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Exhibition "Open Your Eyes", World Elder Abuse Awareness Day


This year's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), June 15, was marked by the Red Cross of Serbia via opening of a street photo exhibition "Open Your Eyes" in the Belgrade pedestrian zone on Knez Mihailova Street. The ten-day photo exhibition presents images and quotes in order to raise public awareness of abuse and violence against older persons and older women – one of the remaining taboo topics in the society. Since 2019, the Red Cross of Serbia has been implementing the project "Empowering older women: preventing violence by challenging social norms in Serbia and Austria (EmPreV)", in partnership with the Austrian Red Cross and the Austrian Institute for Conflict Research and with the support of the European Union, the Austrian Development Agency and The Austrian Red Cross, focusing on empowering older women so that they know their rights and where to turn for help in case of abuse. Other project activities include raising the knowledge and awareness of carers and professionals in the field of social protection about violence against older women and the process of reporting violence, as well as advocacy aimed at changing social norms and behaviour of the general public towards elder abuse through awareness raising. Within the project, the Red Cross of Serbia conducted the first large research study into violence aimed at older women, and on May 15, the organisation began educating 200 older women and 200 gerontocarers on the topic of violence against older persons.

The exhibition "Open Your Eyes" is based on research data but also on direct testimonies of older persons about various forms of abuse they have experienced, and its visual concept is based on the conceptual solutions provided to the Red Cross of Serbia by the Australian Human Rights Commission. This exhibition is only a part of the wider campaign of the Red Cross of Serbia, which includes the branding of public transport vehicles in five cities and a short film broadcast via screens in post offices throughout Serbia.

Leonetta Payer, Head of Operations of the Delegation of the European Union in Belgrade, was the first to speak at the opening of the exhibition, pointing out the long and successful cooperation between the European Commission and the Red Cross of Serbia in the field of aging and support for older persons, all part of the increased attention that the European Commission pays to demographic change and aging throughout Europe.

Sabine Kroissenbrunner, Deputy Ambassador of Austria to Serbia, spoke about the important link between the protection of human rights and the prevention of violence against older persons, but also pointed out that there is not nearly as much data and research on the phenomenon of elder abuse. She also underlined that violence usually starts from language, as well as that the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic affected older persons in a special way and put them at specific risks.

Liang Zeng, Deputy Ambassador of Australia to Serbia, spoke about the importance of establishing cooperation between the Red Cross of Serbia and the Australian Government, as well as the fact that demographic aging and the growing abuse of older people is a problem of the entire planet which needs a joint, decisive answer. Australian film "Know the Signs" served as the basis for the "Open Your Eyes" exhibition, and this material provided to the Red Cross of Serbia was courtesy of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Borka Jeremic, Head of the United Nations Population Fund Office in Belgrade, commented on the long and effective cooperation between UNFPA and the Red Cross of Serbia on programmes related to aging and older persons, while Brankica Jankovic, Commissioner for the protection of Equality, once again pointed out the importance of working together to prevent discrimination which, when it comes to older persons, is one of the last social taboos and a phenomenon that marks the 21st century.

Ljubomir Miladinovic, Secretary General of the Red Cross of Serbia, closed the event by underlining the National Society's commitment to working in the field of aging and supporting older persons, with efforts to work with as many actors from different walks of life and ensure the full participation of older people in all matters affecting their lives. The program of the opening of the exhibition was led and moderated by Natasa Todorovic, expert of the Red Cross of Serbia.

The exhibition "Open Your Eyes" will be set up on Knez Mihailova Street in Belgrade until June 25.