‘’From my personal experience – and I think I am speaking on behalf of many of my fellow Religious- our commitment has a great deal to do with ‘looking’ and not looking away, perceiving, being concerned, questioning and identifying.’’ Thus said SOLWODI Austria Leader and RENATE member Sr. Patricia Erber on the 23rd May 2017. Sr. Patricia, together with Sr. Anna Mayrhofer, SOLWODI Austria Leader and Sr. Andrea Bezakova, RENATE member, gave a press conference in Innsbruck, to speak about the SOLWODI shelter and counselling centre for women affected by trafficking in human beings, forced prostitution, exploitation and violence (#GerechtigkeitGeht).
Many women leave their home countries because of extreme poverty, emergency circumstances, false promises and the hope of a better life. The helplessness of these same women often leaves them vulnerable to financial dependency, exploitation at work, physical and psychological violence. Often, they become engaged in exploitative relationships or are forced into prostitution, which deprives them of their rights and their dignity. Patricia Erber knows the reality all too well, saying ‘’Austria is both a transit and a destination country. Thousands of women, especially foreigners, are brought to Austria to work in prostitution and are often victims of human trafficking. The identification of the victims is difficult but even more difficult, is the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.’’
SOLWODI Austria is a joint initiative of six women’s organisations in Austria and is largely financed by women’s organisations in Austria and supported by individual private donors. ‘’We initiate a small start-up capital for the establishment in Innsbruck but we still need financial support in the long term and also trust the solidarity of the people in the Tyroll,’’ the Chairman appealed.
Protection and Counselling Centre.
The shelter can accommodate five women at a time and is available to women who have been exploited and left helpless, or have experienced violence, or forced into exploitative working conditions or prostitution or are victims of human trafficking.
Sr. Mayrhofer responds to the challenge; ‘’The centre can provide concrete support to women. The networking opportunities and cooperation with each other as women and migrants is valuable, as is the opportunity to network with other counselling institutions, public authorities and relief organisations.
Women-even those with children- who are acutely threatened or are victims of violence and exploitation, can be admitted to a shelter, where they can find rest and assistance in order to cope with every-day life and be restored once again.
The address of the advisory office in Maximilianstrasse 8, Innsbruck, is no secret. A small counselling centre was set up for initial contacts and also for aftercare of the former residents of the shelter. The offer is anonymous and free of charge.’’
This topic requires a lot of sensitivity, Andrea Bezakova, cj, says. Andrea is responsible for the concrete work of counselling and guidance on the ground, in Innsbruck. ‘’Because of my personal conversations, I can safely say there is little known about the life-circumstances of prostitutes, women forced into prostitution and victims of human trafficking. Awareness-raising is ongoing.’’
Andrea is happy about the good cooperation they enjoy with the authorities and the state of Tyrol: “Good networking and cooperation is a matter of great concern to us, and we have received concrete support from Christine Baur, the Tyrolean order community and employees of Caritas and the Diocese of Innsbruck First. Discussions have also taken place with representatives of the police and authorities. They have all been very positive and supportive.’’
Andrea shared the specific counselling and guidance of the women includes ‘’consultation or accompaniment with medical, legal, social and psychological problems and support from the authorities. Legal counsel mediation, help in clarifying legal residency status or assistance to withdraw from prostitution are certainly of priority. The provision of literacy and German language courses, as well as assistance with housing and employment, are of great interest to us. Last but not least, we are about offering support in returning to the country of origin, if this is possible.”
The sisters are not only waiting for people to come to them. ‘’In the future, we are also planning to start with outreach social work. Regular visits to the places of prostitution allow women to gain knowledge of counselling and support services, and to build confidence among the social workers.” Bezáková is not shy in inviting offers of help! “Whoever wants to support us voluntarily and is able to cope with the situation, is welcome. We are also grateful for and welcome every material and ideal support.”
Original at http://www.ordensgemeinschaften.at/3351-drei-ordensfrauen-eroeffnen-in-innsbruck-eine-schutzwohnung-und-beratung
Translated and adapted by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications Person.
RENATE member, Andrea Bezáková, together with her SOLWODI Austria Leaders, shares an update on the new SOLWODI shelter recently opened in the Austrian Tyrol.