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Organization: Women in Black, Belgrade
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Posted: April 18 2005,09:01 If you wrote this report, you will find a button here that you may click
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

During the wars that began in 1991 in the former Yugoslavia, women outnumbered men as victims of war.  Not only subjects of direct violence, from rape to forced prostitution, they also emerged as victims of domestic violence, of economic, social and political discrimination, and of sexist and political defamation.  However, women were not only victims but also actively opposed war, violence and nationalism.  In the period 1991-2001 autonomous women’s groups took part in many campaigns, striving for peace and insisting on a process of confrontation and reconciliation.  Women’s groups, instead of accepting the image of women as victims or as objects of sexist language and manipulation by the media, imposed the issue of women’s human rights.  Throughout the region women initiated peace exchanges, dialogue amongst women activists, and made numerous proclamations demanding an end to war and violence.  Women have founded the highest number of NGOs that promote women's rights, peace and tolerance, human rights, and democracy.

However, despite this legacy, the past decade has seen a distinct lack of progress towards a culture of peace in Serbia and the wider Balkan region.  It is helpful to divide these years into two periods for addressing this question:  namely, during the first phase from the fall of the Milosevic regime on October 5th, 2000 to the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on March 11th, 2003, noticeable progress had been made.  Public fear was diminished, with citizens more willing to talk openly, and they were hopeful about the future.  However, no real change was effected on the institutional level, and the new government did not succeed to create a real discontinuation with the politics of the previous regime.  Therefore, the second period from the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic to the present day can be characterized by a return to the criminal past and legacy of the Milosevic regime.  On the institutional level, the wartime mafia and political leaders of the previous criminal regime have reappeared.  This was most apparent during the elections of 2004 when the most radical right-wing party returned to legislative power.  Since then, there has been absolute stagnation in cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, which is a direct manifestation of the lack of political will and desire to face with the past.  On the cultural plane, public manifestations of hate speech and nationalism have again publicly reappeared, with the justification of war crimes and normalization of militaristic nationalism now mainstream.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

Problems that Women in Black, Belgrade currently faces include the following: hate, drastic social injustice, inequality, the feminization of poverty, organized crime, and the connection of the war mafia with the current government – all these issues are present in the region, making it impossible for people (in particular women) to gain autonomy over their own lives.  The government that was created since the fall of Slobodan Miloševic has not radically removed itself from the politics of war and war crimes.  We believe that without serious confrontation with the recent military past, it is impossible to achieve reconciliation, peace, and democratization.  Ethno-nationalism, the dichotomy of "us" and "them", a constant creation of enemies, xenophobia, etc. are still overarching cultural models.  In addition, strong theocratic tendencies in society that undermine the secular or laic character of the state including retrograde para-religious forces within the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and other religious communities have been allowed more public space and are being treated (especially the Serbian Orthodox Church) as equal political collocutors.  The distortion of the secular character of Serbian society represents a very deliberate and covert rise in the influence of fundamentalist forces.  This dangerous process is one that needs to be better recognized and understood by the public, as well as seen in terms of its global context and significance.  

Apathy, hopelessness, and the difficult process of transition and privatization have limited the growth of a strong civil society and culture of peace; the decreased interest and involvement of international institutions and organizations in the area has only further worsened this situation.  Opportunities to include greater representation of women in high level decision-making positions on conflict, peace, and security matters, in peace negotiations, and in conflict prevention and resolution have also been missed.  Therefore, Women in Black and other NGOs currently face the formidable task of developing a political culture within civil society directed at overcoming the stereotypes, prejudices, and retrograde ideologies (including sexism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and militarism) that are derivatives of an authoritarian patriarchal structure and mentality.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

Women in Black, Belgrade (WiB) has been active since 1991 as a peace group which has been particularly conspicuous in denouncing war crimes committed by the Miloševic regime, as well as in cooperating with peace and civic movements and groups in other war-affected countries of the former Yugoslavia.  On October 9th 1991, Women in Black in Belgrade began a permanent, public, nonviolent protest against war, against the nationalistic and militant regime in Serbia, against ethnic cleansing and all forms of discrimination.  It has been very successful in organizing and reaching out to women from all sides of the conflicts regardless of their ethnicity, religion, political and/or educational background.

Our Mission consists of the following:

- creating space for voices of women against war and all kinds of violence;
- encouraging and organizing women's nonviolent resistance to patriarchy, especially to all wars, all kinds of militarism, ethnical homogenization, and fundamentalism;
- making visible women's nonviolent resistance through street actions, performances, theatre, and campaigns;
- building women's solidarity network across state, ethnic, racial, religious, sexual and all others divisions and boundaries,  
- encouraging the creation of interethnic/intercultural peace coalitions and the participation of women in nonviolent resolution of conflict by peace negotiations;
- organizing women's education in the themes of feminism, pacifism, and antimilitarism, stressing the balance between theory and experience and between activism and academic knowledge;
- confronting with the past from a feminist-pacifist approach and through public demands and petitions to extradite to the Hague Tribunal all persons accused of war crimes;
- creating an alternative history/history of otherness/herstory by publishing books, readers, and leaflets on women's nonviolent resistance, and feminist-antimilitaristic theory;
- denouncing the ties between local and global militarization and the militarization of our everyday lives;
- Demanding demilitarization and disarmament through peace education, street actions, campaigns, petitions, civic disobedience, etc.

Women in Black, Belgrade’s main activities include:

• Realization of street activities, especially antiwar actions and ones calling for public acceptance of responsibility for war and war crimes
• Development of alternative women’s policy (networking on the basis of antinationalistic/feminist/antimilitaristic aspects)
• Alternative education (workshops, seminars, lectures, panel discussions, and trainings)
• Publishing activities (recording an alternative history/herstory, compilation of educational readers, etc.)
• Insisting on confrontation with the past – accountability for war and war crimes
• Promotion of antimilitarism, distribution of information regarding conscientious objection and different aspects of demilitarization
• Challenging the system of patriarchy – deconstruction of masculinity/work with both male and female youth
• Support for victims of war and all forms of oppression
• Initiation of legislative initiatives (advocacy, lobbying)

Since the first public demonstration in 1991 to protest the Milosevic regime, Women in Black, Belgrade has organized over 500 public vigils, demonstrations, and performances in Belgrade as well as across Serbia and Montenegro.  As one of the founders of the International Network of Women's Solidarity Against War / International Network of Women in Black, which brings together women from all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Europe and all other continents, we have organized eleven international network conferences.  The conferences promote women's solidarity across all ethnic, racial and religious divisions and divides, encouraging the creation of interethnic and intercultural peace coalitions and the participation in nonviolent conflict resolution strategies.  
Since the beginning, WiB has been extensively involved in alternative educational activities throughout Serbia as well as the broader region, particularly in the spheres of civic responsibility and political empowerment, sexual and reproductive rights, gender nation identity, and reconciliation.  The project Traveling Women’s Peace Workshops from 1998-2003 was implemented in four different regions of Serbia as well as in Montenegro.  More than 1,000 women from 50 cities attended these workshops, which aimed at encouraging the development of civil society, women’s self-organizing, autonomy and solidarity, and the promotion of civic and peaceful values.  
The project Power and Otherness in 2001 included participants from three ethnically heterogeneous regions in Serbia (Sandzak, Banat, and southern Serbia) and was directed at recognizing differences as a basis for creative dialogue and cohabitation.  The project Street Law was implemented from 2002-2003, and was a training program in human rights and democracy for teachers that Women in Black realized together with the Forum for Freedom in Education from Zagreb.  The 59 participants who successfully completed the program have been implementing their acquired knowledge and skills in their local environments, spreading a culture of democracy to their students.  The success of the program earned it a place on the list of recommended programs of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia as a supplementary education program for teachers.  We have organized numerous other educational activities, including a series of panel discussions on the Hague Tribunal and confronting the past.
The educational activity Mutual Support – Women’s Solidarity at Work has been unfolding since the beginning of 2001, with the aim to empower women, to encourage autonomy, broaden public space for women, promote peace policy in everyday life, and particularly, to encourage the creation of autonomous women's groups and to lend support to groups in their initial stages.  Fifteen workshops and five lectures were held across the region.  The contents of the workshops are defined upon consultation with the women from the local community, their main feature being tackling topics that have a bearing on the women's autonomous movement and the civic society in general.

As of the end of 1999, more organized activities of the Network for Conscientious Objection began, and in this spirit, several gatherings were organized.  In addition, the Network launched a number of campaigns: for the legitimating of the right to conscientious objection, in May 2000, in more than twenty cities of Serbia and Montenegro, and also from December 2000 until May 2001, in more than thirty cities of Serbia. From December 2000 until May 2001, the action went on for gathering signatures for the shortening of the military service and recognizing the right to conscientious objection; the action was carried out, together with other organizations, in dozens of cities throughout Serbia and it made a very important impact on the demilitarization of the minds, confrontation with the past and above all, on sensitizing the public for the issue of conscientious objection.

Educational activities on demilitarization of the mind and deconstruction of patriarchy continued during 2003 with a series of workshops in various parts of Serbia. These workshops are mostly oriented toward the young. Cooperation has been continued with other organizations that deal with this issued on the legislative level.

In the past period we have divided our activities into the following categories:  Street Actions, Women’s Peace Network, Common Support, Conscientious Objection and Antimilitarism, and Publishing Activities.  

As far as street actions are concerned, it the past 6-month period these have included the antimilitaristic action “Extradite them!” by which we demanded extradition of all those accused for war crimes to the Hague Tribunal, the action “Not in our name” on December 9th – delivering the demand for prompt and unconditional extradition of all accused of war crimes to the Hague Tribunal and for the repealing of the Law providing financial support to accused war criminals before the Hague Tribunal (passed on March 30th, 2004) as well as the demand for parliamentary and civil control of the army, equalization of the duration of military and civil service, etc.  These demands were delivered to the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro and Parliament of Serbia on the occasion of the International Day of Human Rights.  Over 60 NGOs from Serbia and Montenegro signed the demands and joined the action initiated by Women in Black, YUCOM, the Humanitarian Law Fund and Women’s Studies from Belgrade.

The Women's Peace Network -Spreading and Empowering is a continuation of the project Traveling Women's Peace Workshops, which has been unfolding since July 2002, comprising numerous annual workshops, seminars, tribunes, and meetings.  The most recent activity in this category has been the beginning of our project Women, Peace, Democracy which was begun this February, 2005 with the first of three regional training programs in Zlatar, Serbia, and with our first of two international training programs on the occasion of March 8th, International Women’s Day, in Novi Pazar, Serbia.  

In the area of conscientious objection, in addition to campaigns for civil control of the army and equalization of the duration of military and civil service, as well as street actions and performances of antimilitaristic character, Women in Black has organized a series of workshops and seminars.  Our most recent activity in this area is the campaign “No to the Army”, the collection of signatures for the total revocation of army service, which is being realized across Serbia.  

In addition to these activities, in the previous 6-month period Women in Black has announced, independently or in cooperation with close organizations, numerous announcements with critical review of the tendencies of empowering the spirit and atmosphere of clero-nationalism, the clericalization of society, and the interference of religious communities, above all the Serbian Orthodox Church, in state affairs and the educational system.  Our announcements have expressed the demand for total and unconditional cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, as well as the appeal for facing with the past, etc.

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

Women in Black, Belgrade (WiB) cooperates with many organizations in Serbia and Montenegro, and well as organizations from the states of the former Yugoslavia. Women in Black started the women's peace network on a regional (Women's Peace Network/Network of Women in Black of Serbia and Montenegro) and global level (International Network of Women's Solidarity Against War/International Network of Women in Black).  Through our own network and cooperation with women from Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina (since 1995 to present), Women in Black, Belgrade was present in Potocari/Srebrenica every year from 2000-2004 on July 11th for the burial and commemoration of victims of one of the largest massacres of the 20th century.  Since the fall of dictatorship in Serbia (October 2000), our cooperation has increased with groups from Croatia, resulting in joint educational projects, as well as exchange projects with women peace groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Women in Black is a member of following international networks: International Women in Black Network, War Resisters’ International (WRI), Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Nonviolent Peaceforce (NPF), Peace Bureau International/International Federation for Reconciliation (PBI/IFOR), Amnesty International, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

Postal address of organization

Jug Bogdanova 18/5
11000 Belgrade
Serbia and Montenegro

E-mail address of organization


Website address of organization


Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Equality of women

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

education for a culture of peace

Highest priority country of action (or international)

Serbia and Montenegro

Second priority country of action (or international)

Balkan States
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Organization: Women in Black, Belgrade

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