Posts Tagged ‘awiu’

June 11, Mostar: Dances of the Balkans

June 16, 2012

June 11

In this era of rock and rap, it is a rare treat to hear traditional ethnic music and watch young people happily preserving the dances of their local regions.

AWIU Balkans Delegation on the bridge at Mostar, June 10, 2012

In Mostar, Bosnia Herzogovina, we were invited to Dzemal Bijedić University, where the President greeted us and walked with us to the Drama Department.  We sat up front, in rows of students’ wooden fold-up seats, and were presented with a rehearsal of a program of ethnic folk dances.  Clad in jeans and tee shirts, 16 young men and women put on five spirited and complicated Balkan dances.  Their complex steps and patterns were precise, and the music kept us tapping our toes.  Merry Lee Eilers



American University, Sarajevo

June 14, 2012

Our visit to American University inspired hope for the long term future of Bosnia Herzegovina. The President, Denis Prcic and three key faculty met with us on a Sunday noon as they were concluding an earlier meeting. The president eagerly shook hands with each of us and explained their educational mission.

Judith Jaikitis listens to the President of the American University of Bosnia Herzegovina

The University, established in 2006, is based on principles of American education. This includes emphasis on multiethnic inclusion, understanding of American law, and principles. Key areas of study are business and econimics, international law, technology, and diplomacy.

Thursday, June 8th – Meeting with Seida Saric from Women for Women International, Sarajevo

June 9, 2012

Met with

Seida Saric Women for Women, Serbia

, Director of Women for Women International in Sarajevo.  Women for Women started in Sarajevo in 1994 and moved on to establish branches in seven other post-conflict countries: Rwanda, Kosovo, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The delegation was particularly interested in learning the types of training Women for Women offers women in Bosnia. Seida outlined for us a wide range of training programs, including training in life skills, English, computer skills, (pragmatic) education on women’s human rights, technical skills (i.e.keymaking, upholstery, painting homes, weaving, tailoring, planting, and  agriculture) as well as businesss and entrepreneurial training (i.e. bookkeeping, financial planning, promotion, and grant writing).

Every woman receiving training services through Women for Women has a sponsor.  The Sponsorship program is administered from a central office in Washington, DC.  Sponsors donate $30 a month: $10 in cash for expenses and $20 toward the training program.  Sponsors exchange letters, monitoring the progress of their sponsee.  Seida pointed out that many of the sponsors for the Women for Women are American women, but that out of the eight countries mentioned above, Bosnia attracts the fewest sponsors.  Seida’s sense of this is that because of Bosnia’s superficial appearance of “normalcy” in spite of the tragedy it has suffered, there is a common misperception that Bosnia’s problems have begun to be solved since the ending of the war.  There is often a lack of understanding of the poor economic status and government support of women until they visit Bosnia and see up close the seriousness of women’s situation.

Seida hopes to maintain a relationship with AWIU and to be available as a resource for women and NGO’s we have met with on the current delegation as well as for women we encounter on future delegations.  She is also interested in exploring projects we may be interested in pursuing with her as an organization.

June 6th, 3 to 5 PM Meet with BOSFAM

June 8, 2012

Visited BOSFAM this afternoon and finally met the legendary Beba Muhic, the founder of BOSFAM.

Munira Beba Hadzic

Beba told us her story, how her life as a schoolteacher with a home, family and friends, car, shoes and a dentist suddenly collapsed when she was ousted by  the paramilitary during the wars and told to leave her home in Srebrenica.  She offered a poignant story, how she was  forced to leave without shoes, separated from her mother and sister, imprisoned from some time, then released. Although she never clarified what happpened to her husband, his destiny must have been the same as the other Moslem men  at that time.   Ultimately Beba was taken to Tuzla, where in time she found the strength to begin to reach out to other women, who survived the massacre of the husbands and children.  Together she and the women began to form the beginning of BOSFAM.  Beba”s thought was to utilize what the women she worked with knew to do, which was handicrafts.  She found that the women, by working with their hands, making rugs, clothing and other handicrafts began to open up,  tell their stories, and speak of their pain.

When we met with Beba, we were able to look at the wonderful and colorful work her women do. The brilliant rugs were spread out for our viewing.  It became a fashion show as we also tried on for each other their beautiful crocheted and knitted sweaters and shawls, necklaces, and caps.  Most of us ended up “donating” to BOSFAM and left with our loot. The next day we had another chance at their market in Srebrenice, where again we told each other how beautiful we looked in their wares.  Again we “donated” to their cause and left in delight.

BOSFAM is represented int he US by the Advocacy Project.  In March the delegation and other members of AWIU met with Ian Guest, Founder and Executive Director.  BOSFAM is one of several groups the Advocacy Project supports.  During our meeting, we viewed some of Bosfam’s products particularly a handsome large hand woven wool rug which Ian had carried from Bosfam through his travels in Europe and back to the office in Washington.

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June 6 – Roma Women for a Better Future

June 8, 2012

We are now in Tuzla and  have spent the morning meeting with Roma Women for a Better Future. The director of Roma Women For A Better Future, Indira Bajramovic,

Indira Bajramovic, Roma Leader

is currently campaigning  in Sarajevo as the first Roma woman ever to run for parliament in Bosnia Herzogovina.   Larisa Kovacevic, her administrative assistant, acted as moderator and translator for our meeting.  Roma Women for a Better Future  is in a stronger position as an NGO than the Roma NGO’s we met with in Belgrade for several reasons.  First of all the Roma population it is dealing with have lived for centuries within Bosnian borders, and while they are often marginalized, their treatment is more one of indifference and neglect rather than the hatred and ridicule that the Roma population as recent refugees fleeing from Kosovo, suffers in Serbia.   The Roma in Tuzla live in homes and although poor, do not suffer the same isolation and depth of degradation of the Roma in Serbia.

Indira, who is well known by other NGO’s in the area for her devotion and work for the Roma and who has written and spoke extensively about her work and the areas of injustice she has encountered,  has recently been encouraged to run for parliament by her colleagues, and is currently campaigning on a well-developed  strategy for the improvement of the lives of the Roma, based on the work she has been doing in the past ten years.

At our meeting were three Roma mothers, who participate as members of their programs, who spoke very positively of the help their children was getting through this organiyation.  Also present was  the principal of a nearby elementary school along with one of the teachers in the Roma inclusion program in her school, who acted as a translator.  This is a very successful Roma organization in the sense that they have been able to effect significant changes in the lives of the Roma women and children who use their services.  Although the schools in Bosnia and Serbia are now required to have supportive staff, i.e. school psychologists and “pedagogical assistants” along with inclusion programs for Roma children, many schools, in spite of their newly introduced services, suffer from resistance of Roma mothers to the school program and poor attendance and performance by the Roma children.  This principal in contrast has created a model program with excellent Roma attendance as well as academic motivation and performance.  In describing her involvement in the program it became apparent that the excellence of the school program could be in large part attributed to her devotion to the parents, children, and teachers of her school along with her warm and supportive presence throughout all aspects of the school’s program.

Roma child being educated in Model School in Tuzla

Larisa was open in stating that she is not  interested in money for her organization as much as learning of opportunities for business training, i.e. grant writing programs, financial planning, communication skills for leaders in her organiyation as well as job training  in hairdressing, cooking, etc. for the Roma mothers she is working with. Although Larisa was not familiar with the NGO’s we met in Belgrade, she has worked with NGO’s in Belgrade and was interested to learn about and reach out to the Roma organizations we met with.   Larisa  will be staying in touch with us by e-mail and skype to continue our relationship and network building and will be sharing information gathered with Indira on an ongoing basis.

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June 6, 2012

When you want to make a meaningful contribution to the world, it is a serious matter.  The AWIU delegations are about learning and connecting.  It’s part of the plan to work locally and impact globally.

The Balkan Journey to Understanding delegation was over a year in the making.  Barbara Rubio, Chair, Virtual Chapter 1 and Gayle Morin, Chair, AWIU Delegations Committee

Barbara Rubio, Chair, Virtual Chapter 1

Gayle Morin, Delegation Leader Balkans

have been studying the Balkans and making important connections with local women and organizations in the 6 countries for the trip.  Learn more about Barbara and Gayle and their many interests and skills.  When they return to the US they will oversee the important continuing connections and education of members and others.  Please REGISTER with AWIU if you would like to learn of future presentations and informative sessions on the delegation.  Want to follow the Blog? Three steps, 1. click About on the right, 2. Click like on the page and 3. Click Follow.  You will be notified of new posts.

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