Guidelines for social workers working with women and children victims of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 2, 2021 | Gender-based violence, Inspiring practices, Serbia

To alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 policies, many initiatives have been developed by civil society organisations – NGOs, local governments, or citizens. A team of national researchers from the RESISTIRÉ project has collected and highlighted a set of particularly relevant initiatives in 27 European countries and in Iceland, Serbia, the United Kingdom and Turkey. The initiatives currently cover eight specific domains: gender-based violence, the labour market, the economy, gender-pay and pension gaps, gender care gaps, decision-making and politics, environmental justice, human and fundamental rights.

In Serbia, KonekTaS platform produced guidelines to draw attention to the vulnerable situation of women and children victims of gender-based and domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The various restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 required innovative solutions from social workers to adapt their practices. Teleworking was quite a challenge for social workers, and even more so as the needs for their services rapidly increased. Quarantine and psychological tensions caused by the pandemic led to an increase in domestic violence, while women and children living in abusive households saw their conditions deteriorating. Forced contact between victims and perpetrators during lockdown, women kept hostage in violent relationships and unable, but also change in family dynamics, challenges related to gender roles of women and men, the reorganisation of child-care responsibilities, and the financial impact of the crisis on household were among the most difficult working environments for social workers in Serbia.

Recommendations on the platform aimed to map the available resources for rapid response during the Covid-19 crisis, with safety plans for victims of domestic violence and violence against women.

The guidelines were created within the volunteer service of the Faculty of Political Science (FPN), University of Belgrade, with the support of UNICEF and USAID offices in Belgrade. This service is an interactive online platform that brings together practitioners, teachers, and students of social work and social policy to share new theoretical and practical knowledge, professional experiences and dilemmas and strategies for overcoming obstacles in everyday work. FPN KonekTas brings together associates who want to build together a safe, supportive, inclusive and stimulating gathering place for learning and research, for connecting and exchanging with colleagues and for coordinated collection and distribution of information relevant to all practitioners and theorists in social work.

The direct target group was social workers but the guidelines were relevant for social work students and policy makers too. One of the initiative’s main achievements has been connecting the academic community with social work practitioners. Thanks to the initiative, students were introduced to the potential problems and challenges faced by social workers working with victims of gender-based violence and at the same time could access solutions and clear instructions for dealing with difficult cases.

Read more about the platform on UNICEF’s website