An international forum was held in Novi Sad: Children’s rights and parents’ rights to shared parenting, which was attended by representatives of associations from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia (Novi Sad). The forum was organized by the Center for Shared Parenting on the International Human Rights Day, which is celebrated every year on December 10. .
The forum was opened by Dejan Pavlović, the president of the Center for Shared Parenting from Serbia, who explained that the Center was founded on June 1, 2013 as an Association of Fathers, and this year in April, it added its work goals to the Statute, which are directed, as well as the new the name of the association reads, towards shared parenting. Citizens’ associations change things through external influences, seeing that there is no progress in realizing the rights of children to both parents, the Center directed its activities towards changes in the system from within. This activity takes place through continuous active participation in professional gatherings, as well as increasingly frequent collaborative relationships with colleagues, professional workers of the social protection system and their greater involvement and interest in this issue. This approach led to greater visibility and interest of the system for changes in that field both in Serbia and in the region. One of the next steps that will take place at the end of April 2023, and in the co-organization of the Center and the Embassy of Sweden, is the holding of a two-day international conference entitled Challenges of shared parenting, in which eminent experts from the region and the world and representatives of associations from the region will participate, who will use their own examples to point out problems encountered in realizing children’s rights to shared parenting and possible ways to solve them. Pavlović emphasized that positive examples in the world show that the shared participation of both parents in the lives of children is of crucial importance for their life and well-being, but also for the reduction of family violence towards children and partners.
photo: Isidora Pavlović
Melita Požgaj, secretary of the Croatian Association for Shared Parenting, presented the work of the Association and repeated several times what the Association has been speaking about for 13 years, namely that shared parenting is in the best interest of children. She referred to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which every child has the right to parentage that promotes his or her well-being. Such parenting implies an shared role for both mother and father. She emphasized the importance of the media in promoting the importance of shared parenting. She briefly presented the ODABRALI TATE project, which the Association has been implementing for the second year in Croatia, and which is an example of positive activities that help parents. She pointed out that there has been a significant increase in the number of grandparents contacting the Association on an almost daily basis, asking for help to see their grandchildren, to participate in their lives, and that this is a problem that is increasing every day in Croatia. She emphasized the importance of gathering all participants from the region at similar gatherings, the presence of which raises the visibility of the need to introduce equal parenting into the child protection system.
Iztok Ivančić, president of DOOR from Slovenia, emphasized the importance of cooperation between countries in the region, called his presentation “Wild West Balkan Summit”, and started it with the information that in Slovenia only 1-2% of fathers get to exercise parental rights when it is determined in court. He supported this drastic discrimination with information from other European countries where joint exercise of parental rights through equal parenting is regulated by law. He referred to the blog of VLASTA NUSSDORFER, adviser to the President of Slovenia, former ombudsman of Slovenia, former state prosecutor, founder of the White Ring of Slovenia, an association to help women victims of violence, in which she states most of the theses that have been discussed in DOOR for more than 7 years, and which no one in Slovenia discusses and does not introduce into the system. Ivancic ended his presentation with the message: “If we fail to protect our children in our country, we will turn to the institutions in Europe.” He emphasized that, unfortunately, the situation in Slovenia is not the same as in Croatia and that they are practically blocked in their activities by the media.
Naum Ribaroski, president of the Center for Shared Parenting from North Macedonia, pointed out that the Laws are outdated, and that a number of recommendations have arrived from international organizations to change them. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has directly recommended that North Macedonia must change the family law, which should go in the direction of equal parenting. They had great success in their work when they twice had the opportunity to discuss it in a public debate in the Parliament. Then they proposed eight points for solving that problem, such as: defining the exercise of parental rights, paying alimony, taking children to other countries, counseling centers for parents and others. They are happy to share these points with associations in the region. He particularly highlighted the problem of false reports of domestic violence and illegal sexual acts against children that are not sanctioned, while the parent who is proven innocent does not see the child for all that time. Ribaroski states that their association proposes to North Macedonia that false reports of violence and illicit sexual acts be grounds for depriving the parent who submits such reports of parental rights. He hopes that very soon one of our countries will introduce equal parenting into their legislation, and then this will encourage other countries in the region to change the law.
Edin Sarač, representative of the civil initiative Shared Parenthood of Bosnia and Herzegovina called his presentation Tata 2.0 – being a parent in the digital age. In Zagreb, he received basic information and experience at HURR, and today, given that the children are with their mother in Sarajevo, he lives between Zagreb and Sarajevo in order to see the children. From his experience, he saw that theory and practice are far from reality. It is one thing what local and international laws, conventions and the scientific and academic community say, and another thing is what psychologists, social workers and lawyers do in practice. He pointed out how changes in life circumstances and the digital age have led to greater connection even when they are separated. His personal conclusion is: “The most important decision is the decision with whom we will start a family.” Children grow and dictate the pace and express their wishes as individuals. He notes that “plans are subject to change” and that we must be flexible. He created an equation of success that can be applied for a parent as well as a child in a conflicted divorce, the most important factor in that equation is love, love for children which is infinite. The most important thing for everyone who works is to protect children, to do it equally and together, and to use digital technologies to be closer to our children even when we are not physically there.
After the introductory presentations, the attendees had the opportunity to ask questions to the forum participants.
The conclusion of the forum participants is that Shared PARENTING IS THE BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN.
At the Third Regional Meeting held after the forum, proposals were made for the continuation of joint action, which the governing bodies of all five associations will consider and make a decision on further action. The unity of the association and the initiative itself stemming from the joint action of the united inhabitants of five countries from the region are a clear sign to those responsible in their countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, North Macedonia and Serbia that it is time for changes in the interest of future generations.
Novi Sad, 10.12.2022.
Center for Shared Parenting