Study visit to Austria
Within the project "Empowerment of older women: prevention of violence through changing social norms in Serbia and Austria (EmPreV)", which is implemented with the support of the European Union, Austrian Development Agency and the Austrian Red Cross, representatives of civil society and institutions from Serbia were in a study visit to Austria between 4 and 6 October 2021. The purpose of this visit was to learn from each other, exchange opinions and get to know each other, as well as to explore the possibilities for the application of good practices tested in Austria within the practice in Serbia. In addition to Natasa Todorovic and Milos Todorovic from the Red Cross of Serbia, the members of the Serbian delegation were Brankica Jankovic, Commissioner for Protection of Equality, Suzana Misic, advisor at the Gerontological Centre Belgrade, and Gordana Milovanovic, executive director of Help Net.
Representatives from Serbia were welcomed by the Secretary General of the Austrian Red Cross, and during the study visit the delegation from Serbia had the opportunity to get acquainted with the work and organization within the Austrian Red Cross, but also to get acquainted with the work of local organizations such as Vienna Red Cross and Red Cross of Baden. Also, on this occasion, meetings were organized with professional associates and coordinators of the national society whose activities are directly involved in the implementation of the EmPreV project, but also meetings with representatives of training centres within the Vienna Red Cross and local NGOs. During the entire study visit, both sides actively exchanged experiences and developed ideas for future cooperation.
The first day of the visit included an introduction to the activities of the Austrian Red Cross, a partner on the project, related to the prevention of violence against older women, including a visit to the local Austrian Red Cross organization in Baden, which has a day care centre for older persons and a permanent programme of services and organization of activities in the community for older persons. The centre's staff presented the violence prevention measures that are being taken at the centre.
On the second day, the partners visited the "Neighbourhood Centre", a centre for social integration, especially for older persons, run by the civil society organization Hilfswerk. Representatives of the centre discussed the work of the centre with older persons and the prevention of violence within its activities. During this day, the partners on the EmPreV project also had a discussion on the results of the project together with external experts who collaborated in the work on the project. The results from the Austrian side were presented by Anna Scheithauer, while from the Serbian side the presenter was Natasa Todorović. After reviewing the results, a discussion was initiated with experts from Austria. The observations of all present were that the implementation of the project in Serbia was of a very high quality, and there was a special interest in community awareness campaigns – the photo-exhibition in Knez Mihailova street, as well as promotional campaigns in which posters and videos were shown in post offices and public transportation.
On the third day, a visit to the training centre of the Austrian Red Cross was organised, including overview of the premises and equipment and a meeting with the director of the centre Claudia Michalica-Zottl as well as the social worker responsible for working withholder persons, Teresa Hofstätter. Discussions on standards and procedures for reporting violence against older persons also included Alexander Eder, Head of the Vienna Red Cross's Department of Care Services.
This visit provided many new and significant insights to representatives of institutions and the civil sector from Serbia who are already active in the prevention of violence against older persons and older women at higher levels and its results will be reflected in future plans, projects and public policy proposals. Representatives of both sides agreed that the conclusion of this visit is a very successful long-term cooperation between the national societies of Austria and Serbia, which has been confirmed through joint projects. Representatives from both sides agreed that the project "Empowerment of older women: prevention of violence through changes in social norms in Serbia and Austria (EmPreV)" was extremely successful and that it is extremely important to continue cooperation and take another step towards changing social, social and cultural norms in order to prevent violence against older women, but also to improve the position of older persons in general.