IRIS Network is the new SOLIDAR member

As the result of cooperation with SOLIDAR, on 15 June at General Assembly, IRIS Network entered the membership of this European network of NGOs working to advance social justice in Europe and worldwide.

During 4 years of cooperation SOLIDAR supported IRIS Network trough capacity building, policy and advocacy activities. Few of our many common activities are: organizing traineeship and fellowship programs for IRIS members, participation on panel discussions within the European round tables which became voice of IRIS in EU, as well as monitoring the progress of the integration of the Western Balkan states in fields such are: employment policies, education and lifelong learning, anti-discrimination policies, active citizenship and social economy. IRIS members are participating in SOLIDAR Academy as well as in other programs and projects of common interest.

SOLIDAR has 60 member organisations based in 27 countries (22 of which are EU countries) – national NGOs in Europe, as well as some non-EU and EU-wide organizations. SOLIDAR voices the concerns of its member organisations to the EU and international institutions by carrying out active lobbying, project management and coordination, policy monitoring and awareness-raising across its different policy areas.

The network is brought together by its shared values of solidarity, equality and participation.

SOLIDAR was founded in 1948 to encourage international cooperation between social aid organisations connected to the labour movement. First know as International Workers’ Aid the organisation set up its headquarters in Brussels in 1995 and was renamed SOLIDAR.

They don’t just believe in, they make tomorrow better

Association “Will for Life” of the people with cerebral palsy and infantile paralysis from Velika Plana is providing fifteen beneficiaries with work ability with a job and skills that are valued on the labour market. This assistance comes through the Project „Equal Chances“, funded via Small Grants Programme of IRIS Network. We visited Centre in Velika Plana, so to feel impressions of activists and beneficiaries involved in programme.

Centres of hope and support

We were welcomed by President of the Association “Will for Life” Radovan Radulovic and the activist Duska Stupar, who took us around the Centre and showed the premises. Day Care Centre “Lane”, which exists since 2012, consists of Day Care Centre for children with disabilities and Work Centre for adults with disabilities. Also, the Association has at disposal Club “Heart into the hands” for disabled, provided by Municipality of Velika Plana.

 Beside primary objectives such as providing daily services for disabled, premises of the Centre are also used as a space for workshops, educative and entertainment programs. Under the Project “Equal Chances”, Work Centre was fully equipped and then used for training, during which the beneficiaries learnt how to produce decorative items. Recently finalized training course, which lasted 21 days, had involved 15 of the Centre’s beneficiaries with work ability into the process of self-actualization which is, according to Duska’s words, essentially important for their social inclusion.

 “Through the training, selected participants have gained elementary knowledge skills needed for decorative items’ production. The training also raised their self-confidence and ability to be employed, which is essentially important for them. We made selection based on work capacity assessment. Selected fifteen have learnt how to produce decorative candles, other souvenirs, clocks, magnets in different forms, icons, keychains and Easter baskets”, Duska is explaining to us while we’re sitting in the backyard. Wide, covered in greenery, surrounded by conifers – the backyard is place for playing and resting after workshops for all of Centre’s beneficiaries.

 Valued on the labour market

 We had a chance to see impressive collection of already produced items, stored in Work Centre, but also to observe the creation process – two of beneficiaries were very kind and presented their work to us. Process of decorative candles’ creation, for example, requires a lot of their focus, but it’s creative and makes them more independent.

 All items are being sold on the street stall in the centre of Velika Plana, once a month. This makes their creators economic beneficiaries, which is of high importance. As Radovan has explained, people with cerebral palsy are extremely vulnerable group, because of narrow working abilities which cause poverty.

 “’Equal chances’ is a huge step forward for people with disabilities, because the project is actively encouraging and involving them in working process. First of all, the step forward means raising the average of social inclusion of disabled. Secondly, the project insures direct economic benefit for them and their families – by selling items”, Radovan said.

 Long term benefits of the project

As it was considered in discussion with Radovan and Duska – the social changes, which are to improve life conditions for people with cerebral palsy, are coming slowly and require a lot of efforts. It is important to underline that project brings long term benefit to people who are facing these difficulties – those who passed the training course can use improved skills long after completion of the project, which makes positive influence on their lives and economic status.

 “Thanks to Small Grant Programme of IRIS Network we finally could equip the Work Centre, which created opportunities for job trainings, increasing the number of employed disabled people and stronger engagement in overcoming poverty in the community of people with disabilities”, said Radovan. He added that “Equal Chances” project strengthens relations between the Association “Will for Life” and local authorities – this partnership will insure permanent employment for some of Centre’s beneficiaries in future.

It wasn’t easy when it comes to leave-talking, but we left under the impression of optimism. We left beneficiaries in working atmosfere – the future we want to create together is becoming presence.


Protection for 700 women and children in Una – Sana Canton

Round table “The role and importance of local partnerships in promoting non-violent behaviour” brought together representatives of relevant institutions and organizations in a field of prevention of domestic violence and violence against women in Una – Sana Canton in Bosnia. Organized by the IRIS Network’s members – Zene sa Une and Foundation LARA from Bijeljina under the project “Local partnership for preventing and combating violence against women”, event has addressed the challenges which all relevant stakeholders are facing to in the status quo – women and children who are (potential) victims on the one hand and social service delivery centres, on the other.

Discussion reflected a necessity of implementing changes in domestic violence law, improving the protocol for handling the cases of violence and strengthening cooperation between local government and CSOs. Also, the representatives of Ministry for Health of USC, Office for free law help providing of USC, Coordination Committee for gender equalities of USC and non-government organizations have agreed on lack of their communication in the past and expressed strong will to collaborate in a future.

Via project “Local partnership for preventing and combating violence against women” approximately 700 women from USC, including real and potential victims, are to be protected. Protection is possible thanks to awareness raising campaigns aimed at prevention of violence against women; strengthening cooperation between key institutions; improving skills and capacities of the organizations which are providing social services for woman. All of these goals are integrated in project’s actions implemented by Zene sa Une and Foundation LARA. Project is funded through Small Grants Programme of IRIS Network.

Violence against woman is still a huge problem worldwide, especially in patriarchal societies. Balkan countries, unfortunately, pretty much reflect this claim. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, violence against women together with domestic violence is one of the major societal challenges, recently transferred from private into public sphere. Victims are numerous and statistics are incomplete.

Call for applicants – traineeship programme in France

IRIS Network in cooperation with SOLIDAR is presenting a Professional Staff Training Programme in CSO Ligue de l’enseignement des Pyrénées atlantiques in France. Application is open to staff members of CSOs providing social services in the Western Balkans, that are part of the IRIS Network.

Training Programme will allow one selected candidate to spend 4 weeks in premises of Ligue de l’enseignement des Pyrénées atlantiques at the mountain center ‘Le Cardet à Gourette’ in France, where she/he will be involved in the organisation and development of leisure activities, non-formal learning and animation with children and teenagers, among which persons with intellectual disabilities.

Deadline for applying is 31 May 2016.

More information can be found here.

When it concerns them – they have a say

First group meetings of activists in Perrënjas and Librazhd, organized by IRIS Network member Partnerë për Fëmijët, have marked the successful beginning of the implementation of the project “Strengthening Citizenship and Advocacy with Persons with Disabilities” in Albania. Meetings have connected young people with disabilities, their parents and family members with representatives of local authorities and relevant institutions involved in delivering social services to disabled.

Project implementation is ongoing in two municipalities with high rate of people with disabilities – Perrënjas (app. 600 among 27000 inhabitants) and Librazhd (app. 950 in a community of 50000 citizens). Within the project, Partnerë për Fëmijët is investing efforts to motivate and educate youth with disabilities to advocate their rights and teaching how to institutionalize their participation.

Project activities are directly engaging 125 beneficiaries. They are learning how to develop conduct surveys, analyse data and develop priority action plan, lobbying to relevant institutions ensuring adequate social policies and practice. Approximately 1500 youth with disabilities are to be indirect beneficiaries.

Being a young person with disability in Albania means narrowed opportunities for a decent future and lack of social integration. Ineffective institutions and social stigma leave youth with disabilities and their parents in non-optimistic chances for improving life conditions. The necessary support for this vulnerable group of youths as well as to authorities in integrating people with disabilities, comes through project. The mission of the project is to provide young people who are struggling with different types of disablement with proper social services, based on their expressed needs.

The project “Strengthening Citizenship and Advocacy with Persons with Disabilities” is one of 12 projects financially supported by IRIS Network through small grants programme “Improving the provision of Social Service Delivery in South Eastern Europe through the empowerment of national and regional CSO networks”.

Better life for Roma in Tuzla Canton

Establishment of strategic and action framework for the improvement of life conditions of Roma citizens in 6 municipalities of Tuzla Canton will be available thanks to the project “Development of Local action plans for effective social inclusion of Roma”, implemented by the IRIS Network member – Association “Euro Rom”. Efforts of the Association to involve the Roma population in Tuzla Canton in decision making processes, by overcoming weaknesses of the National Action Plan for Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are supported by local authorities and relevant institutions in social and minority protection sector. The policies and practices in the area of social inclusion of Roma in Tuzla Canton are to be improved by the end of 2016.

City of Tuzla and five surrounding municipalities –- Zivinice, Lukavac, Srebrenik, Celic and Kalesija, are home to approximately 15000 Roma (app 20% of total Roma population in B&H). The process of their inclusion in society is not complete yet. Up until today, stepping stone was missing – defining of a strategy and local action plan for inclusion. Within the process, Roma people will be provided with high quality social services, understanding the importance of the inclusion in the community and decision makers. These are the main goals of “Development of Local action plans for effective social inclusion of Roma” project.

The latest round table event organized by “Euro Rom” brought together 52 participants, among them representatives of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees B&H, Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Tuzla Canton, Ministry of Interior TC, City Council of Tuzla and Commission for National Minority Rights Protection. They were involved in meaningful discussion on challenges of Roma community within the inclusion process and expressed the support to the project activities.

The project “Development of Local action plans for effective social inclusion of Roma” is one of 12 projects financially supported by IRIS Network through small grants programme.

Awarded candidates for mentoring program

In framework of Mentoring program, IRIS Network awarded successful candidates for the purpose of assisting in acquirement of licences for provision of social services and introducing ISO standards in CSO management system.

Since several target countries from SEE region have adopted quality standards for social services and introduced the licensing of social services, CSOs are faced with lack of resources to prepare documentation and fulfill standards in order to be able to use public funds for financing. This is influencing state-civil society dialogue at all levels and damages legitimacy, transparency and accountability of CSOs which are providing social services. Part of capacity building process of Network members is engaging of experts for specific sectors in order to consult CSOs in preparation of required elaborates and reports.

Lack of efficient management is very visible at the CSOs providing social services. IRIS members expressed willingness to introduce standards into their management system in order to raise the level of quality, reliability, safety and efficiency. CSOs will introduce ISO 9001:2015 standard into their management enhanced credibility and access to funding from the corporate sector.

Awarded CSOs for licencing program can be found here.
Awarded CSOs for certification program can be found here.

Apply for training placement in organisation Volunteering Matters in UK

IRIS Network in Cooperation with SOLIDAR is organizing second traineeship programe. The programme offers to one selected candidate the opportunity to spend 4 weeks in the premises of Volunteering matters in Ipswich (UK) and learning about volunteer led solutions to fight social exclusion and empower the most vulnerable groups (young people, people with disabilities, migrant women). The programme will start in May 2016.

As part of this placement, the Ipswich office is looking for assistance within  R.E.S.P.E.C.T. project. The project delivers domestic abuse programmes and supports volunteers to mentor families experiencing domestic abuse.

Application deadline 22.04.2016.

For more information please see the attachment.

Introducing ISO standards in CSO management system- Call for the applications

IRIS Network is pleased to announce call  “Introducing ISO standards in CSO management systemaiming to provide mentoring  services for the CSOs in process of acquiring quality management certification.

Since several target countries from SEE region have adopted quality standards for social services and introduced the licensing of social services, CSOs are faced with lack of resources to prepare documentation and fulfill standards in order to be able to use public funds for financing. Part of capacity building process will be engaging of experts for specific sectors in order to consult CSOs in preparation of required elaborates and reports. At least 10 CSOs IRIS Network members providing social services will be assisted in their certification process.

Application form and Guidelines of the call are available from 04.03.2016.

Deadline for the applications is 22.03.2016.

Social service policy influencing in SEE

Based on the national congresses of the IRIS networks in the region, each national IRIS network prepared Policy paper with the aim to focus on several specific issues within social service delivery in SEE which they decided to raise as being the most important ones.  Topics of the policy documents were widely discussed in consultations with the national networks membership, as well as the authority representatives. Policy papers topics are:  Victim Protection and Safety in Cases of Domestic Violence in Kosovo, Decentralization of Services and Cooperation Between Government  and Non-government  Providers of Social Services in FYROM, Implementation of National/Regional Strategies in the Field of Mental Health Protection in Serbia, Development of Social Services on Local Level in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Improving the social service delivery by enhancing the role Civil Society Organisations in Albania, Applicability of Standards for the Provision of Social Services in CSOs in Montenegro. Additionally, another policy paper was created reflecting situation in SEE and possible joint actions to be implemented.  Based on these Policy Papers the National IRIS Networks will conduct Advocacy Campaigns in 2016. To read policy papers click on the following links.

Policy paper South East Europe

Policy paper Albania

Policy paper Bosnia and Herzegovina

Policy paper Kosovo

Policy paper Macedonia (FYROM)

Policy paper Montenegro

Policy paper Serbia