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 905 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. Additionally, over 1,000 women and girls are better informed on available services to report violence, better sensitized not to accept or hide violence against women and girls, and encouraged to report through community information sessions as well as the distribution of awareness materials in the community. As a result of community information sessions, 200 women received further support, such as free court representation, referral to vocational education courses, registration in the regional employment office, and psycho-social support.


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. 


Due to this intervention, Kamza has become a pioneer in the country where special medical reports are issued by healthcare professionals, which was not a recognized procedure in the past. There has also been an observed increase in the number of reported cases of psychological violence to the police, which has been almost nonexistent in the past. For instance, in October 2019, 38% of the reported cases were based on psychological violence alone, while the rest were based on a combination of psychological and physical violence. Synergy between institutions and coordination among different actors has also significantly improved in the past two years.


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. A specific guide on intersectional violence and service provision for vulnerable groups of women was developed by ADRF to serve service providers in properly addressing the specific needs of women from Roma community, LGBTI individuals, and women with disabilities. As a result, service providers in three cities are equipped with better tools and information in offering services.


Over 1400 women, girls, men and boys are better informed about gender stereotypes in their community in the region of Elbasan, due to awareness raising work conducted by the Woman Forum Elbasan, focusing especially on encouraging reporting of violence among women from rural areas. Part of the strategic focus to change mindsets and challenge existing norms has been to actively engage religious communities and followers, to break down taboos and enable honest discussions about women’s role in and outside the family. Due to wide outreach of awareness campaigns WFE has referred a number of cases to specialized services and has increased communication between service providers and communities by organizing awareness meetings and campaigns jointly with service providers at the local level.


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.

With the programme’s support, CSO Vive Zene has been pursuing a community-based approach to preventing domestic violence and violence against women, focusing on two specific groups in the communities of North-Eastern BiH – primary school children aged 13-14 and women who have survived some form of violence. The approach involving women has been focused on testing innovative approaches to prevention by empowering survivors of different forms of violence (conflict-related violence, sexual, domestic violence) to speak out publicly for the first time about their experience using the method of Human Library. The ultimate goal of the process is to evoke behavioural changes at the individual level, then raise awareness among other women in their communities about the consequences of violence and influence their behavior by empowering them to recognize violence, report it and seek support. 


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. The database is in the final development stage and is being populated with visuals and graphics at the request of service providers.


Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) is playing a crucial role in increasing cooperation between CSOs and the Ombudsman Institution, as well as with referral mechanisms in cases where institutions fail to address complaints from GBV/DV survivors, non-majority community, LGBTI, etc. To this aim, KWN conducted a training with CSOs representatives to increase their ability to hold institutions accountable for inaction or delay in responding to cases of violence against women by referring those cases to the Ombudsman Institution for investigation.


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 120 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), Health Education and Research Association (HERA), and Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (HCHR). In addition, more than 300 women victims of violence, including Roma women, 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.

HERA prepared a costing methodology of specialist service providers to estimate the costs of services provided to victims of violence. The document was developed through a consultative process involving women’s CSO service providers and Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP). The MLSP is using the costing methodology as a basis for sustainable financing of specialized services. In addition, HERA developed standards and operational procedures for the rape crisis service center and a program for working with victims of sexual violence.

EHO strengthened the multi-sectoral responses to VAW in two municipalities and developed a Local Model for Integrated Approach to Essential Services Package for women and girl victims of violence.   


6 Modules of the Global Guideline Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence: Core Elements and Quality Guidelines are now available in Macedonian. The Global Guideline has been submitted to the working group for development of the new Law on prevention and protection of violence against women and domestic violence, as well as to all specialist service providers and the multisectoral teams for dealing with cases of DV in two municipalities in the country.

The National Council for Gender Equalities, in partnership with the Center for Knowledge Management, completed the data recording system intended for specialist service providers. The software will be put into use upon the adoption of the new Law for Prevention of and Protection from VAW, which clearly defines the role of CSOs in data collection.

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.

NGO Women’s Safe House conducts art-based occupational workshops for women who are accommodated in the shelter to help them manage stress and practice creativity. So far there have been 18 work-and-occupational workshops, as well as 10 computer training sessions. In addition, 12 educational workshops were organized for children who are accommodated with mothers in shelter. These workshops had noticeable effects on the psychological well-being of both women and children.


Additionally, clients of Women’s Safe House have benefited from self-defense and yoga workshops. There have been 12 self-defense trainings thus far, as well as 18 yoga training and breathing exercises to relieve stress and12 self-help workshops.

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.

Building on the success of KAGED’s work with lawyers, Foundation for Women’s Solidarity (FWS) engaged with Bar Associations in Mersin and Duzce to conduct capacity building trainings on national, international and regional legal frameworks on VAW and techniques to avoid and overcome secondary victimization of lawyers, as well as how to not avoid causing any secondary victimization of applicants. 40 lawyers are now better able to provide legal support to survivors and gained the ability to protect themselves from secondary victimization. In addition, through a data-based report produced by the FWS on poverty alimony rights after divorce, all stakeholders in the field (CSOs, politicians, experts, lawyers, etc.) are in a better position to participate in the public discussions on the issue. Moreover, this unique data-based report on poverty alimony will serve as a reference document for the law-making process.


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.