Prevention, Support and Advocacy: The achievements of Advice and Service Centres in 2021
Mary Ward’s Advice and Service Centres (ASCs), first piloted in Tirana, now operate in 6 regions throughout the country: Tirana, Tropoja, Rreshen, Lezha, Lushnja and Saranda. These centres constitute the one-stop-shop for individuals and communities to access the entire spectrum of services provided by MWL. Each centre plays a vital role in effectively combating trafficking in human beings by utilizing a three-fold approach: prevention, support and advocacy. Grounded in the holistic approach, each centre offers services addressing the unique circumstances of the communities they serve while offering a core set of services available at all ASCs.
ASCs continue to play a central role in the identification of potential victims of trafficking. Victims often do not report trafficking or violence for a variety of reasons, including considerations for their safety, stigma and/or their inability to escape trafficking circles. The trust necessary to report their situation is built slowly over time, through contact with the outreach work and services offered at our ASCs.
The value of ASCs as a catalyst to the identification and support of trafficking victims is clear from the number of individuals reached throughout 2021:
- 13 potential victims were identified at ASCs and provided immediate protection and support for their reintegration and empowerment.
- In close cooperation with partners and shelters, 62 survivors of human trafficking, domestic and gender-based violence received support across MWL’s services provided by ASCs, economic empowerment, sheltering and accommodation programmes.
- In total, ASCs handled 2,088 service cases in 2021, 803 of which were identified as among MWL’s target population of individuals most vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
Partnerships and Referrals
MWL ASCs work in close cooperation with NGOs that provide direct services to potential trafficking victims. Common services include re-integration programs for victims of trafficking, sexual crime and domestic violence, sheltering and protection services, legal assistance, employment assistance, vocational training and support in accessing healthcare.
Cooperation with religious organizations and institutions, meanwhile, has been the main source of new referrals to ASC centres throughout 2021 and continues as such.
Through our ASCs we are able to promote human rights by supporting individuals in seeking services and rights they are entitled to but often do not benefit from.
During the second half of 2021 MWL was also able to partner with municipal government structures in Lezha to improve access to legal services and advice. The opening of the Free Legal Advice Office of the local Ministry of Justice of Lezha has greatly improved MWL’s ability to assist beneficiaries in accessing legal support and advice in matters of divorce, property ownership disputes, etc. With a strong partnership between ASC Lezha staff and the advice office now established, every referred case has benefited from free legal services.
We are encouraged to see a trend among ASC beneficiaries towards more self-advocacy and whistleblowing in cases of unjust treatment. When individuals understand their rights and actively seek the social benefits they are entitled to, these often mark the first steps down a path of advocacy for themselves and others.
This article is compiled from the findings of the Mary Ward Loreto Annual Report 2021. Download the full report here.