Beginning in 1992, armed forces terrorized minority ethnic communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina for ethnic cleansing, mass violence and rape. The breakup of states from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ethnic and political tensions, and economic crisis incited violence, and international military forces fought against each other for four years. Between 1992 and 1995, an estimated 100,000 lives were lost, and 20,000 to 50,000 women and girls were brutally raped by soldiers as a weapon of war.
“Though I was young, some memories have remained with me after all this time. I wondered if [the war] would ever end.”
-Djenita Svinjar, Solidarity Network Community Leader
Women for Women International’s (WfWI) global community of support for over 500,000 women began during the Bosnian War. Co-founders Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah established the organization to support women who survived torture, rape and widespread violence in their communities. Women survivors of the war received social and economic support to rebuild their lives following the war—as well as hope, connection and respect in the face of destruction.
Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is an independent country. Its citizens are pursuing a modern democracy as remnants of the civil war and genocide linger.
Our Work in Bosnia and Herzegovina
For 23 years, our program in Bosnia and Herzegovina thrived as Women for Women International’s (WfWI) flagship country office. In 2016, the Žene za Žene International Association of Sarajevo (ZzZ) was established as an autonomous, locally registered sister organization of WfWI to continue its work independently.
Our sister organization works through local women’s associations to provide economic and social empowerment opportunities for its network of association members.
In addition to economic support, ŽzZ supports young women in local government and grassroots, issue-based advocacy organizations. A Young Women in Leadership and Development project hosted by the organization provides in-depth training and mentoring for young women to design community development projects and become active leaders in local civil society organizations.
When the war began in Ukraine in February of 2022, WfWI’s crisis response to reach Ukrainian women forced to flee their communities and targeted for sexual violence was led by ŽzZ. Directed by Seida Saric, a survivor of the Bosnian War, the organization collaborated with us to provide women survivors displaced or contending with the trauma of war with the psychosocial services, vocational training and resources to rebuild their lives.
“I lived through war, and I know the trauma that I experienced.”
Seida Saric, Žene za Žene International Director
- Over 2,000 women displaced in Poland and Ukraine received support through four local partners in 2022. At the same time, ZzZ fostered the growth of 16 small business associations across Bosnia and Herzegovina.