From the day it opened its doors in 1993, the Autonomous Women’s Center has rooted its work in feminism, anti-nationalist principles, and a holistic approach to healing, preventing and reducing the violence against women.
Operating at first in the context of wars raging in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina and later in Kosova, the group’s founders provided safe haven for survivors of rape and male violence, while also analyzing the root cause of sexual violence and its use as a weapon of war and ethnic cleansing. Additionally, they participated in cross-border actions calling for peace and solidarity — literally holding hands with women across national borders divided by conflict, and stating that the war was not in their names.
To date, the Center has served over 23,000 women from diverse backgrounds in Serbia — Roma, Croat, Muslim, Albanian, lesbians, refugee women, women who are living with disabilities or grappling with mental illness. The group operates two programs: 1) direct services, such as feminist counseling, to women experiencing violence; and 2) development of good practices in the field of domestic violence. For example, the group conducts research and advocacy on behalf of women’s health, and educates social service and law enforcement professionals.
To realize its vision of world without patriarchy, AWC integrates its programs and philosophy into every sector of society: from social welfare centers to primary health care workers, from police departments to courts and municipalities.
Recently, the group enjoyed a significant success. In 2009, AWC organized legal experts from women’s organizations in Serbia to demand changes of the Criminal Law. The result: increased penalties in cases of family violence.
“One organization cannot do everything it imagines in its feminist dreams, like getting violence discussed in university curricula, providing schools with workshops on family violence, getting feminist Ministers... At the same time, we know that we have fulfilled many of our feminist dreams we had when we started, and that dreaming is the flying carpet of our hope.” — Autonomous Women’s Center SeRBia
Year and stage of Global Fund investment in Autonomous Women’s Center:
- $9,000 for general support of operational expenses, including legal aid and court accompaniment, counseling, and weekly workshops.
- $4,680 to support women affected by the 1999 Nato bombing of Serbia.
- $2,600 for AWC staff to attend a meeting of 15 women’s NGOs worldwide that translated, published and distributed Our Bodies Ourselves.
- $19,600 to build capacity during flight of international funders due to “donor fatigue.”
- $16,000 Now or Never grant to strengthen AWC’s work to stop violence against women at a time of financial hardship.
- $40,000 to provide counseling services, including a hotline, legal counseling, and informational support for survivors of violence and their family members, particularly to marginalized groups such as Roma, refugees, women with disabilities.
- $4,500 to fund the travel of Lepa Mladjenovic and Tijana Popivoda to speak at the 2008 Dyke March in San Francisco to 50,000 people, raising global visibility about the LGBTIQ and feminist movements in the Balkans.