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The Balkans: B.a.B.e.

Budi aktivna, Budi emancipirana
Address: Medveščak 62
10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Phone/Fax: +385 1 4662 606
E-mail: babe@zamir.net
Web site: www.babe.hr
Contact Person: Koraljka Dilić (used to be Melina Skouroliakou)

B.a.B.e. was founded in 1994, by experienced activists that wanted to influence both the public and decision-makers in order to improve the status of women in the Croatian society. We believe that the advancement of women is impossible unless and until their equal rights are fully protected. Gender democracy is an essential part of any democracy, and a state which denies equal rights to women and minority groups, can not call itself democratic.

B.a.B.e. was founded as a small but strategic women’s human rights group, which over time specialised in advocacy, lobbying, education and monitoring of laws and media using gender specific framework. For most of the projects the same methodology is used. A project usually starts with research or analysis which goes deeper than usual needs assessment; the next activity is advocacy, lobbying or when inapplicable widespread media campaign.

B.a.B.e. works on national, regional and international level co-operating with other NGOs and interested groups, as well as with officials and members of local or national governments and authorities where and when possible and acceptable.

B.a.B.e. lobbies for recognition and improvement of the status of women's human rights, such as:
• the right to be free of violence, both at home and in the public sphere;
• the right to reproductive choice and health, including the decision of when to create a family and when and how to raise children;
• the right to equal and full participation in all aspects of social and public life, especially in leadership roles and important decision-making.

It also supports the civil society in Croatia and cooperates with peace, human rights and environmental groups.

Since its inception in 1994 B.a.B.e. has made progress towards its programmatic objectives and mission. Amongst other we have:
• provided legal advice to more than 10.000 women;
• analyzed numerous drafts of the laws relevant for women and lobbied in the Parliament so that our changes and amendments would pass (Retirement Law, Family Law, Law on Social Protection, Reproductive Laws, Penalty Code, Law on Health Security, Labour Law, etc.) Lobbying for the Retirement Law, Family Law, Penalty Code was successful;
• drafted the Gender Equality Act and lobbied for its entrance into the Parliament procedure; our lawyer is a member of governmental working group;
• co-ordinated a petition campaign with 20 women’s groups for keeping abortion safe, legal and free of charge in Croatia;
• initiated Women’s Ad Hoc Coalitions (15 to 18 women’s groups from around Croatia) for monitoring and influencing the elections in Croatia in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001;
• published numerous reports on the Status of Women in Croatia (for example NGO Shadow Report for CEDAW, UNDP, Legal Status of Women, Report on Violence against Women and others);
• organised human rights education workshops both in Croatia and abroad, and developed human rights education materials and training video;
• raised visibility and recognition of violence against women generally;
• published several booklets on different issues concerning women (Women and Media, Women in Elections, International Contracts, Regional Constitutional Reports, Women and Labour);
• produced documentary “Distorted Reflections” on the images of women in media as well as videos to raise awareness on violence against women;
• analyzed school textbooks from the first grade of elementary school to the fourth grade of secondary school, published a report and distributed results to various governmental bodies and general public and organized the first museum exhibition on the subject of sexism and gender discrimination in school textbooks;
• conducted several media researches (Global Media Monitoring project 2000 under auspices of The World Association for Christian Communication; and the research on the capacity of advocacy skills of NGOs 2002 under auspices of Balkan Advocacy Group)
• co-organized the Campaign for Greater Visibility of Civil Initiatives (GRAK). This campaign (I see, I act, I change) focused on advocacy and lobbying of citizens for the purpose of protection of human rights respecting existing laws and the culture of non-violent solution of conflicts;
• in May 1998 B.a.B.e. received US-EU Democracy and Civil Society Award
• B.a.B.e. representative has been elected in the year 2002 to the Croatian Parliament Committee for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities.
• in February 2005, B.a.B.e. obtained Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC.
B.a.B.e. played an essential role in professionalizing the civil sector in Croatia and it was particularly successful in bringing gender issues and women's human rights in the political discourse and making them visible and part of the political agenda. B.a.B.e. was also the sole NGO in Croatia to have approached women's rights from a legal point of view and lobbied for changes in the Croatian legislation.

Present activities
In 2005, B.a.B.e. has continued with some of its past projects, whose success and resistance in time have gained them a special place in B.a.B.e.’s life, turning from short projects into on-going programs. One of them is Legaline, which was launched in 1995 and aimed at providing free legal counselling to women. Through Legaline, thousands of women (approximately 10.000 registered) have been informed about their rights and been advised on issues such as violence against women, divorce, economic rights, reproductive rights, children custody, inheritance, employment, labor rights, sexual harassment etc, as well as on different mechanisms of protection. Legaline has also contributed in identifying shortcomings in legal regulation and practice with regards to women’s human rights and has enabled us to advance our expertise in legal issues and successfully lobby for changes in the legal system.

Monitorine is a project designed to monitor laws, distribute suggestions and amendments to law proposals which are in parliamentary procedure and their implementation is important for women’s equality. Monitorine team has also been active during the process of introducing changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, which for the first time incorporated the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender. Monitorine also lobbied for the ratification of the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Another B.a.B.e. project is Women and Media, a regional project covering apart from Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose basic objectives are to influence media to promote more diversified and more realistic picture of women in society; raise public awareness on existence of gender discrimination, sexism and stereotyping of women; diminish gender stereotypes and promote analytical ways of monitoring media.

B.a.B.e. developed this project which researches ways of portrayal of women in Croatian media, especially in advertising. Over the years B.a.B.e. monitored and reacted on numerous occurrances of discrimination of women in the media and through many public apparances on TV and round tables, and pointed out harmful effects of sexism in advertising campaigns. Since 2004, the project is financed by the European Commission. The project will be completed at the end of December 2005 and will lead in total to the production of three documentaries and a Gender Tool Kit. The following year will be devoted to the dissemination of the outcomes of the project, with public presentations of the results and distribution of the Kit to academic institutions, international organizations and the governement.

In the first semester of 2005, B.a.B.e. activities were mostly concentrated on fundraising for the rest of the year in order to keep our projects/programs going (e.g. Legaline). Since August 2005 we have been fundraising for 2006 and planning our future projects and how the running ones will be developed. Our aim is to expand the Legaline program from two hours of phone counselling three times per week to three hours face to face counselling and four hours response to e-mails and phone calls, plus two hours of psychological help. The number of women seeking advice through Legaline has been steadily increasing over the past few years (in 2003 there were 800 registered phone calls and in 2004 1300) and the endorsement of this project by the public justifies such an expansion.

Furthermore, in 2005, a policy analysis of the public procurement in the City of Zagreb was completed and in late July the report was released and distributed to members of the Croatian Parliament, academic institutions and foreign embassies. B.a.B.e. was one of the organizations participated in this anti-corruption project, supported by Freedom House.

B.a.B.e. has been already assigned a new project by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) on the visibility of the NGO sector in Croatia entitled ‘Raising visibility of democratization NGOs’. The project will examine and measure the contribution of NGOs dealing with democratization and human rights issues to the advancement of the democratization process and to influencing policy-making at the state level. The overall goal of the project is to clearly present the contribution of democratization NGOs to citizens, representatives of Government and Parliament, in order to raise their visibility, improve their image and strengthen the long-term sustainability of NGOs dealing with democratization and human rights, by establishing new cooperation between NGOs, the Government and the citizens.

Cooperation of B.a.B.e. with NEWW/NEWW-Polska

B.a.B.e.’s Coordinator, Sanja Sarnavka, is member of the International Steering Committee of NEWW and we maintain close relations with the Network. We follow its activities, exchange experiences, knowledge and ideas and have worked together many times in lobbying and promoting women’s rights in the region. We appreciate the work of the Network, which stays alive and active through its initiatives, activities, Fellows’ programme and its broad network in the region.
In terms of potential project cooperation with the Network we would like to benefit from its expertise in the field of gender budgeting, which slowly starts taking place in Croatia. We also believe that the new project ‘EU Gender Watch’ is very important for both actual and future members of the EU and for securing better monitor of women’s rights protection in the Union.
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