New Human Rights Group for Women in Croatia

B.a.B.e. (Be active, Be emancipated) is a human rights centre for women, located in Zagreb and initiated by the Zagreb Women's Lobby. Our mission is to enhance understanding and foster the spirit and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in ways that are culturally relevant and integral to women's lives in Croatia. Advocacy, monitoring, and education activities will be used to increase the visibility and understanding of women's human rights at the grassroots level, to expand pressure for government accountability and to encourage women to assume leadership roles in the policy decisions which affect their lives.

We will monitor and take action to influence legislation which impacts upon women and the election process in general. We will also lobby for the recognition and improved status of womens rights such as:

  • The right to be free of violence, both at home and in the public sphere.
  • The right to reproductive choice and reproductive health, including the decision of when to create and how to raise children.
  • The right to equal and full participation in all aspects of society, especially in important decision making and leadership roles.
We will use international standards and treaties, as well as Croatian laws and the Croatian constitution, to evaluate the position of women in Croatia and to point out inconsistencies between laws as they are written and as they are put into practice. We believe that gender democracy is an essential part of any democracy. A state which denies equal opportunity and equal protection to women or to minority groups cannot call itself democratic.

Women's Political Rights Campaign

We are working on a campaign for women's political rights to help women fight discrimination and to make political procedures more democratic. Disturbing conservative and nationalistic trends in Croatia are threatening women's place in Croatian society. The government is passing restrictive laws to slowly erase women from the public sphere and force us back into the home. Already, women have been almost entirely driven out of the mostly male parliament, leaving us powerless to influence legislation from within.

As a "watchdog" for womens rights, B.a.B.e. will closely monitor candidates during elections and promote those who will represent and protect women's rights. We will also monitor electoral procedures and laws, and lobby on behalf of women, and try to develop female candidates for parliament; and raise political awareness by publishing pamphlets and organising public events, workshops, meetings, roundtable discussions, and press conferences. We will also hold workshops for women leaders in NGOs and other organisations to teach them how they can influence the political process.

Our goal is to change the election process from a competition in patriotism to representation of public needs--from nationalistic rhetoric to true democracy.

Refugee Rights Campaign

We are producing folders for distribution to refugees and displaced persons which will give general information about their options and rights. The folders can be distributed to refugees and displaced persons directly or through other organisations. The folders will include an introduction of B.a.B.e.; a directory of women's groups, refugee groups, UN agencies, Croatian agencies, emergency numbers, peace groups, human rights groups, organisations to trace relatives, other

refugee camps (telling which are transit camps, etc.); illustrations of where to go to get new papers, medical care, work permits, etc. A flow chart will also illustrate

the options that refugees in Croatia can choose (go to a 3rd country, to stay in the 2nd country, or

voluntary repatriation). There will also be personal narratives and local tips, and a booklet describing refugee

rights. This will explain that international conventions obligate the Croatian government to provide certain things.

Legal Education on Women's Rights

We will produce folders on women's rights under Croatian and International law to be distributed to unions and to women around Croatia. These folders will educate women about their legal rights in the workplace and at home with materials on non-discrimination, maternity leave, sexual harassment, domestic violence, abortion, equality in wages and employment, health care, etc. We will hold public events for distribution of the folders and to raise awareness about women's rights.

The folders will also include a general pamphlet called "Why Women? Why Rights? Why Now?" which discusses the concept of women's rights and the relationship between Croatian and international law.

Legal Advice Hotline

In September 1994 we started a legal advice hotline tentatively set for Wednesdays from 4 PM until 6 PM, staffed by assistant judges and law students who advise women on their rights and legal remedies. Advice is limited to issues such as domestic violence, rape and refugee rights.

We also want to design a poster campaign for children, to teach children about women's human rights. There will be three levels: 6-10, 10-14, and 14-18 (corresponding to grade levels) and we will solicit prizes from foundations and companies (such as art supplies or a trip to Budapest). We hope to list other Croatian and International organisations as sponsors.

Using the incentives of exciting prizes, we hope that boys and girls will teach themselves about women's rights and begin to question stereotypical roles for women and girls.

There will also be an essay competition for law students, with a choice of titles. This will encourage students of law to begin to think critically about their studies and the position of women's human rights in Croatia. The beginning of educating the Croatian human rights lawyers of the future!

B.a.B.e., c/o Zenska Infoteka, Berislaviceva 14, 41000 Zagreb, Croatia. Tel. +385 41 271 247; fax +385 41 422 276.