Breakthrough Council members: As long as a single woman in Serbia suffers violence, our voice must be heard

Working for almost two decades on developing direct support programs for girls and women who have experienced gender-based violence and human trafficking, the key principle that Atina's team is guided by in its work is the principle of full and comprehensive participation. Atina's basic starting point is to create program activities according to the requirements and needs of each girl and woman who is a part of her. The view is that one cannot work without involving women themselves in the program and that a way must be found to involve them in the decision-making process that concerns them, because who knows better than themselves what they really need at a given time. It is possible that some of them, as experience confirms this, will have a problem identifying their needs, because they were not asked, they were not important and their experience was validated, and the support itself depended exclusively on the will of other people. Professionals from Atina are there to help them regain their inner locus of control, to re-discover themselves, what they really need and what they really want. Atina's team is there to support them and point out the options, and the choice is up to them.

"I have the right to speak, but now I have the right to be heard. That is my power. ”Member of the Breakthrough Council

Atina's team strives to involve girls and women as much as possible in all activities carried out in the field of protection of victims of human trafficking in Serbia. What colors everything is teamwork, because that is the only way it can work when we talk about the quality of the support program. Through such an approach at work, girls and women can understand that they are not alone, that they have their own safe and nurturing place.

In addition to long-term comprehensive support programs, it is important that girls and women receive each other's support. On the wings of that joint driving energy, they know that they are all together on the same task, that they have started a very important struggle. They now understand that a lot of learning is needed in areas they didn't know much about, but that they will achieve the full experience of restoring a sense of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-belief through involvement and engagement in advocacy. Policies are created, documents are proposed and adopted that directly concern them, their rights, the ways in which the rights will be fulfilled. That is a particular reason why it is necessary to hear their voice.

"As long as even a single woman in Serbia suffers violence, our voice must be heard. I thought I was alone, they must know they are not. They have us. ”Member of the Breakthrough Council

They began a struggle that they did not seek for themselves, a struggle that chose them. By founding an Breakthrough Council, made up of women and girls, who began their recovery with a sense of helplessness, anger and rage, to reach a sense of power today, they set the motto: WE must win this fight, for all of us, for all women.

"We know why we are fighting and what is more important when we are fighting. We know who is guarding our backs and who is giving us the wind in our sails. ”Member of the Breakthrough Council

They started the fight first with themselves, they learned how to get out of their safe comfort zone, to raise their voice, and to feel good with everything they do and say, despite doing it for the first time in their lives. Then the struggle for changes in the support system and the mechanism for referring victims in Serbia continued. They were on the sidelines for a long time, without the right to vote, and then they had to go through various systems and meet with representatives of various parts of that same system. Now they are empowered, involved and feel responsible and that their voice has weight.

Decisions to get involved in the fight for change, in the fight to build a different system, were made out of a personal sense of responsibility and solidarity with other women, but also a certain rebellion.

"It hurts us when people don't trust us, when they think it's not happening here. Our voice makes it more realistic and can help make people aware and start believing. Violence is all around you. “Member of the Breakthrough Council

Breakthrough Council members, women with experience of violence and human trafficking highlighted 3 important things that they recognize as key which is why it is important to raise your voice, get involved, PARTICIPATE.

That's the only way you can make a change.
"If you keep quiet, if it is decided about you and you don't ask yourself, you can never be different, you can be better." Member of the Breakthrough Council

Only in this way can you influence someone to do a great thing for themselves.
"If a girl hears us and realizes that she should not keep silent about the violence she suffers, but ask for help, we have done a great thing, and she has done a great thing for herself."

Only in this way can you be proud and satisfied with yourself.
"I can't describe to you that feeling of fulfillment when I talked to the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator about things that bother many women I've met, and who have unfortunately gone through the same things as me in my life. I felt that he was listening to me and that my voice had weight. We were all proud of all of us.“

For NGO Atina, Lidija Đorđević 



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.