The Blog

International Women's Day: Blog From Women for Women International, Bosnia and Herzegovina Graduate

One day we received news that an organization called Women for Women started enrolling women in life skills renewal program. I thought there was nothing to be renewed after all those lives have been lost.

I was very young before the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) started. I had finished High School for Economy, and the political turmoil in ex Yugoslavia also had an enormous impact on the economy of the country thus making it very hard to find employment. My mother died at a very young age and I lived with my old father and younger brothers of whom I had to take care.

All my dreams and plans vanished in a blink of an eye in 1993. My village was attacked and one hundred and sixteen neighbors, women, children, men and old people were killed and turned into flames. It was slaughter! A few of us were fated to escape this horror. We ran across the hills in a race for our bare lives. Thus, I became "displaced person". I returned to my village and moved back into our somewhat rebuilt house in 1999.

The village was eerie, there was sadness in every foot of the land, people were lethargic, depressed, women carried pain in their souls mourning their murdered sons, brothers and husbands. The air of hopelessness and disbelief was so overwhelming that we thought hope for a better future would never return to our village.

One day we received news that an organization called Women for Women started enrolling women in life skills renewal program. I thought there was nothing to be renewed after all those lives have been lost.

For a moment, a desire to let life take the victory woke up in me and encouraged me to attend the informative meeting at which Women for Women International presented their program. This was exactly what we needed, a safe place for us, someone to lend ears to our story, a place where are burdens could be shared with others, time for us to leave our houses at least for a while and escape our harsh reality. This became a moment that belonged only to us.

That's how it all started only to continue even to this day. My life and the lives of women in my village started changing drastically. We have learned a lot about women's rights, health, mutual support and about contributing to ourselves and our community when working together.

One woman can do a lot, but many women can do everything! And this is the pure truth that we can bear witness to!

We have learned about proper herb collection methods and how to make an offer for the buyers to earn some of our own money. With the support of WfWI, we have established our women's association "Ahmicanke" our primary mission being mutual emotional and economic support. The emotional support was our number one goal, but we also participated in a fantastic project organized for all graduates talented for medicinal plants production business.

Fantastic times ensued! Our municipality gave us a permission to use communal rooms where we meet, discuss and work. Life returned to our village.

We became spirited and we didn't even know that it was possible to grow herbs let alone live on such a business.

We started where we all start, at the beginning. We have learned how to prepare the soil for cultivation, how to produce seedlings, how to tend to our crops, how and when to pick and dry the herbs. Most importantly, we can now collect money for our work because WfWI have brought market to our village.

Women for Women Bosnia and Herzegovina graduates farming their land. Women for Women International

All our production is sold in advance and this is key to our success. Women for Women have also managed to provide us with a dryer of a larger load capacity and this has helped our business grow even more.

We produce large quantities of medicinal plants and it is safe to say that all of us have small business. I am now a happy, self-employed woman. This work has helped me gain support of my family, most of all my brothers with whom I live. I have also received support and respect from my community. It is so fulfilling to be able to help ma fellow citizens. Our jobs are very important for the entire community and slowly men are starting to join and help us. We often joke and say that time has come for us to give jobs to men.

I realize that our businesses are still at the very beginning. I am currently producing raw material for the processing industry. The support of WfWI cannot be measured and honestly we would not have what we have today if it weren't for them. When we are together, only sky is the limit. We have now become an important factor in our community.

People here in Bosnia and Herzegovina are constantly having their rights violated every day. Having a job has almost become an abstract notion. I have had a few opportunities and attempts and it was all so much more difficult before than it is now. My fellow women citizens and I have requested space form our community because we believed we were entitled to it. And we were successful! During the installation of the drier on my private property that I have happily lent to the association, we have demanded the community to help us with the costs and we were once again successful. We have become strong and we seek our rights and we use all means necessary to fulfill our rights.

Today, I feel so much satisfaction with the fact that I have achieved so much success in the medicinal plants cultivation business. I am also very proud of our association and my position as a leader in my community. I feel proud not only of myself but also of the fact that it become possible for me to help other women and my community on their road to a better life by introducing them with positive changes through work. Even when we don't work, we are still reconstructing our community just by being more active than we were before.

I never married and I have no children of my own. My sisters' children are like my own. They keep me going forward. I want them to go to good schools, study languages and be like those wonderful staff of WfWI. I want to leave them a good business that they will continue to develop and thus have a better life.

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