In the words of Milica Gudović: “Economic empowerment is crucial, not only for survivors, but for any woman”
Milica Gudović is an activist with the Citizens Association for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and All Forms of Gender-Based Violence (ATINA). Here she speaks about the work of ATINA which is supported by UN Women with funding from the European Union. With vocational training and business skills, the organization helps survivors of trafficking to reintegrate into society, become independent and and earn an income. ATINA also provides psychosocial support, legal aid and safe-houses for the survivors of trafficking.
We are fighting for a world that is just and equal. Before we used to say that victims of human trafficking could be anyone, and that’s true, but based on our experience, victims of human trafficking mostly come from communities that are really poor and situations where they’ve faced domestic abuse or sexual abuse in childhood. Human trafficking encompasses different forms of violence; physical, sexual, psychological, economical, and more.
When girls from such environments try to look for a better future for themselves, they usually don’t have the social context, enough knowledge and skills to do it in a proper way, and they easily fall in with the human traffickers. What usually happens is, when a young girl from a disadvantaged environment seeks a better future, she would stumble upon an acquaintance who would offer her a good job, and she would of course accept it. The moment she enters that network, she would be separated deprived from her [legal] papers, and forced to do different services for the benefit of the human trafficker, which would usually involve either prostitution or forced labour.
If the women and girls escape, they are provided assistance from ATINA, if they were identified in Serbia. ATINA is the only organization in Serbia that provides housing for women and girl victims of human trafficking. We would provide the survivor with housing and psychosocial support to help her overcome this acute trauma. Then she would be provided with legal assistance, because in many cases, she would be considered a witness to a case of organized crime. Usually, we would also need to resolve the legal status of the survivor, as a lot of women don’t have their papers. After all these processes, we would enroll girls in school, since many of them wouldn’t even have finished primary school. Then we would help them get fully integrated to the society by helping them get a job and keep it.
Economic empowerment is crucial, not only for survivors, but for any woman. Economic dependence is one of the reasons that traps women in situations of violence. Providing opportunities for women helps them get to their full potential as human beings and as members of the society. Economic empowerment is key for any woman to be able to make her own choice regarding her own body, her future, and the way she wants to live her life.
We see economic empowerment as the crown of the reintegration process for victims of human trafficking, because when women and girls enter this stage of the programme that means they’re ready to get back to the society. Their recovery process is finalized. It’s also a tool for them to live their lives in a dignified way in the future. Everything that we do is developed in cooperation with the beneficiary. She is the one stating what she needs, what she would like to do, and we follow her pace.
UN Women has been our partner for years now, and our latest cooperation is regarding the economic empowerment of victims of human trafficking through social entrepreneurship. The way we see it, social entrepreneurship is a way of doing business that is socially responsible, that takes into account the working conditions of everybody involved, the environmental impact and the general social impact. Within this programme, we provide vocational training and practice to our beneficiaries who have been through all the previous stages of reintegration, and are now prepared to enter the labour market.
We would like to see a world where all human beings can realize their full potential, and have opportunities to grow without obstacles or patriarchal values and conservative norms. It’s sometimes difficult to understand why it’s so difficult. It's the 21st century, it’s proven that equality between women and men brings prosperity to the society.”