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Girls on the move in Bosnia and Serbia and Pippi Longstocking
NGO Atina's team in a study visit to colleagues from Save the Children Bosnia and Herzegovina
After the study visit of colleagues from Save the Children Bosnia and Herzegovina team to NGO Atina in Belgrade, in March of this year, there was a need for further mutual action, exchange of information between the two countries, and the assessment and resolution of all the gaps in the support system for girls and women migrants with the experience of gender-based violence. As the colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina emphasized during their visit to Belgrade, it enabled them to predict the trends of migration from Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to respond in a timely and adequate manner to new needs on the ground and in reception and transit centres. This particularly referred to the increased number of migrant women and girls who came to Serbia from Burundi, and whom the colleagues from BiH saw in Serbia on the spot. Colleagues from Atina confirmed this, as they met some of the women from Burundi whom they were in contact with in Serbia during their visits to the reception centres in BiH. During this visit, they also recognized one of the girls who was supported by Atina's team in Bosilegrad, and upon the urgent reaction of one of the social workers who knew the girl, she was reunited with her brother in Bosnia. This opened up the important topic of separating underaged relatives and shifted the focus of the conversation between the representatives of the two organizations.
As the organizations Atina and Save the Children have been engaged in the field of working with girls on the move for years now, with a particular focus on improving their position through providing direct assistance and support, only some of the main conclusions of this visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina are the importance of solidarity, synergy and common action in cases of gender-based violence, the need to exchange information among civil society organizations in the region when it comes to challenges and examples of good practice, as well as the necessity of creating and maintaining a stable support network that can urgently and adequately respond to the needs of girls on the move, and provide them with an opportunity to "live with us, not next to us".
The study visit was organized with the aim of improving the knowledge of representatives of both organizations, as well as the practices that are carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in Serbia. At the very beginning of the visit, the colleagues from Bihać presented communication channels and intersectoral cooperation in the process of protecting and educating children on the move, through the policy of preserving the safety of children as well as the safety procedures of the organization Save the Children. Considering that Save the Children has extensive experience in working with girls on the move in the territory of Bihać and Tuzla, this was an excellent opportunity for Atina’s team to learn more about the activities they carried out, and the way in which all actions are tailored to the girls on the move. When it comes to challenges in the work, they mainly referred to outdated and unresponsive procedures and laws, however, despite this, colleagues from Save the Children emphasized that they managed to create a support network within the civil sector. The Save the Children team particularly stressed continuous work on raising the awareness of these girls about the importance of education, and at the same time advocating for their inclusion in the education system in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Save the Children's mobile team organized a tour of "squats", which are temporary shelters for refugees and migrants. On that occasion, they presented a system of adapted case management, as well as work challenges, positive practice and the creation of adapted communication techniques with girls on the move in order to establish a relationship of trust. After that, they visited the reception centre "Borići" in Bihać, which has become a centre of activities for girls on the move.
NGO Atina’s team also visited the women and girls corner within the "Borići" reception centre, which aims to combat gender-based violence in this centre, and is managed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
This was followed by a visit to the "Žene s Une" association in Bihać, which was founded in 1994, and within its program has a safe house for women victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking, a centre for free legal advice, as well as a local volunteer service. On this occasion, they exchanged experiences and challenges in providing safe accommodation services for women with experience of exploitation and violence in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also positive practices in the work of both organizations.
During the study visit that lasted from June 15 to 18, 2022, three colleagues from Citizens' Association Atina - Bojana Nakić Đorđević, Milica Glišić and Damjana Radojević - visited the team of Save the Children in Bihać, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, within the "Pippi of today" project. Numerous activities are carried out within this project aimed at comprehensive support to girls on the move, exercising their rights, as well as advocacy activities that are aimed to increase their visibility and integration into local communities. The project is supported by Save the Children Sweden and relies on the ideas proclaimed by the most famous literary heroine of the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking.