Three decades ago, one woman turned a moment of outrage into a movement. Today that movement has turned into a global community supporting over half a million women survivors of war and conflict around the world.
Between 1992 and 1995, an estimated 50,000 Bosnian women were subjected to rape, a "war tactic" during the Bosnian War. Thousands more witnessed the killing of loved ones and destruction of their homes and were left struggling to provide and care for their families whilst dealing with their own severe trauma. Survivors said they felt invisible, that the world had forgotten about them, and no one cared.
But one young Iraqi woman, Zainabi Salbi and Palestinian-American Amjad Atallah cared enough to act.
They travelled to Sarajevo during the siege, where they met with women survivors of the genocide. They began raising money to give Bosnian women so they could rebuild their lives, and directly shared with them letters of solidarity and hope from women in the U.S.
This is how Women for Women International was founded in 1993.
The women survivors in Bosnia told them how they gained hope, respect, and connection as well as financial support – a powerful combination that has been the basis of our work ever since.
“When [we] started Women for Women International, we couldn’t have predicted just how many women would be affected by conflict 30 years later. We thought that Bosnia would be the last time.”
-Amjad Atallah, Co-Founder
Then war broke out in Kosovo, and war and conflict erupted in countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The need to reach marginalized women who survived the atrocities of war only grew, and Women for Women International was expanded to Rwanda and Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and South Sudan.
“You would think that the world would have changed and would have understood that wars don’t work. And that the raping of women in war or at any time must stop and it’s a war crime.”
-Zainab Salbi, Co-Founder
View our timeline of the last thirty years to learn how our work has expanded in response to meeting the urgent and longer-term needs of women in conflict-affected regions:
Women are Harnessing their #PowertoChange
Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed the incredible power of women as they use their power to create change in their communities. Despite facing systematic inequality after surviving war and conflict, the women we work with are rising up to transform not only their own lives, but their entire communities as well. Around the world, women are harnessing their #PowerToChange.
Documenting the life of Dada, a mother-of-two in Nigeria, this virtual film follows her journey through our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations Program after her life was upended by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Listen to the special episode of our podcast, The Sisterhood Effect: 30 Years
In our latest episode, our CEO, Laurie Adams travels to Bosnia with Zainab to retrace the story of how it all began why, thirty years later, the sisterhood effect is needed more than ever.
We are thrilled to offer exquisite hand-crafted creations by women in our Rwanda program! From bright foldable tote bags to one-of-a-kind bracelets, every purchase supports talented women survivors of war on their path to self-reliance.