Improved communication between institutions in Novi Travnik thanks to the multisectoral team for prevention of domestic violence
Since 2016, UN Women BiH has supported the development of multisectoral teams for the prevention and protection of survivors of domestic violence.
These teams typically consist of various institutions relevant for combating domestic violence, such as social work centers, police, health centers, municipalities, educational institutions. One such team was formed in 2017 in Novi Travnik. We discussed the importance of the multisectoral team, the activities done so far, but also the challenges they face in their work, with the team coordinator and employee of the Center for Social Work in this municipality, Ms. Neda Kapetan.
How did the establishment of the multisectoral team in Novi Travnik come about and which institutions joined it?
The process of establishment was long and begun at the end of 2016 when a coordinating body for the prevention and protection of survivors of domestic violence was formed in the Central Bosnia Canton. After that, we realized that it is best to take preventive activities to the local level because the problems are most specifically solved "in your own home". A multisectoral team was formed in Novi Travnik in 2017, but at the start it was big because it included representatives of all primary and secondary schools. The following year, when we formally established the team, we realized that such a large team would have been difficult to work with, so today we have six members. They are representatives of the social work center, the police, the health center, the municipality, one primary and one secondary school. I think we made the right move because now collaboration is easier.
What is the importance of a multisectoral team and what is your main task?
The basic function of the team is prevention and protection of survivors of domestic violence. Thanks to the support of the Gender Center of Federation of BiH and UN Women BiH, we implemented several projects aimed, above all, at strengthening the capacity of the team members themselves, then the wider community, and the youngest generation, in order to educate them about violence. Thanks to this team, communication between the different institutions has significantly improved, because now the flow of information is much better. Earlier, it would often have happened that we were missing information about activities carried out by an institution in the field of protection against domestic violence. Nevertheless, I think that these initiatives should not come exclusively from the NGO sector, and that their continuity needs to be maintained. So far, no multisectoral team has been recognized through the budget of municipalities, and the coordination body in the area of the Central Bosnia Canton was not financed by authorities, although the authorities have officially appointed us. We never received compensation for working in the multisectoral team. Instead we are financed through projects.
In addition to a volatile financial source of funding, what are the biggest challenges facing the multisectoral team?
People leave certain functions and work tasks, so it can be difficult for new people to decide to join the team. Not everyone is sensitized the same or wants to do this kind of work. Lately, collaboration between the police station and the Center for Social Work has been very good, and we are in contact very often in relation to cases of domestic violence. However, it is a devastating fact that from 2016 to 2018, we had an average of seven protective measures imposed annually at the municipality level, and that from 2019 to date, only two protective measures have been imposed. I believe that cooperation with the police must be better here, and that new people who get hired as inspectors should be further strengthened and educated. Also, at the meetings of the multisectoral team, we often get in a position to talk about specific cases of violence, but I believe that we should still focus on prevention.
Have you noticed that women in Novi Travnik have become more empowered to recognize and report domestic violence?
There's an anecdote that shows me that something is happening in the field, that people know that there a certain team exists and that things are functioning. A colleague once found himself in a shopping mall and two women were talking in front of him. One told the other that her daughter was having marital problems and that she had been suffering from violence. The other one told her that there was a social work center and that she needed to contact us, and that we would take care of it. I think it's our biggest indicator that people know they can reach out to us and get support. I would also add that another good indicator is the empowerment of survivors, who went through the system with a multisectoral approach, which included the path from the imposition of protective measures, the initiation of criminal proceedings for violence, to the provision of psychosocial support. We often witness that the survivors themselves point out that they have been strengthened through the process, and in many cases, they have empowered themselves and started a new life.
What needs to be done in the future is to find an effective model of economic empowerment for survivors of violence. Very often the reason why women do not choose to report violence is because they are financially dependent on the abuser. We also need to think about effective ways of preventive action in rural areas, because it is noticeable that reports of violence mainly come from women living in the urban area. I believe the youngest generations must be educated and sensitized about zero tolerance to violence, and I firmly believe that it is not too early to start such programs at the preschool age, because in the long term that is the only way to influence the change of awareness among new generations.