Montenegro women protest cuts in state aid for mothers

PREDRAG MILIC
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Montenegro riot police guard the government building during a women's protest in Podgorica, Montenegro, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Dozens of women have braved cold weather to spend the night outside Montenegro's government headquarters in protest of cuts in state aid for mothers of three or more children — part of the government's austerity measures. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Dozens of women who braved cold weather to spend a night outside Montenegro's government headquarters to protest cuts in state aid for mothers of three or more children dispersed on Friday.

Financial help for some 21,500 women in Montenegro has been slashed by 25 percent amid efforts to tighten public spending. About half of the women on the list are jobless.

The protesters, who spent Thursday night outside government headquarters, demanded that the government reverse its decision. They argued the state should save money elsewhere before reducing aid for mothers.

The women dispersed Friday afternoon and agreed to meet a government delegation next week.

Earlier, Some of the women sat covered with blankets on the stairs in front of riot police guarding the government offices in downtown Podgorica, the capital.

Desanka Stojanovic, who has three children, said that "we didn't ask for aid, they gave it to us and now they are taking it away."

Montenegro's economy has been weak despite recent progress in the Balkan country's efforts at joining NATO and the European Union.

Hundreds of protesters broke through metal fences set up by police Thursday. They held banners reading "Gentlemen from the government, beware of the women — mothers" or "Our children are hungry."