Keeping the Line Open: Eight SOS Helpline Services Supported

Belgrade, 7-July-2017 - SOS telephone service support for women who are in situations of violence, provided by women’s non-governmental organizations will be avaliable to more users, and especially to Roma women and women with disabilities. Grants were awarded to eight associations that provide the specialized service. They were awarded by UNDP, within the United Nations joint project "Integrated Response to Violence Against Women and Girls II“.

UNDP supported „Femina Association“ from Smederevska Palanka working on expanding the support provided for realization of rights, psychosocial and psychological services for women who are in situation of violence from the Danube and Braničevo districts, while the "Peščanik" service from Kruševac will be expanded in the Rasinski district through establishment of the two new SOS services in Brus and Ćićevac. „Women’s Centre Užice“ will expand the service onto three municipalities Čajetina, Bajina Bašta and Požega, covering the district of Zlatibor, and Fenomena from Kraljevo will extend the already existing service by making it available 24 hours to women in situations of violence.

The special emphasis was to make the service available to women from the vulnerable groups - "Osvit" from Niš will continue providing SOS helpline service in Roma language, the Roma Center for Women and Children Daje works on informing and improving the protection of Roma women in situation of violence from Roma neighbourhoods in Belgrade, while Roma Association Novi Bečej works on providing support to women who suffered sexual violence. Organization for supporting women with and without disabilities in situation of violence ...IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA is supported to continue working on the emotional, psychological, informative and legal empowerment as well as to continue providing support to women who suffer violence.

SOS phones provide support and information on how women who experienced domestic violence and violence in partner relations can protect themselves as well as on how they can report violence, and which institutions they can get in touch with in order to seek assistance. Apart from the support provided, women who suffered violence are being empowered to leave the situation they are involved in. SOS phones are crucial for the first contact with the user and for meeting her needs, as well as for further guidance to community services such as social welfare centers, the police, health centers, and prosecution.

SOS helpline has been present in Serbia for 25 years. This service is provided by trained activists with many years of experience and expertise working with women who suffered violence. According to the data provided by the Women Against Violence Network, this service is provided by 27 women’s non-governmental organizations in 18 cities in Serbia. Furthermore, these telephones receive more than 10 000 calls on annual basis. On average, about 2/3 of the work of specialist non-governmental organizations is voluntary and under constant pressure that the service will be extinguished.

Activities within the joint project Integrated Response to Violence Against Women and Girls in Serbia II, are implemented by UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA and UNDP, in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, headed by the Coordinating Body for Gender Equality. Integrated Response to Violence Against Women and Girls in Serbia Is aimed at development of a social and institutional environment that will contribute to zero tolerance and eradication of violence against women in Serbia. Through joint action, United Nations agencies and Government bodies contribute to tackling the problem of domestic violence and violence in intimate partner relationships, improving support for women, girls and their families, and creating the environment that does not tolerate violence.

The project is being implemented with the support of the Swedish Government.