Girls in Serbia – a voice that should be heard

During December 2018, NGO ATINA has continued with activities from the project “With and for girls” in cooperation with Youth Offices from Obrenovac, Jagodina, Novog Pazar, Kikinda and Vranje, though trainings/seminars/workshops on gender equality. The training was attended by high school girls interested in contributing to the improvement of position of girls and the promotion of gender equality in their respective communities with the support of Youth Offices. 

The objective of the training is to familiarize the girls with the concepts of gender equality through a set of interactive workshops and to help them map the issues in local communities that pose an obstacle to achieving equality in society. In the next phase of the project, girls, with the mentor support of the NGO Atina activists, will define potential solutions to the mapped issues through real life actions we hope will have a significant impact in local communities. 

An important aspect of this project is strengthening the capacity of local Youth Offices to work on gender equality. So far, the Offices have carried out gender equality activities of different scope, but they haven’t had the opportunity to implement projects that primarily address girls. Conducted trainings have shown that this kind of space is what is missing – the space where young girls have a chance to articulate their own experience safely, and by being empowered they can get a message across to local communities on their needs and their perception of the society they want to have.

Training evaluations revealed the same message – the importance of recognizing the space for open communication, opportunity to express one’s opinion free from judgement and gender molding, the importance of hearing the voice of girls, which is too frequently neglected in our society. The evaluation outcome is aligned with the results of analysis on correlation of gender stereotypes with gender-based violence which was conducted in the first phase of the project. It confirms that girls are very rarely, almost never, asked for their opinion on any social or political topic. Girls do have a valid opinion to share and pose a potential that this society must recognize. 

Project “With and for girls” has been implemented within project Integrated Response to Violence against Women and Girls in Serbia II, carried out jointly by UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA and UNDP, in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, headed by the Coordination Body for Gender Equality. Integrated Response to Violence against Women and Girls in Serbia is aiming at the development of social and institutional environment that will contribute to zero tolerance and rooting out violence against women in Serbia. The project has been implemented with the support of the Government of Sweden.