in trainings and an online support platform support run by the Turkish Women’s Union. In addition, over 20 organizations of Syrian and Turkish women convened in a platform ‘A Woman is a Land to a Woman,’ under the support of KADAV (Kadın Dayanışma Vakfı – Foundation for Women’s Solidarity), with a view to increase members’ knowledge on the requirements in CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention, reporting and monitoring mechanisms, and the national legal framework regarding VAW.

Following an informational session on the CEDAW follow-up reporting process held by the programme in July 2019, a coalition of CSOs submitted a follow-up report to the CEDAW Committee. In addition, the programme contributed to submission of UN Country Team’s (UNCT) shadow report to the CEDAW Committee in regard to Turkey’s follow-up procedure by providing inputs to the report and its review.

At the regional level, the first regional CSO platform addressing VAW, the Civil Society Strengthening Platform (CSSP), led by the Women Against Violence in Europe – WAVE Network, is well established and directs its efforts towards strengthening women’s voices and agency, including those of women’s organizations working with and representing women from marginalized groups. Nine organizations from seven countries(2) strengthened their capacities to monitor and report on CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention through trainings involving international experts and GREVIO members held in Serbia, Turkey and Montenegro. In addition, the network is implementing an evidence based action plan informed by mapping and research work, inter alia; Doing it right: Making women’s networks accessible, with a special focus on women from minority and disadvantaged

groups (led by AWEN Network, in collaboration with the Gender Alliance Development Centre); The Benefits and Challenges of Women’s Networks in the Western Balkans and Turkey. A Comparative Report (led by Association Fenomena); and Briefing Paper Benefits and Challenges the CSSP Platform has faced in the Process of Implementing and Monitoring the Istanbul Convention (led by WAVE).

The 2019 report produced by CSSP, Advancing the Istanbul Convention implementation: The role of women’s NGOs and networks in the Western Balkans & Turkey, offers an overview of the current situation regarding the implementation of the Istanbul Convention in the Westerns Balkans and Turkey and analyzes how networking influences advocacy actions for the implementation of the Convention. More precisely, the report examines existing advocacy practices of networking of CSOs and inclusion of women from minority or disadvantaged groups, as well as advocacy efforts through regional networking in the Western Balkan region and Turkey.

With regards to supporting minority women in the region, Bibija Roma Women’s Centre is building the capacity of Roma and pro-Roma women’s rights civil society networks and platforms in collecting and analyzing data to inform international and human rights instruments reports. Bibija has directly engaged 3 partner organizations: Roma Women and Youth Association “LULUDI” (North Macedonia), NGO Young Roma (Montenegro), and NGO Otaharin (BiH).

2. Albanian Women Empowering Network and Gender Alliance for Development Centre, and Woman to Woman from Albania; Foundation United Women Banja Luka from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Women’s Wellness Centre from Kosovo; National Council for Gender Equality and National Network to end VAW and DV – Violence against Women from North Macedonia; SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence Niksic from Montenegro; Association Fenomena from Serbia; and Kadın Dayanışma Vakfı –the Foundation for Women’s Solidarity from Turkey 


This research report offers an overview of the current situation regarding the accessibility of women’s civil society networks in the Western Balkans and Turkey, including two case studies that provide examples of good practice. It represents an initial attempt to examine different working approaches and analyze the inclusiveness of women’s networks in the region. See the report here.