Atina is a Serbian non-profit that provides long-term and comprehensive support to women and girls, survivors of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Their mission is to obtain equal status for all members of society and fight gender-based violence and stigma. Through awareness and anti-stigmatization trainings, aid for victims, political advocacy, and support programs, Atina provides victim protection and prevention of human trafficking as well as public awareness about the phenomenon. In 2015, Atina founded the social enterprise Bagel Bejgl to help ensure the sustainability of their programs. The bagel shop’s revenue funds Atina’s anti-trafficking and gender-based violence support programs. The Bagel Bejgl shop is the key vehicle for Atina’s economic empowerment program; it serves as a hub for female entrepreneurship, providing employment, skills-building, and business training for women to boost their economic independence and encourage women-led entrepreneurship. Atina also engages in consulting work with the private sector through social responsibility programs that mobilize community support.
Atina managed to keep its safe houses open and other support services operating when most other service agencies in Serbia were closed down. Moreover, it drew from its own reserve fund to help state-operated shelters that had ran out of food in the first month of lock-down. By August 2020, all women and children from the state-operated shelter were referred to Atina’s safe accommodation program for assisted housing.
Theory of Change
A holistic approach to economic empowerment, including support of communities and institutions, is critical to social inclusion of marginalized and multiply-discriminated-against groups such as human trafficking and exploitation survivors.
Atina supports social inclusion of women and girls who survived trafficking and exploitation, as well as capacity building and strengthening of local communities and relevant organizations in fighting violence against women. It also works to reduce prejudice and discrimination against victims of human trafficking. Atina’s victim protection methodology includes women-centered and tailor-made problem assessment, plan of action development, and monitoring and evaluation of project success to provide comprehensive protection and support to victims and their families. They advocate for public policies to address systemic issues for human trafficking and exploitation, and they also work with other institutions and organizations to fight human trafficking on a national, regional, and global scale.
Atina’s three safe houses have an 80% occupancy rate and provide consistent counseling and support for women and girls who live there. Their increasingly popular hotline has been vital during the pandemic to connect those in need with resources. Since its establishment, Atina has supported more than a thousand women and girls identified as victim of human trafficking. Over a hundred were trained in Bagel Bejgl, 70% of whom were later employed within various companies in Serbia. Atina established fully operational local networks of support across the country to help victims of trafficking. Atina considers the most valuable result of its work to be the confidence and sense of security provided to women and girls, who benefit from a secure space, without judgment and with many possibilities for future ventures.