The informal women’s group “Fenix,” formed through the project “Mostar – Spaces that Activate and Rejuvenate,” showcased their handicrafts and homemade products to the citizens of Mostar during Winter Advent. These are women who, through the project and with the support of local non-governmental organizations, have been economically empowered.
Despite constituting half of the population, women are still not equally represented in the entrepreneurial world, both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and globally. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) indicates that women entrepreneurs in the Western Balkans are not adequately empowered and supported, citing cultural and social attitudes, as well as access to resources and opportunities, as the main reasons.
With the backing of the United Kingdom Government, the “Mostar – Spaces that Activate and Rejuvenate” project recognized the significance of economic empowerment for women in entrepreneurship. It provided training and mentorship for 40 women from vulnerable social groups, resulting in 20 women working towards starting their own businesses. Implemented with the support of sub-grant projects by the Association “Woman of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Citizens’ Initiative, and the Women’s Association “Univerzum,” these activities have proven successful.
Ajla, a member of the Women’s Association “Univerzum”, presented her earring brand “AVK” at this year’s Advent.
“The idea for earrings emerged out of boredom while I was terribly lonely in Germany. I chose to craft earrings because, in my opinion, they are the most impactful,” says Ajla, who once lived and worked in Germany. She initially created earrings as gifts for family and friends, and it was their encouragement that inspired her to consider selling them, leading to the development of a brand reflecting her character and personality.
Ajla selling her products at Advent
Vladimir Ćorić, the Project Manager of Mostar, highlights the project’s significant support for women facing employment challenges, single mothers, or those who have experienced a form of violence.
“This initiative brings together all citizens, regardless of their background, with the aim to utilize public spaces to meet everyone’s needs. The economic empowerment of women is a crucial step toward their stronger and more productive involvement in all aspects of society, especially entrepreneurship. We are grateful to the United Kingdom Government for their ongoing support,” emphasized Ćorić.
Mostar – Spaces that Activate and Rejuvenate is a three-year project aimed at enhancing the content and use of public spaces in Mostar through active involvement of citizens and support for their initiatives contributing to the quality of civic, cultural, and economic life in the city. The project is implemented by People in Need, Everyday Peace Indicators, Youth Cultural Center Abrašević, Local Democracy Agency Mostar, and NEŠTO VIŠE, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom.
Products of Women’s association “Univerzum” and informal group “Fenix”
The City of Mostar is also a significant partner in this project, evident in its collaboration during this year’s Winter Advent and the opportunities provided for women from the informal group “Fenix” to obtain exhibition tables.
“We are extremely pleased with our collaboration with the City of Mostar. We had several initial meetings regarding Advent in Mostar, expressing our interest in active participation. The City of Mostar recognized and supported us. When the public call was issued, we applied for the allocation of a booth, which was quickly approved. We are grateful to the City for providing us with exhibition space,” stated Dijana Tadić, the director of the “Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina” Association.
Ifeta Ćesir Škoro, the President of the Citizens’ Initiative, notes that women primarily prioritize family obligations, such as caring for grandchildren, parents, and others, and often do not consider training a priority.
“Despite that, over the past 9 months, they have shown significant interest. Women who have been unemployed for a long time were the most diligent. For many, this provided an incentive to work from home for their families. I believe there is a need for a center with a social, cultural, and community-oriented character,” Ćesir Škoro suggests.
Through the Mostar project and collaboration with local non-governmental organizations, women have felt empowered to support each other in achieving their dreams.
“Many of them have found common stories and support each other, making new friendships. What is most positive is that they are now economically stronger,” concluded Tadić.
If you did not have the opportunity to visit Advent in Mostar this year, you can order products from the informal women’s group “Fenix” through the Facebook page of the “Woman of Bosnia and Herzegovina” Association or the Citizens’ Initiative. Ajla’s products can be ordered through her Facebook or Instagram page.
Author: Selma Žuljević, Communication officer