The Center for Girls was founded on April 15, 1998, on the initiative of two volunteers of SOS Helpline for Women and Children Victims of Violence. The aim of its foundation was to improve the social position of young women through their education and emancipation.
THE MISSION of the Center for Girls is girls' and young women's empowerment through education, activism and creativity.
THE VISION of the Center for Girls is creating a safe place where feminist values are promoted and girls and young women are empowered and supported.
THE OBJECTIVE of the Center for Girls are empowered, confident, strong, safe girls and young women, active in opposing patriarchy and making decisions about their lives, which enables them to gain a better position in the society.
In the last 17 years, numerous projects have been carried out in the Center for Girls, including SOS helpline, meeting rooms, workshops, lectures, psychological assistance, feminist-activist theatre, festivals. Three main preoccupations are the prevention of violence against girls, prevention of human/girl trafficking and women's health. The target group are girls aged between 15 and 30. The Center for Girls is a member of three networks: Women against Violence Network, Women in Black Network, and AT Network of Serbia.
Since 2002, we have focused our attention to the education of high-school girls. So far, we have held 1,542 workshops involving 21,498 girls in 14 high schools in Niš (and its surroundings) and in Leskovac. The workshops covered the following topics: assertiveness and self-confidence, prevention of girl trafficking, girls’ economic empowerment, economic violence, prevention of violence against girls, women's health and sexuality, prevention of anorexia and bulimia. The workshops on these topics, as well as on the new ones arising from girls' needs, continue to be organized until today.
Starting from 2011, the Center for Girls' activism has been expressed through theatre performances as well.
That year, the activists of the Center for Girls brought The Vagina Monologues to Niš theatre scene. On April 5, 2012, they put on and performed The Vagina Monologues in the National Theatre of Niš, with Eve Ensler and her friend Rada Borić from Croatia as special guests. The National Theatre was packed, and the activists of the Center for Girls were joined by Ana Sofrenović and Katarina Gojković, professional actresses, in reading the play. The Vagina Monologues were performed 8 times, and were seen by about 1,000 people.
The Vagina Monologues is an award-winning play by Eve Ensler, performed many times at numerous theatres, from Broadway to the Yugoslav Drama Theatre and Atelier 212, but always with the same message, which is the message supporting the struggle against gender-based violence and explaining that the vagina has both reason and language by means of which it can tell the story of the world outside or inside herself by herself. The play is based on the true stories of more than 200 women from different age and social groups form all around the world.
In 2012, a new play about this theme was put on. It was also a play by Eve Ensler entitled The Good Body, which was staged at the Pičvajz Festival in Sarajevo, Feminiš Festival in Niš, and in May 2013, at the Festival of Female Friendship, Activism, Art and Solidarity in Tutin, and also in Kovačica, Zenica, Leskovac, Skoplje, Pljevlje and Niš. The play was performed 13 times, and was seen by about 1,200 people.
The performance of The Good Body, based on Eve Ensler's play by the same title, deals with the problems women are faced with that go beyond the boundaries of time, civilization or continents. These are the issues that concern women of all ages in all parts of the world – it is the universal and everlasting issue of her attitude to her body and herself. Who creates the standards of beauty, to what extent our upbringing, and social norms and expectations influence our attitude to our own body?
In 2014, the third play was put on in the feminist-activist theatre of the Center for Girls. It was The Waiting Room, adapted from the text Italian Comedy: the Importance of Being a Mother by Jasmina Tešanović. The play is about the relationships between mothers and daughters, men and women, about the role of mother, support, women's health, termination of pregnancy, labour, the treatment of pregnant women in the health care system, and the attitude of the society.
In the period from 2010 to 2014, we organized FemiNiš, the festival of women's activism and art, four times, in cooperation with Women Space. With FemiNiš, we wanted to direct the attention of our fellow citizens as well as of the wider community not only to the position of women in our society, but also to the rich feminist theory and brave female activism in this territory, which persists for a long time. We feel that it is important to make people living in southern Serbia familiar with the idea of feminism and to present them with up-to-date ideas from the feminist scene, as well as the observations concerning gender theory and women's position.
Within FemiNiš festival, we have organized exhibitions, workshops, concerts, film screenings, panel discussions, theatre plays, book promotions, and spent a lot of time socializing with the guests of the festival from the country and the region.
In 2014, we started ArtFemine – a festival of feminist activism and art. ArtFemine Festival is supposed to make Niš youth more familiar with feminism, activism and feminist art. Also, ArtFemine Festival is supposed to open up feminist space for the feminist youth from the city, country and region that would enable them to get associated, empowered, and to take action. We feel that the festival is very important because female art, activism and creation are underrepresented in Niš. So far, we have organized ArtFemine Festival twice. The first one was held from July 3 to July 6, 2014 under the title Women and Media, and the second one, called The Feminist Action was held from July 16 to July 19, 2015.
Since 2013, the activists of the Center for Girls have organized the Women's Health Week in the last week of May. Since May 28 is celebrated as the International Day of Action for Women's Health and Reproductive Rights, during this week we want to remind all women that their health and health care are extremely important, as well as to remind the public to recognize this fact and take responsibility.
In the period from June 23 to June 29, 2015, the Center for Girls organized the first Feminist Art Colony in Niš and Sićevo. The aims of the Feminist Art Colony are to encourage 12 young female artists to get acquainted with feminist topics so that they could incorporate them in their work, to enable them to work together, get to know one another and connect, and to secure them a public space where they could exhibit their art. The participants' evaluations prove that the aims were achieved: "There was a lot of positive energy, and I learnt a lot of things that I hadn't been familiar with before. I don't think it made me digress from the theme I had had in mind before I came, but it helped me in the realization of the work itself. The constant presence of women calmed me down, and I focused all the energy that I scattered all around strictly to my work and all that story. I surely surprised myself, at home I work less, that is, I am less productive and I take bigger breaks. What gave me a boost was that healthy, working energy, and I enjoyed rendering to paper all those, maybe even personal frustrations that I kept bottled up in myself, I even surprised myself with the very technique and work."
After we had completed the training for working on SOS helpline in December 2013, and in January and February 2014, SOS helpline for girls started to operate on February 25, 2014. SOS helpline is intended for girls we want to hear from and empower, and whom we want to inform about their rights, gender-based violence, and human/girl trafficking. SOS helpline is open from 16:00 to 20:00, Monday to Friday.