During 1992-1995, an estimated 50,000 Bosnian women were subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Thousands more witnessed the killing of loved ones and destruction of their homes, and were left struggling to provide and care for their families whilst dealing with severe trauma.
Survivors said that they felt invisible, that the world had forgotten about them, that no-one cared.
After hearing these women’s stories, Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur and author, founded Women for Women International at the age of 23.
Women for Women International created ‘sister-to-sister’ connections between isolated women in Bosnia and individual ‘sponsor sisters’ around the world. A letter exchange provided these Bosnian women with solidarity and emotional support, along with small amounts of financial aid to help them meet their basic needs as they began to rebuild their lives. To this day, our approach remains inspired by this spirit of sisterhood, and the combination of social and economic investment. We have gone on to support over half a million women across 17 conflict-affected countries to overcome the horrors of war and work towards a better future for themselves and their families.
Women enrol on our year-long training programme, where they build support networks and develop skills to earn and save money, improve their family’s health and make their voices heard at home and in their community. They will pass on their knowledge to their neighbours and children, creating a ripple effect.
Every day, hundreds of women come to our training centres, each with their own personal story of violence, loss, trauma – and survival, against the greatest odds. We remain committed to investing in these women’s potential.
We have seen that with the right support, women can rebuild their lives, break cycles of poverty and seize opportunities to create better futures for their children.
Fatuma rebuilt her life after suffering unimaginable violence during the Rwandan genocide.
“It was the start of the war when they killed my husband by machete. When they had finished, they turned to me. They told me to choose: either have sex with us or we abort your child. [I said] God is the one who can do everything, so whatever you'll do is what is supposed to happen."
The training helped me and I stopped thinking too much about my issues. It has been great for us to be together as women, talk to each other… Everyone at Women for Women International began loving me when I told them my problems.
More about us
We help women survivors of war rebuild their lives and choose their own futures.
Participants in our year-long programme work to strengthen themselves across four critical areas of social and economic empowerment.
Hear from our staff about the context of our work and from our amazing supporters who are helping us raise the voices of the women we serve.