On my recent visit to Bosnia to take part in the annual Peace March remembering the Srebrenica genocide, I was also able to visit a few of the over 30 women’s association that have been set up by some of the 35,000 women graduates of the Zene za Zene (WfWI - Bosnia) program, which started in Bosnia 20 years ago with the aim of helping women survivors of war to rebuild their lives by learning new skills and gaining access to resources.
When we arrive in Kovaci and we enter the community center, a fantastic group of dynamic women greet us. Each of the 25 women take their turn to introduce themselves and with the help of the translators, we get a really good sense of their experience. It is inspiring to hear what it means to them to be part of the Association - not just the financial benefit of pooling resources but the ability to meet other women and have a safety and support network is so important to all of the women.
The president of the association tells us about the impact of the devastating floods recently and how they mobilized to help people affected. I am so impressed to see their commitment and active citizenship, helping their community. Another women tells us about the workshop they organized with the help of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) focused on promoting women in politics. We are all so excited when it turns out that two of the association members have just been voted on to the local council as the first women ever in the region to be in such a position.
Even though it is Ramadan, the women have prepared local food and show us the herbs that they are growing. Zene za Zene is training the women in how to grow aromatic and medicinal plants and herbs as there is a good market for products containing these. One of the women comes and gives us all a little pot of the 100% organic calendula cream. It is fantastic. I am not surprised when I hear that they have been selling their products at a fair in Germany – the expertise, the quality and the passion and power of these women will make everything possible.
Photo: Amelia Troubridge
Brita Fernandez Schmidt is Executive Director of Women for Women International - UK