Beginning in 1992, armed forces terrorised minority ethnic communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina with ethnic cleansing, mass violence and rape. The breakup of states from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ethnic and political tensions, and economic crisis incited violence, and international military forces fought against each other for four years. Between 1992 and 1995, an estimated 100,000 lives were lost, and 20,000 to 50,000 women and girls were brutally raped by soldiers as a weapon of war.
Though I was young, some memories have remained with me after all this time. I wondered if [the war] would ever end.
Women for Women International’s global community of support for over half a million women began during the Bosnian War. Co-founders Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah established the organisation in 1993 to support women who survived torture, rape and widespread violence in their communities. Women survivors of the war received social and economic support to rebuild their lives following the war—as well as hope, connection and respect in the face of destruction.
Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is an independent country. Its citizens are pursuing a modern democracy as remnants of the civil war and genocide linger.
About women in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our work in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Women for Women International started in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993
For 23 years, our programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina thrived as Women for Women International’s flagship country office. In 2016, the Žene za Žene International Association of Sarajevo was established as an autonomous, locally registered sister organisation of Women for Women International to continue its work independently.
The Žene za Žene International team works through local women’s associations to provide economic and social empowerment opportunities for its network of association members. Recently, Žene za Žene International supported 16 women’s small business associations to enhance market access for members of its network.
In addition to economic support, Žene za Žene International supports young women in local government and grassroots, issue-based advocacy organisations. A Young Women in Leadership and Development project hosted by the organisation provides in-depth training and mentoring for young women to design community development projects and become active leaders in local civil society organisations.
Working with young women to create change
With the country and the needs of the women changing, so has the programme offered by Žene za Žene International. As part of their Democracy Academy, the team provides in-depth training and mentoring for young women to design community development projects and become active leaders in local civil society organisations. Watch the video to learn how they're working with young women to create real change.
Responding to the war in Ukraine
Žene za Žene International led on our crisis response
When the war began in Ukraine in February of 2022, Women for Women International's crisis response to reach Ukrainian women forced to flee their communities and targeted with sexual violence was led by Žene za Žene International. Directed by Seida Sarić, a survivor of the Bosnian War, Žene za Žene International collaborated with us to provide women survivors displaced or contending with the trauma of war with the psychosocial services, vocational training and resources to rebuild their lives.
Impact of your support
Creating real change
- In 2022, Žene za Žene International fostered the growth of 16 women’s small business associations to enhance market access for members of its network.
- Over 2,000 women displaced in Poland and Ukraine received support through the programming of three local organisations identified by Žene za Žene International.
In July 1995, men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica during the genocide in Bosnia. Fazila lost male relatives but knew she had to rebuild her life for the sake of her daughter and the women in her community.
subtitle: Bosnia and Herzegovina
The programme gave me the courage and the skills I needed. Other women encouraged me and gave me new ideas. I am proud to say I am a beekeeper. It gives me a lot of self-confidence.
If someone had told me in the past that I would need to restart my life from scratch, I couldn't believe it. But that is what happened to me when I needed to flee to Poland with my son.
More than one year on from Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine and our Managing Director, Sara Bowcutt, shared her reflections with Seida Sarić, Director of Žene za Žene International), our sister organisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kateryna Shukh, Vice President of Bereginja – Mariupol’s Women’s Association.
In the early hours of February 24, 2022, a televised announcement by Russian President Vladmir Putin would ignite a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Citing his objectives of the country’s “demilitarisation” and “denazification”, his words signaled the siege of key Ukrainian cities by Russian military forces and upended the lives of Ukrainian men, women, and children.
Sylvia describes the impact of hand delivering a #MessageToMySister postcard to Fatima, a young woman from Bosnia and Herzegovina.