25.11.2020

Panic SOS Button Saves Lives but also Cries for Help from the Whole Society

SOS button is not only a tool for asking immediate help but it is also a cry, alarm, scream to be heard by the society that something must be done for providing security to the victims of domestic violence. Civil society organisations (CSOs) from Bosnia and Herzegovina on 17-19 November gathered online to promote SOS application for reporting domestic violence. Actually, they gathered to raise their voice against the domestic violence.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increase in gender-based violence worldwide (even in developed and rich countries) which is best testified by the following statements of international organisations.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified”, states UN Woman report.

“This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that increased gender-based violence due to the crisis and reduced health services for women and girls”, states report.

11 CSOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, led by Women Centre Trebinje, recognised this newly developed situation and reacted swiftly. The application for mobile phones that can be downloaded online from the Play Store has been financed by Women Center Trebinje. The other 10 woman organisations during the three day event expressed their willingness to jointly work to make the SOS application works perfectly. During the event, a presentation and training on the use of the application was provided but also many ideas have been presented for improving its further use.

“The SOS application enables victims to silently call for help if needed. This is very important moment for all CSOs that work with victims of violence. The initiative for development of the SOS application came as a response to increasing number of cases of domestic violence as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.  In the situation of social distancing and tough economic situation, the position of victims is becoming worse as all freedoms are more restricted and the perpetrators spend more time with victims. This training helped all of us discuss how to use the application to its full potential”, Ljiljana Cickovic from Women Centre Trebinje, says.

Participants of the online promotion concluded that they need further support for improvement of the application, raising awareness about its availability and use, training and capacity building on how to use it by CSOs, but also by the police forces and public authorities.

The network of organisations was established and initiated set of rules regarding the legal framework in BiH, data protection ethical questions, access to application and administration, reporting and signing of work protocol. In addition, the discussed issues regarding rules for receiving new members and outgoing members of the network, about sharing knowledge and best practices in providing help to the victims, legal issues related to minors, i.e. if minors can access the application, training of the police etc..

Further steps has been defined with regards to the revision and improving the SOS application.

The event was supported by EU TACSO 3 with following specific objectives:

  • Engage key women/gender-related CSOs and networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are service providers for women experiencing domestic violence, to contribute to the preparation of Rulebook for use of SOS application;
  • Learn about all technical aspects of the use of mobile application aimed at protection of domestic violation against women and girls;
  • Learn and create a plan for promotional activities for women CSOs to disseminate the mobile application among final beneficiaries, i.e. victims of domestic violence;
  • Improve digital literacy of CSOs and their capacity to integrate the use of ICT tools in their work;
  • Pilot an innovative digital tool (mobile application) among CSOs and provide ground for its replication and further use

Testimonials:

Draga Miljkovic, CSO “Uduzene zene”

Training was very successful. It introduced the approach to help and support victims of violence that hasn’t been applied in BiH before. I would like to highlight a possibility of the SOS application to provide help to victims of violence by swift contact with organisations that can provide assistance. We discussed further needs for developing advocacy campaign that will effectively include all relevant authorities and institutions.

Anonymous woman

The training was exactly what was needed as it provided innovative approach in providing help to  victims of domestic violence. What is the most important is that victims will be able to contact CSOs and get help. Advocacy efforts are needed for involvement and help by the police and other institutions.

Anonymous woman

The initiative came during the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing that leads to spending more time with the perpetrators additionally burdened with difficult economic situation. The application is excellent. The application allows silent call for help.