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#HopeInSisterhood Campaign 2020

Watch Amela's Story

In these challenging and uncertain times, the importance of community, hope and friendship has never been more important

To Amela, the red tulips that bloom in her garden every spring symbolise hope, friendship and community – three things that were in short supply during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when every day felt like a lonely battle for survival.

Bitter fighting and ethnic cleansing left 100,000 dead, 2.2 million uprooted from their homes, and neighbours turned against each other. After their aid parcels ran out, Amela and her father would walk for miles selling cigarettes, so they could buy a single loaf of bread to feed the whole family.

When the fighting stopped, fractured and traumatised communities struggled to heal from one of the worst atrocities in modern history.

Everything passes, both good and bad. That’s how I coped in war and today as well. All bad situations, they all have a beginning and ending.

Amela, Women for Women International - Bosnia and Herzegovina
Amela and Brita - Credit Hazel Thompson
Amela and Brita meeting together at Amela’s house in Doboj in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amela and Brita first became friends in 2009 writing letters to each other through the Women for Women International programme. Photo: Hazel Thompson

Sisterhood in action

Sowing seeds of hope in the midst of war

It was hope that guided Amela through those dark, uncertain times – and connections with others that helped her to turn her life around.

In 2009, Amela enrolled on the Women for Women International programme, which provided support, training and community for women affected by the legacy of war. She was matched with a ‘sponsor sister’ from the UK, Brita Fernandez Schmidt, and they began to exchange letters.

Amela joined a group of 25 other women, learned tailoring and sewing, and was supported to set up her own business. She made friends, felt stronger and more confident, and began to see possibilities for a brighter future.

As she prepared to graduate from the programme, Amela wrote to Brita:

I want to thank you for being my sponsor sister. I’m so happy that you know that I exist, and that you think of me. I have used some of my earnings to buy tulip seeds to plant in my garden, so I will remember you.

Amela and Brita - Credit Hazel Thompson
Amela and Brita meeting together at Amela’s house in Doboj in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amela and Brita first became friends in 2009 writing letters to each other through the Women for Women International programme. Photo: Hazel Thompson

A friendship that will last a lifetime

Sisterhood transcends borders

More than 10 years later, Amela and Brita met for the first time – on the porch of her house, overlooking her garden where the tulips bloom every year. 

They remind her of the power of hope in the darkest times, and the bonds of friendship and community that kept her going and gave her strength.

FIND OUT MORE

Our Work in Bosnia and Herzegovina

From 1993 to 2015, Women for Women International has reached nearly 62,000 women through our work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

#HopeInSisterhood Social Media Hub

You can be champion of sisterhood in your community by sharing the message of hope and connection. By using your social media platforms to help raise the voices of women survivors of war you are making a difference.

How Sponsoring A Woman Survivor of War Changed My Life

"Building a personal connection with my sponsor sister, Amela, became a source of strength for me." Our Executive Director, Brita Fernandez Schmidt shares the story of meeting her first sponsor sister and the very real impact of our programme.

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