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Raise your voice and make a difference
Photograph: NGO Atina's archive
Raise your voice and make a difference
“I had to give a statement five times, once to the police, once to the prosecutor, and three more times when I appeared in court. I want us to try to change that, and stop making other victims feel as if they are the ones standing trial.”
Maja, twenty-year-old victim of human trafficking
Thanks to the United States Embassy in Serbia, which recognized the importance of empowering victims of human trafficking, beneficiaries of NGO Atina’s support program have been given an opportunity to raise their voice, speak about their needs and present them to relevant decision makers, with the aim of providing a full insight into the position of women and girls in our society, particularly those with the experience of violence. There are three basic starting points of this endeavor: to give a positive purpose to a painful experience by helping others; to have women and girls, beneficiaries of NGO Atina’s programs, share their experiences of direct contacts with professionals from different sectors with representatives of all relevant institutions dealing with the issue of human trafficking, in order to jointly detect which gaps in the system complicate the very process of recovery of these women, and to hear recommendations of survivors to overcome impediments of their recovery. This will be realized through work meetings organized with representatives of relevant institutions for combating human trafficking and gender-based violence, where women and girls, beneficiaries of NGO Atina’s support program, will have a chance to share their experiences of contacts with representatives of institutions, and thus use their own perspective to illustrate how the referral mechanism and the overall protection of victims function in the Republic of Serbia.
Namely, since its founding in 2003, Atina has established a peer support group within its program of comprehensive social inclusion of victims of human trafficking. Through all these years, the work of this group has been involving women and girls who are interested in supporting other women. In 2019, the peer group incorporated another important dimension into its work – advocacy. Advocacy was made possible through work meetings of the group with representatives of relevant institutions. The group is planned to meet with the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, representatives of Centers for Social Work, the Republic Public Prosecutor's Office, Ministry of the Interior, Women's Parliamentary Network with the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, and representatives of local communities and Local teams for prevention and combating human trafficking. The advocacy group, therefore, pursues its core mission to enable victims to have their voice be heard.
The advocacy group will continue to develop and empower, while remaining committed to its original mission. This support will allow group members to attend a series of trainings dedicated to improving their communication skills, as well as ways to advocate and be as involved in the decision-making process as possible. The aim is to create a set of recommendations for improving the support system for victims of human trafficking, as well as the overall protection mechanism in Serbia. These recommendations will be the group’s guide mark during their meetings with representatives of competent institutions, and in their future advocacy initiatives in general.
This article was written within the project funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.