Regional Forum advocates for establishment of Femicide monitoring mechanisms in the Western Balkans
5 December 2022 – For the fourth year in a row, the Regional Forum on Ending Violence against Women in the Western Balkans and Türkiye “Integrated Policies, Inclusive Partnerships” was hosted with an aim to advance the gender equality agenda towards preventing and responding to violence against women in the region.
Organized virtually on 29-30 November within the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Forum brought together over 300 participants including state representatives, civil society and regional organizations, ombudsperson offices, and well-respected figures from cinema, literature, and sports from across the Western Balkans and beyond.
This year, the event discussed the establishment of femicide watches/observatories in the region, strategies to strengthen alliances and networks among and between women’s rights organizations and state governments, and to improve referral systems for survivors of violence.
The largest regional event gathering key stakeholders on ending violence against women, the Forum saw unprecedented levels of cooperation among state actors in its convening. The event was organized by UN Women and co-convened by the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Albania, the Ministry of Justice of Kosovo, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of North Macedonia, and the Agency for Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Ogerta Manastirliu, Minister of Health and Social Protection of Albania said: “Violence against women and girls, especially femicide as its most severe manifestation, continues to plague our societies. This Regional Forum is timely for us to address these relevant issues.”
“Today’s Forum is happening at a critical moment when meaningful decisions are needed, and I hope we can all be part of creating solutions to bring an end to violence against women and girls,” observed Albulena Haxhiu, Minister of Justice of Kosovo.
Jovana Trenčevska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy of North Macedonia stated: “Let’s resist violence and join forces to put an end to it together. We speak of a world without violence today, and we work towards it every day. Why? Because we are stronger, louder, and braver together!”
“I am convinced that this year’s Regional Forum will increase our motivation and contribute to new knowledge and partnerships in combating violence and discrimination against women and girls in our region,” added Samra Filipović Hadžiabdić, Director of the Agency for Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Biljana Pejović, Head of the Department for Gender Equality at the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro said: “I emphasize the need to confront all aspects of violence from all levels by strengthening inter-institutional cooperation and cooperation with the civil sector, the media and local authorities.”
Also speaking at the opening, Michela Matuella, Acting Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission, said: “I call on all governments of the region to put gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence as top priorities in their agenda. This requires dedication and commitment, and you can count on our strong partnership toward this common goal.”
Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, affirmed that while knowing there is still plenty of hard work to be done: “We can only continue moving forward by working together and pushing in the same direction, no matter what challenges lie ahead,” she said. “UN Women is committed to continuing this work and mobilizing support around these issues. We encourage everyone to get involved: from amplifying the voices of survivors and activists to supporting women’s organizations. Each of us can act to empower survivors, advocate for equality and respect for women, and protect women’s human rights,” she concluded.
One of the primary outcomes of the event included practical strategies for the establishment of country and subregional femicide watches - mechanisms for monitoring and informing response to femicide.
Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, stated that governments need to know they are not expected to follow this roadmap on their own: “The countries that are participating today all have vibrant civil society, all have women's organizations, academia and different UN agencies that are available to support and that can and must be part of the effort. After all, femicide watches can only work if there is a collective effort and if everyone pitches in with their expertise, energy, time and resources.”
As a first step, an interactive map listing femicides - killing of a woman because she is a woman, on the grounds of her sex or gender - committed since 2019 in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia was launched. The map was developed by civil society organization FemPlatz with support of the regional programme on ending violence against women “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,” funded by the European Union. It aims at tracking data on femicides in the three countries as well as to serve as a model for a tool that can be used by prospective femicide watches. “This map will be a useful lobbying tool to raise awareness of the scale of the femicide and to also advocate that femicide is included as a separate offence. It is very difficult to have an informed discussion with the policymakers without clear data,” pointed out Biljana Janjić, Executive Director at FemPlatz, Serbia.
The Regional Forum also featured discussions on increasing the value and visibility of civil society networks and strengthening alliances among women's organizations and between state actors and women's organizations.
Lastly, the event focused on renewing commitments to a coordinated multi-sectoral response by state actors. In this regard, Caterina Bolognese, Head of the Gender Equality Division at the Council of Europe Secretariat, mentioned that while the responsibilities for delivery may rest with the authorities, they are not the best placed to provide help: “They must rely on the excellent, extensive experience of women's human rights organizations. It's at times like these that it is particularly apparent how essential they are,” concluded Bolognese.
Within the framework of the Forum, UN Women launched an animated testimonial video featuring real stories of seven individuals from the Western Balkans and Türkiye who have been positively impacted by the EU-funded regional programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds.”
For further information, please contact Victoria Puiu, Communications and Visibility Specialist, email@example.com.