Economic independence is key for women victims of violence

Economic independence is key for women victims of violence

Illustration: Matrix mag site

Economic empowerment of women is key for the realisation of women’s rights and gender equality. It not only contributes to equal participation of women in existing markets, but also secures their approach to resources, and returns them control and autonomy over their own time, lives, and bodies. Empowering approaches to women, and particularly in the economic sense, also contribute to expanding a space where their voices are heard and increase their participation in making economic decisions on all levels.

Globally, over 2.7 billion women are forbidden by laws to choose the job they wish to do, unlike men who are not facing such limitations. Out of 189 economies in 2018, as many as 104 still have laws that prevent women from working on certain job positions. A total of 59 countries in the world still do not have laws on sexual harrassment at the workplace, and 18 countries have a law that allows men to prevent women from working. (World Bank, Women, Business and the Law 2018, Washington, D.C, 2018, available at:

In addition to legal limitations, there is a rise in the visibility and dominance of societal expectations which keep women away from the labour market - poverty, violence, discrimination, social exclusion and isolation. The consequences of all the crises are most evident in the lives of women and girls, regardless of their scope and nature. Only one of the examples in the coronavirus pandemic, which had an alarming influence on the position of women all over the world, while women were disproportionately affected by job losses. In 2020 alone, at the global level women lost more than 65 million jobs, which is 5% of the number of jobs women hold, Oxfam reports. This job loss due to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic cost women throughout the world at least 800 billion dollars in earnings, which is a figure higher than the GDP of 98 world countries.

A higher level of education in girls and women contributes to their economic empowerment, and more visible and measurable participation in the labour market, which implies direct economic growth. Education, continuous training and requalification during the course of their life are of key importance for the health and wellbeing of women and girls, as well as for their opportunity to generate income, take part in formal work, and position themselves on the labour market.

Empowering women and closing the gender gap in work and employment are key for reaching the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly goal 5 for achieving gender equality, goal 8 which promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all; goal 1 which relates to ending poverty, and goal 10 which is directed toward reducing inequality.

For all the above-mentioned reasons, the Embassy of Austria in Belgrade supported organisation Atina to, in the period from July to November 2021, conduct a series of activities in the area of economic empowerment of women from hard-to-employ categories - women victims of human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence. In this period, Atina worked on the empowerment of 11 women from the hard-to-employ category. Through specific trainings, Atina provided necessary knowledge and skills to find and keep employment for these women, so that they can gain their economic independence. Also, the activities of vocational training and acquiring practical experience in work increased their competitiveness in the labour market. Upon completing the training and counseling, a total of 3 women who participated in the project activities managed to find employment in the hospitality and food industry.

Acquiring basic practical skills for employment is of utmost importance for development of techniques, as well as for the increase in competitiveness, self-confidence, and motivation of women from hard-to-employ categories for active job search. This process has reached its culmination by marking the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women in Atina’s social enterprise Bagel Bejgl, which was also visited by the  Ambassador of the Austrian Embassy in Serbia Mr Nikolaus Lutterotti, with a message that We must do more in combating gender-based violence! The report on his visit can be found via the link:

Bagel Bejgl shop has also been actively calling all interested citizens to come and support this campaign under the slogan “Buy good, do good!”, and on that occasion all Bagel Bejgl products were half-price, of course, for those who support the fight against violence.

Having in mind that illiteracy, poverty and unemployment are among the main causes of social inequality, Atina’s work with victims of human trafficking and violence against women is deeply rooted in the belief that each person should be provided support to regain the feeling of human dignity, so that they can be(come) an equal member of society. That is why the economic empowerment programme is based in the comprehensive individual approach that is focused on the beneficiary, with each of them fully participating and making decisions about their own future. Such an approach has a positive effect not only on the beneficiary but on her family and community as well. In order to financially support such an approach, Atina founded a social-ethical enterprise Bagel Bejgl shop in 2015, with the aim to empower and educate victims and potential victims of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation, who are mostly women and girls. Atina is the only owner of this social enterprise, and all the profit is directed toward supporting services of recovery for victims of human trafficking who are beneficiaries of Atina’s programmes, which enables partial sustainability of this programme. It must be emphasised that this programme is still greatly dependent on international funds, despite clear obligations and responsibilities of the Republic of Serbia in this regard, which it unfortunately continuously refuses to take over.