10 Aug 2018

Civil society networking can help end violence against women

A recent WAVE report shows that collaboration between women's NGOs and activist groups can make positive change in the situations of disadvantaged women in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. 

Editorial Team
Elizabeth Pratt NewsMavens, Europe
Civil society networking can help end violence against women - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

For any country looking to enable the agency of women from disadvantaged groups, the recent WAVE report offers detailed information and case studies of how networking among women's NGOs and activists can strengthen the voice of women to prevent violence against women and domestic violence.

Collaborations among women's groups can be formal or informal, and successful efforts have led to lobbying and advocating for the protection of women from violence, supporting the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, hosting awareness-raising events on the situation of disadvantaged women, and "undertaking national level initiative to promote women's human rights". 

Networks are accessible to people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status and migrant or refugee status. Some networks are even tailored to the needs of specific minority groups like Roma or women with mental disabilities. 

One case study included in the report focuses on the Albanian Women Empowerment Network (AWEN). AWEN began as a formal collaboration of eight women's organizations and now is compromised of ten organizations. AWEN is made possible by funding from various foundations and is registered as a non-profit organization. Through the exchange of experiences and information, AWEN aims to "support, protect and promote the rights and interests of women and girls in the Republic of Albania". 

AWEN is a "semi-closed" network, meaning organizations must apply for membership. An advantage of being part of AWEN is the ability to share information and collaborate on referrals for cases of domestic violence. AWEN also works with other organizations that are not network members but focus on the same area of work. There is a General Assembly and a Board of Directors who make decisions for AWEN and five staff who manage daily efforts. 

The information on AWEN is but one network structure detailed in the report that can provide an example of collaboration for other European countries wishing to improve the status of disadvantaged women and eliminate domestic violence and violence against women. 

Details from the story:

  • WAVE recently released a report, prepared on behalf of the EU-UN Women regional program, "Ending Violence against Women," that aims to "strengthen women's voices and agency, including that of women's organizations working with and representing women from disadvantaged groups at a regional level." 
  • The report exemplifies the importance of creating networks among women's NGOs and activist groups for the use of women, specifically those from minority and disadvantaged groups. 
  • It analyzes current collaborations between women's groups in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. 
  • "Networking has proved to be a very effective means of enhancing the power and influence of citizens' voices in advocating for better policies, improving governance and enhancing coordinated efforts among service providers. Additional benefits include the exchange of valuable information, new resources and best practice models." 
  • Successful actions of these formal and informal collaborations are lobbying and advocating for better legislation, supporting the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, hosting events to raise awareness and working on national initiatives to protect women's rights.
  • The report states that "it is important to note that migrant and refugee women, women with disabilities, women from ethnic minorities, Roma, or women with HIV/AIDS...may experience multiple forms of discrimination; this means that support services must be accessible to all these groups and tailored to their specific needs".  
  • Examples of successful networks in each of the countries listed above are detailed in the report, in addition to two case studies on the Albanian Women Empowerment Network and the Women's Roma Network (FIRST).  
  • "To ensure not only effective support of women from minority/disadvantaged women's groups, but also their active participation in strategic decision-making, they should also be represented in strategic decision-making bodies." 
  • One additional benefit of networks is that they can also lead to the creation of  autonomous specialized women's organizations, like the 'SOS Hotline' for Women. 
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