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Empowering women and girls to access quality services

Protection, prevention and response to VAW is closely interlinked with availability and access to comprehensive, coordinated, inter-disciplinary, and sustained multi-sectoral services.


The Istanbul Convention distinguishes between and mandates both general and specialist support services. Furthermore, Article 19 of the Convention requires that adequate and timely information on available support services and legal measures should be available to survivors in a language they understand. The need to improve services for victims of domestic violence in quality, quantity, accessibility and geographical coverage has been also raised by the European Union as one of the human rights issues that needs to be addressed in the region.


‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds’ works with CSOs throughout the region to meet these standards and improve generalist and specialist support service for victims of VAW.


In Albania, through on-the-job trainings conducted by Human Rights in Democracy Center (HRDC) in partnership with the Shelter for Abused Women and Girls, over 550 services providers – including police officers, health care providers, municipal staff, and teachers – have a better understanding of how to address cases of domestic violence and fulfil their legal obligations regarding service provision to all victims of VAW.


With the support of CSO partners, the multi-sectoral referral mechanisms for cases of VAW have been re-activated in the municipalities of Kamza and Lezha to ensure the management of cases of violence in accordance with Albanian legislation. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of cases of violence reported, protection orders issued, and medical reports conducted by local authorities. In 2018, the number of reported cases of domestic violence increased by 45.6% and 71.6% from 2017 in the two municipalities respectively.


7 practical guides on various forms of violence, services available in local areas, and standards for service providers have been produced by the Albanian Disability Rights Foundation (ADRF) and HRDC. The guides – one of which was developed for women with disabilities in alternative formats (easy read format, Braille, audio accompaniments) – were shared with communities and local service providers to inform quality service provision and help community members identify and respond to incidents of violence.


In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Safe Network, led by CSO partner Lara Bijeljina, is advancing multi-sectoral cooperation and response in cases of domestic violence in 7 municipalities. This has been done by training CSOs on international standards in service provision and organizing coordination meetings with government and non-governmental actors to monitor and report on multi-sectoral cooperation and to improve case management for incidents of violence. As a result of the coordination meetings, three municipalities have established permanent bodies or adopted new protocols to improve multi-sectoral coordination and response to cases of VAW.


Furthermore, 56 service providers in 3 municipalities have improved their understanding of issues related to intersecting forms of discrimination and the specific needs of women belonging to disadvantaged groups through their participation in anti-discrimination trainings.


In Kosovo, partner CSOs, in collaboration with government agencies, established the first National Unified Database for tracking cases of domestic violence and VAW. The database, which signifies a momentous step forward in effectively monitoring and analyzing cases of VAW, will allow data entry access to all institutions involved in the prevention of and response to domestic violence and VAW. So far, 150 representatives of key institutions have been trained on its usage.


Moreover, the first manual on case management of domestic violence/VAW cases was finalized and used as the basis for Training of Trainers organized by partner NGO SAFE House. Thus far, shelter staff in 7 municipalities have received training on how to maintain a victim-oriented approach to protect the rights and interests of women and children clients.


More than one hundred representatives of CSOs and members of local coordination mechanisms in 7 municipalities – in the sectors of health, law enforcement, justice, education, and social services – now have the knowledge and capacity to implement the standards outlined in the Istanbul Convention and other international and national legislation through their participation in capacity-building trainings organized by partner NGO AKTIV.


In North Macedonia, over 100 staff members of general and specialist service providers increased their capacities to implement the standards of the Istanbul Convention and provide gender responsive and quality services through capacity-building trainings held by Educational Humanitarian Organization (EHO) and Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (HCHR). In addition, more than 300 women victims of violence received free gender-responsive assistance – including legal aid, legal representation, psychosocial counselling, and group therapy – from CSO partners EHO, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Health Education and Research Association (HERA), and National Roma Centrum.

In Montenegro, SOS Nikšić is putting survivors’ wellbeing first: over 20 advocates from SOS Nikšić attended a 30-hour training course on the use of ethical principles and guidelines for working with survivors to service providers working in the prevention of domestic violence/VAW, and women survivors of violence are building both mental and physical strength through self-defense and yoga classes delivered by SOS Nikšić. Additionally, Women’s Rights Center provided over 50 women victims of VAW with legal representation and strategic litigation in line with the Istanbul Convention.


There has also been a focus in Montenegro on modern day slavery and trafficking. The knowledge and competencies of professional staff working with victims of violence was improved through 3 accredited training programmes designed by the Montenegrin Women’s Lobby (MWL). Two training programmes – basic and advanced – address the prevention of child trafficking and the identification and protection of victims. A third programme develops the communication skills of SOS hotline staff members to work with potential trafficking victims. Moreover, the publication and dissemination of 6 case studies on trafficking in human beings by MWL contributed to the knowledge of representatives of local and national institutions on the need to prevent modern-day slavery and identify victims, as well as the support needed from each institution for victims in the process of recovery.

In Serbia, specific policy guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual violence against women living with disabilities[DDLR1]  were developed by …iz kruga Vojvodina and have been incorporated into the general guidance of the seven Centers for Victims of Sexual Violence in the country. The specific guidelines were incorporated into the general guidelines by the Provincial Secretariat for Health in March 2018 and are expected to be fully adopted towards the end of 2019. …iz kruga Vojvodina also delivered two seminars for 25 staff from the 7 Centers on improving access to services for women with disabilities, focusing on: stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, and terminology; the concept and types of disabilities; gender roles of women with disabilities; specificity of VAW with disabilities; and, procedures in working with women with disabilities experiencing violence.

In addition to this work, the first ever Femicide Data Collection Model was produced by Gender Knowledge Hub, FemPlatz and Research Center for Education and Communication. It provides an overview of the current situation in data collection in different sectors (including major barriers and bottlenecks) and includes recommendations for the improvement of data collection at the national level and within each relevant sector. A model for data collection will be presented to EVAW key stakeholders and adopted in September 2019.


Finally, outreach to women living in mountainous rural areas has been increased through the model of ‘Women of Trust,’ put in place by CSOs Women for Peace and Association Una. Through this model trained women activists engaged with over 30 women in Central and South Serbia who will further disseminate the informative material about violence and available services provided to them.


In Turkey, 90 local actors working in the field of EVAW – including CSO staff, muhtars, municipality personnel, and local and provincial ministry representatives – are better equipped to meet the needs of Syrian women refugees through capacity-building trainings on the rights of refugee women and their legal status in the country.


Further to this, over 60 women lawyers from 7 regions of Turkey are better able to provide legal support to survivors of VAW, following their participation in extensive trainings on international and regional legal frameworks, including the Istanbul Convention and recent judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, organized by Capacity Development Association (KAGED). KAGED is promoting the use of international and regional legal frameworks in local courts through the development of a guidebook and practical checklist for lawyers on the application of these frameworks.

At the regional level, Centar ženskih prava - Center of Women's Rights is examining cases of violence in which the system failed to protect women throughout the region. They aim to provide an in-depth look at the causes and consequences that could inform and foster a constructive dialogue among key EVAW national and regional stakeholders. The analysis of systemic failures to grant justice and protect women is being done vis-à-vis national normative frameworks, CEDAW Committee jurisprudence, ECHR decisions and judgements, and the Istanbul Convention. The research findings will inform interagency dialogue; contribute to fostering CSOs’ capacities to review the implementation of national laws in line with domestic legislation and regional and international standards; and inform improved case management of support services to survivors of violence, particularly in the justice sector.