Group & Field Updates

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Field Updates

  • The Impact of Relationship Building for the Women of Bosnia-Herzegovina

    August 2009

    When women are socially excluded from going to school, joining community associations, or gaining employment, they become isolated in their own homes and miss opportunities to meet other women and share experiences. Such is the case with many women of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who indicate that the number one reason they join the WfWI program is neither funds nor job skills training, but the associational benefits of meeting other women and making friends. The women of WfWI-BiH prove also that the benefits of joining together go beyond friendship to make real political, social, and economic impacts in their own lives and their communities.

    Divna ?oki? is a human rights trainer for Women for Women International’s Bosnia and Herzegovina chapter (WfWI-BiH) in Dobrinja. She meets with her group once every two weeks to teach them about their human and legal rights, family health issues, economic and political participation. The structure of the group allows Divna to lead a discussion, but the training is participant-driven. Over time, these groups become very connected and the women build lasting friendships, she says. The women become very close. They arrive to each class at least a half hour early and stay a half hour late just to talk with each other and share stories about their families, or they share their ideas about the day’s discussion over a cup of coffee. “I love these meetings so much!” says Dijana. “And I also love our conversations after them! I feel more and more comfortable and I wish these meetings could happen more often.” The participatory aspect encourages shy and unconfident women to use their voices and express their views and opinions. Senida talked about how the program has helped her to be freer in communication. “I am shy and I was afraid for the group to choose me to make a presentation,” she said in a group discussion one day. “But, when other women did it, I decided to try too. It was not easy, but when the women applauded me I was proud. Well, you have all noticed you hear me talking now more often,” she told the group.

    In Women for Women International’s 2008 Outcomes Report, we found that the majority of program participants were motivated to join Women for Women International-Bosnia and Herzegovina (WfWI-BiH) for the opportunity to meet and learn from other women and seek refuge from the isolation of their home life. This is remarkable, given that similar surveys conducted in Kosovo and Nigeria found that women’s primary motivation for joining the WfWI program was to receive the Sponsorship funds or to learn vocational skills. Yet one of the most important aspects of rebuilding a woman’s life after conflict is providing an emotional and social support network. This is also one of the most difficult things to achieve, especially for the women of Bosnia and Herzegovina who live the loneliness of believing no one else shares their difficult past. Worse still are the realities that face many women who were victims of the use of rape as a weapon during the ethnic cleansing of 1992. Thousands of women were detained in rape concentration camps where they endured forced impregnation and mass rapes. These experiences are particularly isolating, physically, and mentally abusive.

    In focus groups conducted in 2008, the Bosnian women stressed the importance of the program’s social support benefits. War breeds isolation and loneliness among its survivors, especially for women who have experienced the deaths of loved ones. “... We were all in different areas during the war and all of us suffered... differently... we all went through different things,” one respondent told us during the focus groups. “I wanted to get together with other people and to hear how they managed to survive, what were their stories... this really helped me to calm my own nerves... this was actually most helpful.”

    Most of the women (76%) report staying in contact with the other participants even after graduating from the year-long program. Many women reported making new friends as one of the primary benefits they received from the WfWI program.

    But the social network-building is beneficial in many other ways. From their friendships, the women build community associations, political organizations, and business collectives. Dijana explained during one group meeting that simple recipe sharing among girlfriends can lead to a lucrative business endeavor. “We realized that all of us make good cakes and cookies, but we all make different kinds. As a group we would have more success. We realized we can find a market easier in this way, share tasks, and have better offers for our products. We learned a lot through this!”

    Politically, women in Bosnia and Herzegovina are often limited in their ability to participate in the public sphere. Their views and ideas are not well-respected, and they do not have the support of the men in their communities. During a group meeting with Divna, a program participant named Enisa said, “...We learned now how women can organize, but we also realized why something is done and how to start an action. We could all organize and make an action. We can start from our building or street! It is important to move all women, to get those who are not really interested too. But we can begin!”

    In 1997, Women for Women International initiated a Microcredit Lending Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The program builds upon the associational benefits of women working together and employs a “solidarity group” lending model that requires each individual client to form a group with 3-7 other women pursuing different projects. Among WfWI’s microcredit clients — and recipients of microloans the world over — the solidarity group model has proven time and again to work especially well among women. Within her group, each of the women guarantees the repayment of her group members’ loans and signs a contract agreeing to share the burden in case of a fellow members’ missed payments. The microcredit program in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently maintains a 99.5% repayment rate.

    The responses we receive from the participants in Bosnia and Herzegovina show the benefits of simply joining women together. Women empower each other, especially when they experience shared hardships and work together to rebuild each other’s lives. The continued successes that the women of WfWI-BiH achieve — from friendships to solidarity groups - are further testament to the widespread benefits of investing in opportunities for women to join together.

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  • Treasures Made by Bosnian Women's Hands

    July 2004

    "In June we received an invitation from local government representatives of the Municipalities of Novi Grad (Sarajevo) and Had?ici, to participate in their traditional week-long cultural events. We were eager to take part so that we could promote the organization and show the community the great work that our beneficiaries were capable of doing. We took great care in designing and preparing the exhibit, involving current and former beneficiaries in the process. We prepared a collection by choosing the best works from among the many beautiful and unique handicrafts made by our beneficiaries during their traditional and non-traditional training."

    Although organizing exhibits to display the works of our beneficiaries is always important for us, this exhibit was particularly special because it would provide some of our past beneficiaries with an opportunity to gain new experience in promoting women’s issues in the community. These beneficiaries had received special training to become leaders in their community and to promote women’s rights and issues. They are now members of “Coordinating Boards” that organize activities to promote women’s rights and push women’s issues in the local government. Such Coordinating Boards were established this year in Sarajevo and Had?ici, and the members were thrilled to be a part of our exhibition, where they could promote the Boards' functions to all women in the community. Razija Bo?njak, program coordinator in Bosnia, said it was great to see “women who used to be our students, now participating in and leading these activities with such enthusiasm and devotion.”

    We called our exhibit “Treasures Made by Bosnian Women's Hands”. It was opened by Damir Had?ic, the mayor of Novi Grad Municipality, in Sarajevo, and Esma Topalovic, deputy mayor of social activities and a member of the Coordinating Board in Had?ici. In Had?ici, the event took place at a center that organizes various activities and projects to help women living in poverty become more responsible for their lives and make their own decisions. At both events, community representatives were present, along with musicians from Sarajevo's School of Music, the media, hundreds of our beneficiaries and their families visited the openings and exhibits.

    Several guests commented on the women's great artistic talent and skill. The beneficiaries were so proud to be a part of the exhibit and thrilled to show what they and their fellow participants were capable of when given the opportunity. They spoke about their work and the opportunities given to them through Women for Women International. The beneficiaries were very emotional when they spoke of the event and of the Organization. Zehra said: “This was the best experience in my life!” Dzena told us: “I feel so happy that I could cry,” while Emsa from Sokolje said: “My happiness would be complete if my sponsor-sister from the US was here today.” And Blazenka said she was “grateful to WWI for giving me this chance to improve my life.”

    These events were therefore a great success in two areas: They showed the community the skill and talent of the women, and they provided an opportunity for Coordinating Board members to promote women's rights and issues in the community. Through both, the women in these communities gained greater attention and respect, which is one of the most important goals of Women for Women International in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Dienne Miller
    Staff Member, Women for Women International - Bosnia and Herzegovina

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  • New Project Helps Women Become Leaders in their Community

    February 2004

    "Women for Women International in Bosnia has begun a new project to train women to become leaders in their communities. The success of the organization's previous project for the European Commission, “Women's Human Rights Training and the Role of Women Leaders in Rural Areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, encouraged us to offer further training in women's rights and leadership skills to women in other areas of the country. We wanted to provide more women living in rural areas with training and encouragement to become leaders in their communities... "

    Divna ?oki? is a human rights trainer for Women for Women International’s Bosnia and Herzegovina chapter (WfWI-BiH) in Dobrinja. She meets with her group once every two weeks to teach them about their human and legal rights, family health issues, economic and political participation. The structure of the group allows Divna to lead a discussion, but the training is participant-driven. Over time, these groups become very connected and the women build lasting friendships, she says. The women become very close. They arrive to each class at least a half hour early and stay a half hour late just to talk with each other and share stories about their families, or they share their ideas about the day’s discussion over a cup of coffee. “I love these meetings so much!” says Dijana. “And I also love our conversations after them! I feel more and more comfortable and I wish these meetings could happen more often.” The participatory aspect encourages shy and unconfident women to use their voices and express their views and opinions. Senida talked about how the program has helped her to be freer in communication. “I am shy and I was afraid for the group to choose me to make a presentation,” she said in a group discussion one day. “But, when other women did it, I decided to try too. It was not easy, but when the women applauded me I was proud. Well, you have all noticed you hear me talking now more often,” she told the group.

    In Women for Women International’s 2008 Outcomes Report, we found that the majority of program participants were motivated to join Women for Women International-Bosnia and Herzegovina (WfWI-BiH) for the opportunity to meet and learn from other women and seek refuge from the isolation of their home life. This is remarkable, given that similar surveys conducted in Kosovo and Nigeria found that women’s primary motivation for joining the WfWI program was to receive the Sponsorship funds or to learn vocational skills. Yet one of the most important aspects of rebuilding a woman’s life after conflict is providing an emotional and social support network. This is also one of the most difficult things to achieve, especially for the women of Bosnia and Herzegovina who live the loneliness of believing no one else shares their difficult past. Worse still are the realities that face many women who were victims of the use of rape as a weapon during the ethnic cleansing of 1992. Thousands of women were detained in rape concentration camps where they endured forced impregnation and mass rapes. These experiences are particularly isolating, physically, and mentally abusive.

    In focus groups conducted in 2008, the Bosnian women stressed the importance of the program’s social support benefits. War breeds isolation and loneliness among its survivors, especially for women who have experienced the deaths of loved ones. “... We were all in different areas during the war and all of us suffered... differently... we all went through different things,” one respondent told us during the focus groups. “I wanted to get together with other people and to hear how they managed to survive, what were their stories... this really helped me to calm my own nerves... this was actually most helpful.”

    Most of the women (76%) report staying in contact with the other participants even after graduating from the year-long program. Many women reported making new friends as one of the primary benefits they received from the WfWI program.

    But the social network-building is beneficial in many other ways. From their friendships, the women build community associations, political organizations, and business collectives. Dijana explained during one group meeting that simple recipe sharing among girlfriends can lead to a lucrative business endeavor. “We realized that all of us make good cakes and cookies, but we all make different kinds. As a group we would have more success. We realized we can find a market easier in this way, share tasks, and have better offers for our products. We learned a lot through this!”

    Politically, women in Bosnia and Herzegovina are often limited in their ability to participate in the public sphere. Their views and ideas are not well-respected, and they do not have the support of the men in their communities. During a group meeting with Divna, a program participant named Enisa said, “...We learned now how women can organize, but we also realized why something is done and how to start an action. We could all organize and make an action. We can start from our building or street! It is important to move all women, to get those who are not really interested too. But we can begin!”

    In 1997, Women for Women International initiated a Microcredit Lending Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The program builds upon the associational benefits of women working together and employs a “solidarity group” lending model that requires each individual client to form a group with 3-7 other women pursuing different projects. Among WfWI’s microcredit clients — and recipients of microloans the world over — the solidarity group model has proven time and again to work especially well among women. Within her group, each of the women guarantees the repayment of her group members’ loans and signs a contract agreeing to share the burden in case of a fellow members’ missed payments. The microcredit program in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently maintains a 99.5% repayment rate.

    The responses we receive from the participants in Bosnia and Herzegovina show the benefits of simply joining women together. Women empower each other, especially when they experience shared hardships and work together to rebuild each other’s lives. The continued successes that the women of WfWI-BiH achieve — from friendships to solidarity groups - are further testament to the widespread benefits of investing in opportunities for women to join together.

    Close
  • Breaking Traditional Molds in Bosnia

    February 2004

    "In Bosnia, especially in the rural areas of this mostly rural country, many women play a traditional role. This usually means being responsible for cooking, cleaning and looking after the children. Some women, however, are ready to break with this tradition and begin learning skills that have usually belonged to men. As Women for Women International in Bosnia provides women with an opportunity to learn such skills as shoe repair, carpentry and upholstery, some women are not only willing to try something different, but are welcoming such an opportunity..."

    In Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the rural areas of this mostly rural country, many women play a traditional role. This usually means being responsible for cooking, cleaning and looking after the children. Some women, however, are ready to break with this tradition and begin learning skills that have usually belonged to men. As Women for Women International in Bosnia provides women with an opportunity to learn such skills as shoe repair, carpentry and upholstery, some women are not only willing to try something different, but are welcoming such an opportunity.

    Through Women for Women International's ReneWLS Program, which has been active in Bosnia for six years as part of the Sponsorship Program, beneficiaries take 12 months of technical skills training. Each beneficiary chooses a skill they would like to learn; some learn traditional skills, such as weaving, knitting or embroidery, while others choose a non-traditional skill, such as shoe repair, upholstery or carpentry. Being part of a traditional society, women in Bosnia have tended to enroll in traditional as opposed to non-traditional courses, but over the past few years, greater numbers of women have been enrolling in the non-traditional skills training.

    Women for Women International was offering their beneficiaries something new: skills training in a trade that has traditionally been seen as "men's work". Some women said they were surprised when they first heard that these non-traditional courses were being offered, but soon became very interested in learning more about them. Others jumped at the opportunity to learn a skill such as shoe repair, carpentry or upholstery.

    I spoke to women in the Upholstery and Carpentry courses to find out why they had chosen a non-traditional course and how they were finding it. The women enrolled in both courses were in the tenth month of their twelve-month course, and so they had a good idea about what the course involved and how their new skills could be used in the future. When asked why they chose a non-traditional course, most women said they were keen to learn something new; many had learned traditional skills such as sewing and weaving when they were young, and they now welcomed the opportunity to learn a skill that was both new and challenging. They had never had the opportunity to learn a skill such as upholstery or carpentry. Some had relatives who didn't believe they could learn such a skill and asked them why they weren't taking a course such as sewing or embroidery.

    One beneficiary, Alma, said: "I decided to take the Upholstery course because a non-traditional skill like this one is more useful in finding work or starting a small business." She recognized that in Bosnia, where people have little money for new products such as shoes and furniture, there is work in the field of repairing such products.

    Alma also said she and another woman from her group were planning to start their own upholstery business after they completed their course. She said they would start off small, with friends and relatives as their initial clients, and then build their business from there.

    Another beneficiary, Krista, enrolled in the Carpentry course, said she first had decided to take the Sewing course. But Krista became more curious about the Carpentry course and even though her husband had told her she wouldn't be able to learn carpentry, she changed her mind and enrolled in this non-traditional course. Ten months later she is very happy with this decision. She said that after her husband had seen what she had made in the course, he changed his mind. She even plans to work with him in his upholstery business.

    Amela, also in the Carpentry course, said she was so happy when her husband asked for her opinion on a kitchen table that needed repair. She was able to tell him what could and what could not be done to fix the table.

    Nazmiji, who says she joined the ReneWLS Program and enrolled in the Upholstery course "to escape the kitchen" is thrilled to have this one day a week for herself. She says that her family and friends know that Tuesdays are "her day" and that she is more complete for taking this course. Her main motivation is always her son, who is handicapped, and Nazmija wants to begin a business in which he can work. Because Bosnia does not have the social services that most Western countries have, she must always worry about providing for and looking after her son.

    Another women in this group, Razija, said that she also planned to start her own small business after she completed the course. She is planning to join Women for Women International's Microcredit Lending Program to take a loan to start a business with her husband. She said they have the space in their home to start such a business and: "I already have ideas of the clients I hope to reach: I will make cushions and pillows and go to restaurants, hospitals, anywhere that uses these items. I have so many ideas!"

    Ten months into the course, the women in the Upholstery course are able to upholster such pieces of furniture as stools, sofas and armchairs. In the Carpentry course, the women are proud to have made wooden stools, trays, ottomans and small windows. Acquiring these new skills increases their chances of income-generation; some women have been told that as soon as they receive their certificates at the end of the course they would be hired at a local furniture factory. Just as important, the courses also improves how the women feel about themselves. They all said that enrolling in these courses had changed their lives. Some said their self-confidence has increased dramatically, others said it was the first time they have really thought about doing something for themselves. They are also encouraging their friends and relatives to take a chance and do something different, not to assume they are committed to doing what has traditionally been seen as "women's work".

    Dienne Miller
    Staff Member, Women for Women International - Bosnia

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  • A Bittersweet Celebration as Beneficiaries Graduate from the Renewing Women's Life Skills (ReneWLS) Program

    October 2003

    "In October 2003, 803 Women for Women International beneficiaries completed their participation in the ReneWLS Program in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We were very happy to organize a graduation ceremony and celebration for these women from the Sarajevo, Sokolje, Breza, Kahve, ?upca, Busovaca, Kacuni and Gora?de centers... "

    In October 2003, 803 Women for Women International beneficiaries completed their participation in the ReneWLS Program in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We were very happy to organize a graduation ceremony and celebration for these women from the Sarajevo, Sokolje, Breza, Kahve, ?upca, Busovaca, Kacuni and Gora?de centers.

    The celebration was bittersweet for everyone; the women were excited and proud of everything they had learned over the previous 12 months, yet they were sad that the program had come to an end for them and that this was to be the last time they would all be together. Many had grown very close with the neighbors whom they had known very little about before Women for Women International had become part of their lives.

    There were roughly 50 women for each graduation celebration, held at the center where their regular meetings had taken place. For this meeting, however, the women arrived dressed in their finest clothes. They had very few occasions in their lives to dress up, and for them, this was an occasion to do so. The walls of the room were covered in the woven and embroidered works that the women had made, creating a cozy atmosphere and giving tangible proof to the women’s capabilities. And the tables were covered with trays of the various foods that each woman had brought for the occasion.

    During the first part of the gathering, Razija Bo?nijak, ReneWLS program manager, handed out the eagerly awaited graduation certificates. As Razija said, the pride the women felt on this occasion was palpable; for many of them it was one of the most important moments of their lives. It was the first time that they, not their husbands or children, were the focus of something.They spoke emotionally of what they had learned in both the women’s rights training and skills training sessions, of the business and leadership skills they had attained. They also spoke of what the future held. For some women this meant applying for a microcredit loan through Women for Women International’s microcredit lending program to begin their own small businesses. Others had already begun small income-generating projects on their own, including selling their woven carpets and placemats in their communities. Other women were going to continue promoting women’s rights in their community and being involved in making changes through petitioning their local government. Some women in Sokolje had already been successful in having the local government build a new school for their children.

    For each group, one woman had been elected by her fellow participants to give a speech. In speaking for all the women from the Kahve center, Azemina, said: “We are so grateful for this program, and to the organization Women for Women International, to the sponsors in the United States, handicraft designers and group leaders. We have learned a lot here, from how to improve small domestic activities to how to be better aware of our position in the family and in society. We have been so happy here, the meetings have given us encouragement to improve our lives, we have found friendship, and we have added color to our everyday lives. And we have learned that our role as women extends beyond our yards.”

    In this final gathering for these women, it was very easy to recognize the changes that the women had undergone through the program. In the first meetings 12 months earlier, the women were mostly shy, closed and afraid to express their opinions. And now, because they were aware of their great value and of their rights, they were relaxed, open and eager to express their views.Mirsada from Busuvaca said: “Now I can see how much had been missing from my life. But it is never too late to make changes in your life — I learned that here.

    Now I know things that help me have greater self-esteem, and to expect much more from life.”Muruveta from Busovaca said: "This program opened the door to a better life for me. We now can see that as women, we are very important link in the chain of life. Our self-confidence was restored and we learned how to have the most important things: hope, courage and strength."The mayor of Busovaca, who attended the graduation celebration in that town, said: “I remember when I came to the first meeting for these women. They were very shy and afraid. Now I see very different women, who have become strong and self-confident.”The women who graduated from the program are encouraged to maintain the changes they have made to their lives. They are happy knowing that communication with the organization does not have to end with their completion of the program, that all Women for Women International’s activities will continue at their centers and that they can contact the organization at any time. Some beneficiaries in fact have told us that their self-esteem will keep growing if they contact us from time to time. The women also expressed hope that as many women in Bosnia-Herzegovina as possible will participate in this program because there are still many women who need to recover their courage and self-esteem.

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Group Updates

KAK 29 - Bosnia Group Update

Name of trainer:
Zijada Alajbegović

Name of instructor:
Đulsa Čobo, Lejla Velispahić

When do they meet?
2 times per month – meetings WHR - on Fridays,
Once per week - Knitting - On Wednesdays,

Where do they meet?
Kakanj, premises of the Centre for Culture.

What are they learning?
Topics related to Women and Family, and four topics related to Women and Economy have been covered with this group. The group is in the 6th month of participation in this programme.
At the beginning phase of the programme the participants were not very active but they started to open one to another and to communicate among themselves on topics related to organizing their family lives.

Harija

Talking about Health, Mediha wished to tell her disturbing family tragedy which pointed out to other women that they should all preventively control their health. “My daughter died young since she never took enough care of herself and she never had time to go to a doctor. That negligence cost her life. I concluded during these meetings that most of us, women act like that. That is why I shared my pain with you in order for you to leave this room with different attitude towards yourselves and your health.”

Sabaha, when we were talking about family law, told about her life experience related to divorce and consequences of divorce. After the divorce she got the custody over her son, but she says: “My son felt on himself what it means to be a child of divorced parents. Even though I am aware that I did the right thing since I also saved and protected him from all the bad things in my marriage, that is a painful seal in life both for myself and my son. We should work a lot more on raising of consciousness of our people and that is why this programme is very significant for us women since it teaches us what we should know and what we can look for.”

Topics related to economy were especially interesting for our participants and that contributed for them to be more active during the sessions. They are willing to participate in group work: talking about these topics enabled them to get some ideas, to start thinking what kind of business they could start, how to expand their current work, and how to succeed in any business.
 
The topic “Economic value of work in a household” is especially interesting to them since as Mevlida says: “I was never thinking how valuable I am and how much money I save for my house. After this workshop I have a completely different perspective on myself and my work. Until now, I was thinking of this as of a totally irrelevant thing, since I thought that since I am a woman that is my duty to do. Now, I understand that my work of a housewife is crucial for the life of entire family.” 

Some of the participants already do some jobs that bring them earnings. Amela has a cow and she sells cheese and milk. The participants from her group, in order to support her, agreed that from now on they will all buy milk products from her. Ismeta knits and sells socks; Emira does agricultural work and sells domestic products. Elizabeta, together with her husband, breeds swine. All of them now have different relation towards that job and they say they will try to expand it.
     
The participants from this group are attending trainings:
The training in knitting has started. They have chosen this training in order to improve their knitting skills and in order to get involved into the Kate Spade Project by which they could earn some additional money. This is very significant for them, since it is very difficult for them to find a market for their knitted products. Ismeta says: “This is a perfect opportunity for me, since I can knit in my house and earn money. I will also improve my knitting skills since I learnt how to knit from my mum and I learnt only basic things so, for example, I can not use the scheme. I can see that knitting is constantly changing and improving and now I have the opportunity to learn this.”

The other participants have chosen the trainings in medical herbs, greenhouses and tailoring. When they were choosing the trainings they paid attention to their possibilities as well as the market needs. Razija says: “I have chosen the training in tailoring for several reasons. I will first save some money when I do something for myself or for my family members and the second thing is that I will, by providing services in refitting and sewing, I can earn solid additional earnings. In my neighbourhood, it is always necessary to shorten someone’s trousers, to sew something or to sew a curtain. And now, I was given the opportunity to learn that, and I have never had financial means to pay a course for myself.”

The participants who have chosen for the training in greenhouse think that this is an excellent opportunity to contribute in this way to their families. Emira says: “More and more people in my neighbourhood now place greenhouses. I don’t own much soil and therefore this is an excellent opportunity for me. For the beginning I am going to make a greenhouse until I gain enough experience and try in selling vegetables. I am certain I will succeed. I will no longer depend on my husband; I will not depend anymore on him leaving one convertible mark to me in the morning or not – I will have my own money. 

Additional notes:

Letters: Five letters arrived for this group, and those who were the happiest are: Ismeta, Fatima, Mediha (she received two letters) and Emira. Mediha was the happiest since also got a photo from her sponsor, so she sent photos of her family to her sponsor. Her comment, while she was looking at the photos was: “Oh, my sister is so beautiful, so beautiful, … all of them are so beautiful...”
Other participants are looking forward to the next meetings and they hope to receive letters then.

Donation: The participants from this group have already received five donations. They spend it in different purposes, but mostly for purchase, while the others are saving donations in order to start a business at the end of the programme.

Mediha is involved in beekeeping, but, during last year all the bees died, so she intents to try it again with the help of donation. In her letter that she wrote to her sponsor she said: I have decided to collect money from the donation you are sending and I will buy some bees at the end of the year for that money.”

KAK - BRNJ 1- Bosnia Group Update

Name of trainer:
Alisa Šišić

Name of instructor:
Đulsa Čobo, Lejla Velispahić                                      

When do they meet?
2 times per month - meetings WHR on Mondays
Once per week – Vocational skills on Wednesday and Friday

Where do they meet?

Field centre Brnj-local community Brnj premises

What are they learning ?
All the topics related to family, economy and politics were discussed with the group. The group is in 8th month of participation in the programme.

Harija

Changes that happened at participants are recognizable, especially in recent months. They communicate more freely, among themselves, with the trainer and instructor, at the meetings and trainings. Discussions, mutual support also influenced on increased self-confidence and self-respect of participants who talk about these themselves. Murisa had operation on her hip before the programme and she was thinking for a long time whether to get involved in the programme or not due to the fact that she had difficulties in walking, as well as the fact that she felt less valuable due to her walking problems. However, she liked the first meetings very much and she realized that this is excellent for her.

Murisa says: “Our meetings returned will for life to me! I was very depressed, I felt worthless due to my health problems. No one paid attention to that, they even encouraged me and told me that I can help myself the best and that I can achieve everything with my persistence! Now, I walk without any medical apparatus, I have more self-confidence, I have new friends and I feel just great!”

Topics related to economy influenced on thinking as well as decisions that the participants make. Fata says: “I finished the course in tailoring and I sewed for myself and my family, but I never had courage to sew for other people. I got that courage and strength here and for the first time I offered my services to other participants in the group. The important thing is that they accepted my offer. I made some clothes and earned my own money! This means a lot to me and makes me a proud person.”

Harija

Elma was encouraged by the discussion on topics related to politics to react differently for the first time. The place where she lives has a problem in water supply. Elma’s husband is president of local community but she has never discussed with him about the issues he is involved with at his job. Elma says: “My husband was, at first, surprised that I am talking to him about this topic! After the conversation we had, he was delighted that I show the interest for solving the issue of water supply in our local community. I am very happy that this programme ‘opened our eyes’ and showed us what women who have goal in front of them can do.”

Elma, together with other members of her group, organized collecting of money for water pump that could solve the problem of water supply in this local community.
 
The participants from this group are currently attending the trainings they have chosen and those are the following: medical herbs, greenhouse production and knitting. They are already using their skills for earning some money. Amira, Hidajeta and Senada have joined our project of knitting and they knitted their first caps and gloves by using a scheme.

Amira says: “I have been knitting and making handicrafts since I was a small girl, but this is the first time someone wants to buy my cap and that it has its price. Through the price of caps I learnt how to respect myself, my capabilities and skills for which I now see I know many.”
The participants who are attending the training in medical herbs realized that they can have more success as a group. They are thinking of starting a collective collection of medical herbs for buying out, which they will do once they finish the training. The participants have made their first plans, including the topics related to economy and through the acquired knowledge on greenhouse production. Mubera says: “I can not buy a greenhouse, but I can make an improvised greenhouse with not so many means. I will then sell vegetables I cultivate and in that way provide means for the real greenhouse. Step by step – to developed business!”   

Additional notes

Letters
Bahra and Meliha received letters from their sponsors from the first time. They were very happy because of that and they read it to other participants with delight. Listening to the words from her sponsor in the letter Meliha says: “I am happy that someone far in America is interested in me and my family and I shall remember this for my whole life.” Other participants shared their happiness and expressed hope and expectations to receive letters from their sponsors on next meetings.

Donations
Donation is a very important component of the programme for the participants from this group. They spend it in different purposes. Some of them are in a very difficult financial situation and donation is useful for food, school equipment for their children or travel costs to school, and some of them are saving donation for starting a smaller business in their houses. Razija says: “Donation is a monthly ticket for my son to his school in Kakanj.” Senada says: “I buy my daughter notebooks, pencils and the rest she needs for school every month.” Fata says: “I spend donation on needles, buttons and fiber as well as all small things I need to get and which are necessary for my work and my customers.” 

OL 10 - Bosnia Group Update

Name of trainer:

Amela Selimović

When do they meet?

2 times per month meetings on WHR and trainings in vocational skills every week

Where do they meet?

Premises of Municipal Council in Olovo

What are they learning?

Harija

We did the topics related to family, topics related to economy and we have started to talk about political topics. Most of these participants come from the rural area and at the beginning of the programme it was difficult for them to include into discussions and conversation with other participants. Today, in seventh month of their participation in the programme, positive progress of the participants is recognizable. They are more than happy to discuss, to state their opinions and they are more prepared to share their personal experiences.

Topics related to family were interesting for them. Azra says: “These topics have encouraged me to think whether it was my mistake, or is it something else. I was always as a servant to others, but now I know that this was not my mistake. Now I know that I, as other women from my surrounding, was raised like that, that my mother taught me to behave like that. I am sure that I will teach my daughter in the future to be different, to have different relations with her husband since that is the only way to be happy. But, men should also be raised differently.” Topic on education was encouraging for many participants to see themselves in a different way. Some of them finished only few grades of elementary school, and they are not willing to admit that since they are ashamed. Conversation helped them to understand causes and to see other possibilities for improvement of their lives. Mulija says: “I wanted to go to school, but my parents were unjust towards me, since they thought it was more important for my parents to go to school. I am now satisfied for I am given the opportunity to educate at this age now. I will achieve my great wish and I will have a diploma on finished course.”

Harija

Topics related to economy enabled participants to recognize and to see all their potentials and possibilities. That helped them to make good choice of training that they will attend during the programme. Most of them are attending the training in medical herbs, and they are already using the knowledge they acquired for collecting medical herbs. We enabled them contact with a firm that buys out medical herbs and they have already had their first buy out and earned their first money! Samira says: “Today, I knock on any doors, I sell the goods I produced with courage and for the first time in my life I have my earned money which is the money I earned from the sold medical herbs.”

The work of these women was noticed by local authorities. For the first time in this town the Municipal Council gave incentives for cultivation and collection of medical herbs and greenhouse production. The participants are so happy, since they will be able to use these incentives for starting a business and for earning money.

The participants were encouraged, through political topics, to start with some activities with goal of making contributions to the community they live in. they organized the action of embellishment of the part of their town with flowers they planted. The aim was to make the area in front of the Hotel more beautiful, since the Hotel buys out their products from the greenhouse. They also decorated the park in front of the Municipality building since this is where they have their meetings. “Those are the premises we spend the most beautiful moments for us, the place where we learnt how valuable we are, that we are capable and where we learnt how to make our own money!” 

Additional notes

Donation: The biggest number of women is trying to save the donation. They feel about this money as of their personal since it is a gift from their sisters. The saved donations give them a feeling of security to have a money fund for unplanned costs.  The others are trying to save the money with the goal to invest it and earn some money in that way. Hajra says: “I am attending a course in beekeeping and I hope that I will be able to start producing honey. I can acquire knowledge for free thanks to this Organization and I will also buy bee hives, I hope, thanks to money my sister sent.”

Letters: Three participants received letters from their sponsors. Azra got the letter: “I am so happy for receiving letters! I am so grateful to my sister from far America for doing all this for me, and now I am even happier since I know more about her and I know who she is and she has changed my life!”

SAR - DO 1 - Bosnia Group Update

Name of trainer:

Divna Đokić

When do they meet?

2 times per month – Meetings WHR – on Monday

Where do they meet?

Premises of local community in settlement Dobrinja C

What are they learning?

Harija

The participants are in 9th month of participation in the programme. We talked about topics related to family and economy and we are finishing now topics related to politics.
The group has very good mutual connection. They are very close, and they are coming now much before the beginning of the sessions in order to talk to each other, they ask about each others’ families, they share joy due to the special events in the lives of their families. Zibija shared joy due to marriage of her son with everyone. They often stay together and talk even after the session finishes, they have a cup of coffee together and talk about the things we talked about during the meeting. Dijana says: “I love these meetings so much! And I also love out conversations after them! I feel more and more comfortable and I wish these meetings could happen more often!”

Senida talked about the fact that the programme helps her to be freer in communication. “I am shy and I was afraid for the group to choose me to make a presentation. But, when other women did it, I decided to try too. It was not easy, but when the women applauded me I was proud. Well, you have all noticed you hear me discussing now more often!”

Topics related to family were encouraging for discussion on all areas, as was topics about where women are discriminated and especially on domestic violence. Mevlida talked about her daughter’s experiences before divorce and she said: “It is difficult for a woman to resist to that. Many women are wrong when they say that those are all marital verbal fights. We only react when it comes to hitting, and we do not recognize other molestations as violence! Information such as this should always be given to other people!” Bisera says: “I will show this leaflet on actions in the case of violence and numbers of SOS phones show to all my female neighbours!”

Topics related to economy were very encouraging for women. Sabira said: “When we were making a business plan it is then when I realized what it means if you do not think about every single detail. We set everything good in our group but we did not count on the fact that we have no market for such a big number of products. It is then when I learnt that this plan can prevent for business to fail. I talked about this to my household members. Azra is very creative and she is already using that for making different decorative objects for sale. She shared her positive and negative experiences in business and sale with the group: “We can not earn money if we do not invest something. We can not sit in a house, work and have a successful business. I am using every opportunity to mention what I do. I often get a new customer in this way. That is expansion of market.” When they were making a plan for starting a business one group was planning a joint business. Dijana says: “We realized that all of us make good cakes and cookies, but we all make different kinds. As a group we would have more success. We realized we can find a market easier in this way, share works and have better offer. We learnt a lot through this!” Enisa especially liked the topic on marketing skills. “The part on using all skills we have in order to place a product in the best possible way is especially useful for me. If I collect some medical herbs I can make bags for it and sell part of different types of tea as the woman from the story.”

When we started discussing about politics women started to recognize the problems they have in their surroundings. The interest for starting some initiatives by women has been increased. They are more and more showing their interest to get involved in solving some defined problems in the community. Enisa says: “We see all that is going on, but we are not undertaking anything. We learnt now how women can organize, but we also realized why is something done and how to start an action. We could all organize and make an action. We can start from our building or street! It is important to move all women, to get those who are not really interested too. But, we can begin!”

They attended the course in medical herbs and knitting. They were very interested in medical herbs since it does not require many investments. Senida is delighted with all she learnt. “Even though I was just given birth to my baby when the training has started I did not miss a single lesson! All we learnt is easy to implement. The instructor directed us how to improve all that, to implement all that and to combine. How to make tea, which part of a plant to use, when is the best time to pick it, how to make a tincture, ointment or oil with medical herbs! And many other things! We also got the addresses where to sell it! I am delighted and satisfied for have chosen this training!” Remzija attended the training in knitting. “This was an opportunity for us and reinforces our knowledge and also let’s us acquire some new knowledge. Still, I realized how many things more I must learn in order to work well. Now, we are more prepared for the market!”

This group, together with other groups in this centre, organized exhibition of works and products women made, which was included into the ceremony of marking the Day of the Local Community. Their exhibition had a clear goal. “Many citizens will be present there on that day, representatives of the municipality will also be present and it will be good if we present women, our activities in the organization Women for Women, but also to show what we have learnt and what we do. We wish to encourage other women that they can do much more that they think they can.” – Enisa said.

They organized a successful exhibition, presented their products and showed they learnt a lot on promotion and marketing of their work. They were especially satisfied due to the fact that many citizens visited their exhibition, representative of the municipality’s mayor, as well as due to the fact that they the present men were interested in their exhibition. They were praised a lot and encouraged for the further social engagement.

Their goal was to start the initiative for founding the association of women from Dobrinja. They wish to be active in their communities and to find an association which will have its role and contribute to development of the community.

Women were more interested in handicrafts!

Additional notes

Donation: The participants use the donation for different purposes and in accordance to their personal decisions. They mostly spend donation for buying foodstuff for their households. Senada is one of those who spend her donation for purchase of food. Ljiljana is saving her donation: “This is my money and I am saving it since I have no other way to save money. I feel very nice when I have my own money! I am especially thankful to my sponsor because of this!” Senida said that donation was a small fund for her that she saved for her baby she was expecting. She now uses it for baby’s needs. Bisera uses her money for purchase of some goods since she is involved in trade a bit. “I invest in goods and earn money from selling it!”       

Letters: Only two women received letters in this group - Zibija and Sabira. Zibija got 3 letters and she is very proud of her sponsor. “She writes so nicely about everything, and I can easily respond to her, to write all that is happening to me. She is a wonderful person and I am very happy she is my friend since she is a real friend! That is why I wrote to her about everything, as if she is related to me, as we have known each other for years…” Sabira wanted to encourage other participants who still have not received any letters: “I lost any hope that I will ever receive a letter. I was simply thinking that my Jennifer is busy, that she can not find time to write. But, when I received the letter it all suddenly changed! I wished to receive the second and the third! I wanted to read it as soon as possible and to show it to my family as soon as possible. It is a special feeling when you receive a letter. You somehow feel as if you met her!”
Other participants, who did not receive letters, ask every time if there is a letter for them. Dijana wrote several letters, but she would really like to get a response from her sponsor. “The exchange of letters is a wonderful part of the programme and I believe that all of us would really like to meet those who support us better. I think it is wonderful to know such noble people. I strongly believe I will receive a letter soon!”

Z SE 1 - Bosnia Group Update

Name of trainer and instructor

Nermana Deljkić

When do they meet?

Two times per month – Meetings WHE – on Thursday

Where do they meet?

Premises in local community Seoci

What are they learning:

Harija

We discussed on all topics with this group. At the first sessions we held the participants were not very free to discuss but as the programme was going on they were becoming more free and started to discuss and giving examples from their own personal life to the given topics. Through the program, from the first to the last section, the participants showed great progress. The special success was noticed in the level of their self-confidence and opening up before the group. At the meetings they talked about their examples and examples from their surroundings. The participants have recognized in the examples from their lives how big the impact of tradition to their position in the society is and they realized that they have to change their consciousness first in order to have as best position in their surrounding as possible. Fatima says: “I would like to joint the local Community Council, but our representatives do not support that. Therefore there are no women in our Council. Senada started an initiative for the first time and she showed great courage in this. She organized a bus with the goal for all women from her village to attend a manifestation which took place in another village. Senada says for herself: “Until I started attending this programme, I did not even think that I could do something like this. I always thought that a special knowledge is required for this, that I just would not know how to do it. I was not aware what I am capable of doing; even to organize something like this in my village. I am proud now to my courage to do this, even though I faced some obstacles and resistance in my village. But, now I am strong and I know I can make it!”

Fatima shared her impressions from the programme with her sponsor. She wrote in her letter: “I am regularly attending the meetings since we are learning there how to fight for our rights. We talk about problems we have in Bosnia and I am happy for being a part of this programme. I am glad that there is something like this which will teach me how to fight for my rights that I was denied as a woman in Bosnia and I know I am entitled to it.”

Harija

Topics related to economy have opened the issue of earning money, especially by collecting medical herbs. The participants pointed out that their biggest problem is to find a market for buying out of medical herbs. Therefore we have organized a buy out of medical herbs for them. They were very interested in collection of medical herbs and the following participants did it in a very good way:
Fikreta, Fatima, Fuada, Elma, Enisa and Šefika. Elma is the youngest participant who did not attend the training in and a man from the buyout said that she has the best goods.
The participants from this group mostly attended the training in medical herbs and they managed to make their first earnings. They have chosen this training since they realized they have plenty of opportunities to earn money around themselves. Šefika says: “I am very satisfied with this buyout even though we do not earn much money. But, if I say to myself I did not have this money yesterday and if I continue working hard I will have even more tomorrow.” Fatima has started her own business in chicken breeding. She bought 50 chickens and recently placed the first ones to the market. “I sold everything! If I had more I could sell even those. Therefore I am going to buy more next time and earn even more money.” She got the idea at the session when we made the exercise of making a business plan.

Additional notes

Donation: Most of the participants saved donation, and some of them who did not used it to buy food and school equipment for their children.

Harija

Ajka used her saved donations to buy a second-hand sewing machine and she started to earn some money in her neighbourhood. Ajka says: “If there was not for these donations and trainings in sewing I would never manage to save that money and to use what I’ve learnt and buy that machine.”

Letters: Only Fatima from this group did not receive a single letter. The rest of participants received one or more letters. They are happy because of the letters and they are looking forward to them. All the participants brought letters to the last meeting for their sponsors in which they wrote their addresses and expressed their wish to continue exchanging letters. Fatima still hopes that she will receive a letter. She says: “I hope she has a good reason for not writing. I wish I got to know her better since I achieved so much in this organization thanks to her.”

The participants organized themselves for the last meeting at which they got diplomas, and they brought food and drink to celebrate the end of the programme. They are planning to cooperate with each other even after the programme since they say that they need the support they were giving each other during the programme even in the future.

 
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