By International Social Service, the Global Social Work Organization
ISS - 100 Years : The story of Atina, ISS Serbia, and Bagel Bejgl, a women's entrepreneur initiative.

The story of Atina, ISS Serbia, and Bagel Bejgl, a women’s entrepreneur initiative.

NGO Atina, based in Belgrade, is the ISS member in Serbia. NGO Atina was founded in 2004, as a response to women migrating through Serbia, and more in particular to the problem of human trafficking. Atina was driven by the non-existence of adequate programs of long-term support to the victims of human trafficking to help them in their social inclusion.

Since then, they have won several awards for the amazing work they have been doing.

In 2022, on European Anti-Trafficking Day, they received Child10 Award at the Royal Castle in Stockholm, Sweden. The award was presented to the Director of Atina, Marijana Savić, by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, as an acknowledgement of their impactful work against human trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth.

Last year, Atina won the 2023 Council of Europe Development Bank award (CEBD) for their entrepreneur initiative Bagel Bejgl, whose profits finance support programs for victims of human trafficking. The award ceremony was held on the 8th of June 2023 in Athena, and Mariana Savić accepted the award, telling the story of Atina and Bagel Beijgl.

At the ceremony, Mariana kicked off her speech by underlining how symbolic it is that Atina receives this recognition in Atina (Athens), and it comes at a time when they are celebrating 20 years of existence. Atina is named after the goddess of wisdom and strength to celebrate woman power, resilience, and boldness to survive and fight for their existence, solidarity, and equality.

It is a great honour for Atina and their women’s social enterprise Bagel Bejgl to be recognized for having a positive impact on the lives of women and girls, survivors of human trafficking and exploitation, by advocating for their economic rights and being a pioneer for social change.

Women, just because they are women, especially in patriarchal societies, have fewer possibilities for education, employment, and self-realization, and suffer violence and sexual exploitation. Most of the women identified as victims have experienced violence in their childhood. And, that is a constant – that unfortunately does not change. Wars are fought and ended, but violence against women and girls never ends.

The work of Atina is guided by the needs of more than thousands of survivors of human trafficking, exploitation, and gender-based violence they have supported. Recovery and reintegration is a long-term process. Atina serves women and girls who have never had reliable social connections. The majority of them do not have supportive families or friends. They have experienced trauma, and it is difficult for them to trust. Atina promotes survival and resilience.

In 2014, driven by the need to diversify funding, Atina developed another revenue stream by founding the Bagel Bejgl Company.

Bagel Bejgl provides economic sustainability for Atina. Atina offers the citizens of Belgrade the unique flavour of bagels, while the enterprise also benefits Atina’s beneficiaries. Thanks to a culinary employment training program, Atina prepares survivors to run the business. Many women never had the education to acquire skills nor the necessary work experience to have references for future employment. Now, they do. Atina integrates all activities in one collective that includes a kitchen lab, job training, counsellors, psychologists, lawyers, and resources like computers, phones, and safe space.

ISS is very happy to have Atina among its members, as Atina truly embodies the spirit of ISS Women Explorers being bold enough to start innovative and creative programs to help their beneficiaries.

Source: Acceptance Speech by Mariana Savic, 8th of June 2023 for the CEBD award ceremony

ISS, the Global Social Work Organization

ISS is present in more than 120 countries, constituting a well-connected network of NGOs, authorities and private social work practices. The ISS global network is coordinated by the ISS General Secretariat in Geneva.
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