“We hangout, make jewelry and soaps. I would like the workshops to be more frequent and to continue because they help me to relax mentally – I don’t think about all the obligations that await me when I return home. I spend time with women who understand me. I have friends from school, relatives, but when I hug Marija, my heart is full because she understands what I went through and am currently going through,” Emina shared.
Emina was in the safe house four times. The lack of a stable source of income, and the fact that the Law on Social Protection of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNK) does not recognize victims of violence as a social category, which, among other things, would enable them to be trained for life and work, financial assistance and social and professional work services, forced Emina to return with her children to live with her husband.
“When I’m at home, I just cry because the images of violence in those places where it happened come back to me. That house is killing me. I am glad that I can come to the Association with my children to talk and laugh with other families; that we simply don’t think about what happened to us,” says Emina.
Soaps made by women survivors of abuse (© “Žena BiH” Association)
Marija, whom Emina met through the workshops, adds that in addition to “formal” socializing, what is more important is the one that continues in their homes. Wherever it is, socializing is accompanied by coffee, biscuits, and beads for jewelry.
“I was left alone after the death of my mother, which caused depression. Emina, as well as the other women sitting here, help me to leave the house on the most difficult days, to come to the Association or to their house to socialize. Often, it’s enough just to walk and talk with someone,” Marija tells.
She says that COVID-19, as a result of which her mother passed away, had a negative impact on her, but also on many of her friends.
“People stopped going out, socializing, shaking hands… the state of anxiety and anti-social habits we adopted during that period became normal to us. Three years after the start of the pandemic, hardly anyone opens the door to me,” Marija tells us.
Although they only met recently, Marija and Emina shared more coffee, and with it happiness and sadness, with each other than with relatives and friends they have known for a long time.
Emina and Marija are brought together thanks to the collaborative efforts of the “Women of BiH” Association and the Citizens’ Initiative in Mostar. A transformative opportunity has been extended to women who have confronted domestic violence, single mothers, those with limited financial means, and senior women.
Precisely because of the stigmatization of socially vulnerable women in Mostar, the Association “Žena BiH”, with its partner Citizens’ Initiative of Mostar, launched the project “Active, not passive, social inclusion of women”. The goal is to increase the motivation of the people who need support to participate in the civic, cultural and economic life of Mostar. The Government of the United Kingdom recognized this and provided financial support for the realization of such a project through the Project Mostar – Spaces to Activate and Rejuvenate.
Jewelry made by women survivors of abuse (© “Žena BiH” Association)
During the conversation, Emina’s son approaches and shows a bracelet with white beads and a pendant in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
“My child puts it together like that – from the colors to the jewelry design. When he does that, it looks very simple and you can see that he enjoys it. I am glad because he is not at home on the phone, but hanging out with other children and creating. I would like for the sake of the children, but also for our sake, for these workshops to continue,” says Emina.
Her son adds that the training, which they all went through before starting to make jewelry, helped them learn how to form the shapes of earrings, bracelets, brooches, etc., but also to learn which colors can be combined together. He claims that making jewelry is much more interesting than soap because it allows him to express himself creatively.
“My wish is to sell this jewelry together with my mother online, on the street and in the Old Town. Mom and I will sell, and my brother will take care of the cash register because he loves math,” Hamza tells.
While Hamza tells his plans, Emina and Marija nod their heads. They agree that it would be a good source of income, especially in the summer season when there are more tourists in Mostar.
“I would like our workshops to become at least one brand. In addition to the fairs and bazaars that the Association will take us to, I think we have the strength to start something of our own and expand the range of products to knitting, bags sewn from old clothes, crocheted products, etc.,” says Emina.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger in Bosnia and Herzegovina, call the police emergency number at 122 or the number of the competent police department. Psychological support, information on the protection of your rights, advice on how to help women and children victims of violence in your immediate environment can be obtained by calling the SOS telephone number 1265 (FBiH) or 1264 (RS). You can also report violence by calling the SOS telephone number. Calls to the above numbers are anonymous and free.
Emina, Marija and Hamza are pseudonyms used to protect the privacy and security of the people that we support at the “Women of BiH” Association.
Project Mostar- Spaces to Activate and Rejuvenate is a three-year project, which seeks to improve public space and its use in Mostar through activating citizens and supporting citizen-led initiatives that contribute to shared civic, cultural and economic life in Mostar. The project lead is People in Need (PIN), a Czech non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides humanitarian and development aid in more than 30 countries around the world. Four other organizations are equal partners in the consortium: Everyday Peace Indicators (EPI), Youth Cultural Center Abrašević (OKC Abrašević), Local Democracy Agency Mostar (LDA Mostar) and NEŠTO VIŠE (NV). The Project is funded by the Government of the United Kingdom.
Author: Selma Žuljević, Communication Officer