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Media Release

Social engagement in South Eastern Europe awarded with € 295,000 in Bucharest: Macedonian Prevention Campaign from Trafficking in Children wins first prize of ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration 2009

12. January 2012

The courageous fight against one of the worst crimes committed against children convinced the jury. The Macedonian project “Prevention Campaign from Trafficking in Children” by the NGO “Women’s Lobby and Action against Violence and Trafficking in Women – Open Gate” won the first of 20 ERSTE Foundation Awards for Social Integration. The Romanian capital Bucharest was selected to host this year’s award ceremony. ERSTE Foundation invited all 20 winners to attend. Around 300 leading personalities, among which many NGO activists and members of the cultural and academic worlds as well as media and business representatives from Central and South Eastern Europe came to Bucharest to celebrate this year’s ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration and to participate in the conference “The Future of Social Change” organised on this occasion. Among the speakers of both events were the Romanian president, Traian Basescu, the Romanian Minister of Social Affairs, Marian Sarbu, and the chairman of the ERSTE Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Erhard Busek.

Andreas Treichl, chairman of the board of ERSTE Foundation and CEO of Erste Group, handed over the first prize. “What the winning organisations do is simple but not self-evident: they help others,” said Treichl, who went on to explain why ERSTE Foundation confers this award for the second time. “Social and ethnic minorities, disabled and traumatised people, children and adults on the margins of society are the beneficiaries of the organisations’ work. Normally, it is difficult for these organisations to get attention and financial support for what they are doing. We want to honour their work and extraordinary achievements in helping others”.

On 25 June, the stage at the Throne Hall of the former RoyalPalace, today’s National Museum of Art in Bucharest, served to celebrate these organisations. The award ceremony provided the organisations with a platform allowing them to gain increased recognition of their often difficult work and with a forum for establishing contacts and networking with potential partners and donors. The winners of the first ten prizes received special support in the form of a film about their projects. These films will be made available to the local and international media and may also be used by the organisations to promote their projects.

Eight countries, over 1,300 applications, 20 winners, two prizes of the jury, one Practitioner’s Award

The 20 outstanding projects were selected by an internationally renowned jury of 17 experts: Dženana Alađuz, Director of the Bosnian NGO and last year’s winner UG Infohouse; Andrew Baker, Director of International Affairs at the American Jewish Committee and Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism; Jelena Berković, Editor at the Croatian Radio 101; Francis Davis, Director of the Centre for Faith and Society, Edmund’s College at Cambridge University; Dana Deac, Executive Director of the Romanian National Television Channel TVR1; Miljenko Dereta, director of Civic Initiatives; Andrea Feldman from the Mediterranean Institute for Life Science; Jakob Finci, the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Switzerland; Anica Mikuš Kos, President of Slovene Philanthropy; Janko Ljumović, Director of the Montenegrin National Theatre; Veran Matić, Director of B92 Radio- and Television from Belgrade; Vladimir Milčin, Executive director of the Open Society Institute Macedonia; Sandra Pralong, president of the Romanian Synergetica Foundation; Franz Salm-Reifferscheidt, Member of the ERSTE Foundation Board of Trustees; Erzen Shkololli, Berlin-based artist from Kosovo; Stefan Wallner, Secretary General of Caritas Austria; and the filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić.

The projects work towards social change and creating a society with equal opportunities for all. This year’s call received more than 1,300 applications from eight countries in the region. Non-profit organisations, public administrative bodies, civil-society and private initiatives, religious communities and media organisations were eligible to apply.

First Prize (€40,000): Prevention Campaign from Trafficking in Children

With a staff of 21 women, the Macedonian NGO “Women’s Lobby and Action against Violence and Trafficking in Women – Open Gate” has developed into the leading NGO against trafficking in Macedonia. It particularly aims at developing and conducting activities including special target groups for children from the Roma community. More than 3000 students aged 11-18 learned about trafficking and how to protect themselves, 62 professors from 11 elementary schools received training and 37 students gained advanced knowledge of trafficking and communication skills. “This Award is of immense importance for us, as it enables us to directly reach out to our target group which is very vulnerable, in particular the children who face the biggest danger to become victims of trafficking”, stated Jasmina Dimiškovska from Open Gate. “We are so glad that trough the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration the importance and need for anti-trafficking initiatives in the region has been recognised. We are grateful for the chance to meet other NGOs from the neighbouring countries and to become a member of the ERSTE family!”

Second prize (€30,000): Livelihood Diversification for Bereaved Women in Western Kosovo

During 1998/1999, thousands of men were killed in Kosovo, leaving behind communities of mostly women and children. Cultural taboos prevented widows from remarrying or working. The Transrural Trust started a project for the women community in Prizren and Peje/Pec that focused on creative ways of empowering families to improve their livelihoods producing and marketing fresh and processed vegetables, fruit jams and hive products. The results are extraordinary: reduced isolation, social well-being, increased self-confidence among women and group cohesion. “When we first applied for the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration, we were very surprised that there is actually someone in the region who values the efforts of people engaged in this field. Being selected among the first three organisations shows how important our work was during the past years” said Florinda Rudi, one of the coordinators of this project. “It makes us particularly happy that the work of civil society gets so much appreciation and visibility. The price money we will use to further improve the lives of our main beneficiaries, women widows and children in Kosovo.”

Third prize (€20,000): Independent and Integrated Lives for People with Developmental Disabilities

Of a total number of 142,700 children with disabilities in Serbia, around 10,000 are diagnosed with having a developmental disability and only 10% of these children have been included in any kind of programme. The project developed by the Creative and Educational Centre for the Developmentally Disabled (KEC MNRO) includes assisted employment programmes to help young people with developmental disabilities to lead an independent life, to prevent institutionalisation and to promote social inclusion. Today, of 100 beneficiaries, 65 people are working in around 50 local businesses, organisations and institutions. In the future, the organisation will lobby the Serbian Government to improve the proposed law concerning job placement and employment for people with developmental disabilities and create a strong legal framework. “It is a great honour to be among the winners of the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration 2009. This Award will certainly improve the visibility and quality of the work of KEC MNRO and hence contribute that people with developmental disabilities realize their basic human and civil rights to become equal members of the society, trough assisted and full employment in public places, the local community and in social and private organisations”, said Margareta Kecman, who represented KEC MNRO at the Award Ceremony.

Seven Honours Awards (€15,000 each) went without ranking to the following projects (from 4th to 10th place): “Project Human Being” of the Project Human Being Association, Slovenia, which assists people and families with various addictions; “Integrated Health Service for Rural Areas” of the Foundation for Community Assistance, Romania, which offers complex services ranging from mobile health services to weekly mobile pharmacy and family planning services; “Foundation – Integration of Disadvantaged Children” of St. Francisc Foundation, Romania, providing protection and support to abandoned or orphan children, children from families with financial problems and children from different minorities; “MIBA Village Banking” of MIBA Microcredit Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, offering sustainable economic development of local communities through incentives for self-employment in rural areas; “Silence is not Gold” of the Centre for Education, Counselling and Research – CESI & Open Media Group, Croatia, which raises awareness of the need to eliminate gender stereotypes and other causes of gender-based violence among young people; “With Wind through Silence” of the Adriatic Skippers Association, Croatia, which develops specific sailing terms for sign language and thus raises public awareness of deaf people in our society; “Improving Roma Education in Southern Serbia” by the citizens’ initiative Helping Children, Serbia. It offers an opportunity for Roma children and young people to work towards social inclusion gaining well deserved respect for their efforts from the community and educational institutions.

Recognition awards (€10,000 each) for another ten projects (11th to 20th place, all equally ranked) went to:

”Karantena Cultural and Social Centre” – Art Workshop Lazareti,Croatia

”Establishing a Home-Care Network in Harghita County” – Roman-Catholic Archdiocese Caritas,Alba Iulia,Romania

”In/visible City” – DAH Theatre Research Centre,Serbia

”Education for Deafblind and Multi-Sensory Impaired Children” – Sense InternationalFoundation,Romania

”Wizards of O.Z. – Theatre in Prison” – NGO ApsArt Centre for TheatricalResearch,Serbia

”Restart Media Centre” –Restart,Croatia

”Developing and Improving the Roma Health Mediation System in Romania” – Romani CRISS – Roma Centre for Social Integration and Studies,Romania

”Developing Inclusive and Sustainable Educational Programmes for Roma Children” –Ruhama Foundation,Romania

”Communication Campaign in Support of Solution of the Erased Problem” – Studio POPER,Slovenia

”Seeing-Eye Dog” – Association for Youth with disability,Montenegro

Two Special Prizes of the Jury were awarded to “Girls in Humanitarian and Reintegrative Music Action” of the Youth Partnership Movement from Bosnia and Herzegovina and to “Development of Tourist Destinations for People with Disabilities” – of ŠENT, Slovenian Association for Mental Health from Slovenia. The 20 winners chose from among their group the winner of the Practitioners’ Award, which went to the project “Education for Deafblind and Multi-Sensory Impaired Children” of the Sense International Foundation fromRomania.


ERSTE Foundation, Communications

Maribel Königer, T +43 50100 615453, e-mail:

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