Indira Mehić Čejvan: Local community should stand united against domestic violence
Discussing the impact of cooperation & high-quality joint work for violence prevention and protection of survivors with director of Social Welfare Center Jajce
Since 2016, in cooperation with the Gender Centres of the Federation of BiH (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS), UN Women CO BiH has been supporting the formation of new and the work of existing multisectoral teams for domestic violence prevention across the country. These teams, commonly comprising different stakeholders such as social welfare centres, police, health centres, municipalities and educational institutions, are indeed a testament that the response to domestic violence must be systemic and organised. We discussed the extent of the impact of cooperation and high-quality joint work for violence prevention and the protection of survivors with Indira Mehić Čejvan, director of the Social Welfare Centre in Jajce, a small town in the central part of BiH. Here the cooperation of various institutions had brought visible results. Mehić Čejvan, who is also the president of the Association of Social Workers of Central Bosnia Canton, explains the background of establishing a multisectoral team in Jajce, what makes it successful and why it is important for the local community.
When was the multisectoral team for the prevention of domestic violence in Jajce set up and which institutions are represented in this team?
Jajce was among the first local communities in FBiH to sign the Protocol on Interventions in Domestic Violence Cases in December 2012. As the next step, the Social Welfare Centre signed an agreement with non-governmental organisations on the introduction of 1265 helpline, which is still in use today. All local institutions of relevance had signed the Protocol. The most important for us was that the mayor of the Jajce Municipality, the Police Department and the Jajce police station, the Municipal Court and the Health Centre were involved in all activities, in addition to the Social Welfare Centre. Then, in 2018, we revised the Protocol in accordance with the new Law on Domestic Violence Prevention. Today, our multisectoral team comprises 12 members. Apart from previously mentioned institutions, it also includes representatives of primary and secondary schools, as well as the Mental Health Centre.
Which activities of the multisectoral team would you single out as the most significant?
We had a number of activities carried out, and initially, it was essential to raise awareness of the local community about the actual existence of domestic violence. During that time, our multisectoral team had awareness raising activities for the population in local communities. At first with a modest turnout of only 10 or 15 participants, but later it grew to become an enormous response. In those days, we educated several thousand residents on domestic violence and the rights of victims. Also, Jajce, as a small local community, does not have a safe house and social workers from the Social Welfare Centre pointed out this problem, which needed to be addressed more adequately. An initiative was filed with the Jajce Municipality, seeking a housing unit to accommodate domestic violence victims and the response was positive. We also received a donation from the Embassy of Germany to equip the housing unit. We named it Reception Centre for Victims of Violence and Victims of Human Trafficking.
To what extent are other institutions, apart from the Social Welfare Centre, interested in participating in the multisectoral team and committed to the fight against domestic violence and gender-based violence?
By the nature of its work, the Social Welfare Centre is the driver and initiator of activities. But we never had any obstacles – directors of institutions, as well as representatives of governmental and non-governmental sectors, responded to our every invitation and meeting, not only on domestic violence, but also other problems. This in itself is a testament of good cooperation. For example, if a judge from the Municipal Court or another professional from another institution that is a signatory to the Protocol notices a problem related to violence, especially violence against children, then the multisectoral team schedules a meeting and tries to find a solution to the problem or possibly introduce certain preventive measures at the local level. Also, the multisectoral team holds trainings in schools for teachers and students on the topic of combating domestic violence and peer violence.
How much did the support and supervision of the Gender Centre FBiH with facilitation of UN Women contribute in strengthening the multisectoral team, how significant was it to you as practitioners?
Talking about the support of the FBiH Gender Centre in strengthening the work of the multisectoral team in the local community, the fact is that without their support, both financial and professional, there would not have been a more serious approach and work on the topic of combating domestic violence. The key to solving many issues is in regular meetings of the team members, as well as in joint action aimed at preventing the occurrence of violence. Also, the exchange of experiences and knowledge from all sectors additionally resulted in a faster response on the ground. The FBiH Gender Centre also supported the education of professionals from all sectors.
Have you noticed changes that illustrate positive progress in combating domestic violence in your community, and if so, what is the role of the multisectoral team in this?
Following the adoption of the new Law on Protection Against Domestic Violence and thanks to the work of the multisectoral team in our municipality, 66 protective measures were ordered from 2014 to today, and we were recognisable in FBiH for that. It is certainly not only owing to the Social Welfare Centre, but because of the work of the multisectoral team. Also, this was achieved especially thanks to the judge working on domestic violence cases in the Jajce Municipal Court. In cooperation with all other members of the team, this judge decided to impose protective measures – its implementation was later monitored by other institutions. This shows that the work of the multisectoral team certainly had an impact. Let me note that in Jajce we have 28 local communities, and representatives from all 28 attended trainings on domestic violence. We thus demonstrated that the work of the team on the grassroot level is highly beneficial. We in the Social Welfare Centres are in trenches. Or in other words, we are first responders in reaching out to citizens who are in a state of social need. It’s very difficult to work in a local community where you don’t have an understanding of basic things – for example, to provide professionals with adequate working conditions and financing. If there is no such thing, I assume that people are not even motivated to give their best in certain areas. In the Central Bosnia Canton, all 12 local communities have signed intervention protocols in cases of domestic violence, and this is the success of the Association of Social Workers. Needless to say, success in these communities is dependent on support at the local level, but it is clear that certain activities aimed at combating domestic violence are carried out in all communities.