Rapid Response Grants – Urgent Action Fund

Approved – March 2008.

Number of grants: 4

1.Dah Theatre
  • RSD: 70.000,00
  • Name of the project: Women’s Side of the War – Performance for the promotion of the book
  • Project goal:  The book “Women’s Side of the War” is the anthology of women’s oral histories about wars in ex Yugoslavia (1991-1999). It’s the result of one-year research with the support and help of numerous women’s groups, human right’s and dealing with the past organizations, individual women who bravely spoke about their own war experiences and those who noted these experiences and made them visible. This book has a goal to show the importance of women’s friendship and solidarity, how much women helped each other during the wars, importance to lean on our own strengths as responsible citizens, not to let women be preserved in the victims role, not to accept passive role when decisions are made which put us in danger.  After demonstration of high level of nationalistic violence on the streets of Belgrade, post of Kosovo independence declaration, when everyone with common sense was in “mouse hole”, it was decided to organize public promotion of the book and not to let this important testimony on everything what happened to us in last two decades, be swallowed in this increased and organized nationalistic hysteria.
  • Dah Theatre, an independent, artistic NGO, founded in 1991 out of a need for profound experimental work with the motto “In the contemporary world, destruction and violence can only be opposed by the creation of sense”, made the performance based on book, especially for the promotion, which gathered around 50 people, mostly civil rights activists and media. It caused a lot of emotions; for some it was kind of catharsis for all curbed feelings as well as warning for all of us what is happening around today as the replication of the past.
  • As a follow up, the guest performance goes in five towns in Serbia and from September it will be organized regionally, in several towns in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
2. Women’s Center, Sremska Mitrovica
  • RSD: 128.000,00
  • Name of the project: Let’s the Women Decide
  • Project goal: Sremska Mitrovica in Vojvodina is a town where, since 2000, local government was led by democratic oriented political parties. However, the results of the last presidential elections (February 2008) showed that in 8 local communities – 4 rural and 4 urban, right-wing radical candidate won, which was unexpected. It is important to note that these 8 local communities make 30% of total electorate of Sremska Mitrovica. One of the main reasons for such a result is the lowest level of turnouts since 2000. The majority of the abstinent in this local community are women who are discontent by the dynamic of democratic changes and respect of their role in decision-making processes. In the meantime, pre-mature local, provincial and parliamentarian elections were scheduled for May and it was an opportunity for radicals to repeat the results and take over the government in Sremska Mitrovica after 8 years.
  • Women’s Center as the only active women’s group in Sremska Mitrovica who has an experience in organizing similar activities reacted and decided to organize local pre-election campaign to address women and motivate them to vote for European values and principles, to raise awareness about importance of these elections which represents some kind of referendum – isolation or going toward democracy.
  • They succeeded to organize and networked nine more NGOs from Sremska Mitrovica and neighboring communities to participate in the campaign. Some of the planned activities are: delivering the leaflets on five stands (in town and rural communities), speaker’s platforms, local radio and TV programs, direct phone calls specially focused on women from rural areas, for the more effective and alert information and message delivering.
3. SOS for Women and Children, Novi Sad
  • RSD: 130.000,00
  • Name of the project: Synergy
  • Project goal: SOS telephone for Women and Children Novi Sad was exposed to the direct discrimination from the judiciary.
  • One of their claimants was a women victim of domestic violence whose ex husband is very violent and very influential local police officer. She called SOS and asked them to mediate in taking her child from ex husband, because he was refusing to do so, even though they had an agreement. She asked SOS for the mediation, because she had a trust in the Service whose volunteers helped her to leave situation of violence before. Volunteer of SOS first recommended her to call the police for help, but woman said that she already tried without any effects, because her ex husband is very influential and very dangerous, with the long-term history of psychosis. Volunteer decided to assist her, called the police to intervene in taking back the child to the mother and told them that she is assisting, because she heard from the mother of the child that perpetrator has mental problems. This conversation between SOS volunteer and policeman on duty by legal regulations supposed to stay top secret, but “soldierly” they informed their violent colleague about it. He decided to bring charges against SOS volunteer and the whole organization, claiming that with the information about his mental state they caused him “spiritual anguish” and ruined his reputation, which was confirmed by an expert, the friend of the policeman, that court accepted as a witness even his testimony wasn’t objective. Even though members of SOS had all the evidence on their side, the proof that the perpetrator was a long-time patient on the psychiatric clinic with diagnosis of mental disorder, it didn’t help them to won the case. SOS asked for new experts to testify, but it happened that court experts refused to give en expert opinion in this case, because no one wanted to hold against the policeman. Court made decision that SOS service has to pay very high compensation to the perpetrator as well as the costs of the court procedure. SOS got in the middle of very exhausting, discriminated and money consuming court procedure, which had negative consequences for the organization. Volunteer and the SOS service made a complaint to the Court’s decision saying that the perpetrator’s complaint is without bases, that they are victims of judiciary discrimination within presentation of evidence and that the legal procedure was violated. Court didn’t react on their complaint.
  • SOS had to engage all their assets in this case, but they had strong dedication to continue to provide support to women victims of violence. Rapid Response Grant helped them to strengthen their capacities and to continue their mission.
4. Feminist Coalition and Women’s groups from Serbia
  • RSD: 5.310,00
  • Name of the project: Postponed Celebration of March 8
  • Project goal: Feminist Coalition and Women’s groups from Serbia organized celebration of 100th Anniversary of March 8, International Women’s Day in Belgrade, but day before the celebration on the central Belgrade’s square, Ministry of Internal Affairs made sudden decision to prohibit women’s peace march even though it was regularly announced in advance. The officials explained their decision telling that the peace march would disturb public transportation, endanger health and security of people and property.
  • By this decision, State made an attack on basic civil rights: the right to hold public meetings and the right to move freely. This was just one more attempt to spread the fear, insecurity and to make the atmosphere of the state of an emergency in Serbia. This ban represents one more pressure on civil society, especially women’s human rights and WHR defenders who support discontinuity with politics of criminal regime and responsibility for wars and war crimes committed in our names.
  • It was necessary to react promptly and to continue non-violent support to democracy, civic freedom and human rights. Women’s groups started to send in the local police branch tens of announcements for the postponed celebration of March 8. In the meantime, the new badges with “FREE CITIZENS, NEVER SERVANTS” sign on it, were printed and one week later (March 15), there was postponed celebration of 100 years of struggle for women’s rights and women’s peace march on Belgrade’s streets with solidarity and support of over 50 civil rights organizations. Everyone in the march was wearing the badges.