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Cooperation was one of the tasks for Kvinna till Kvinna volunteers Dajana Mehdin (to the left in white t-shirt), Marina Jevdjenic (in the middle, also in white t-shirt) and the other participants at the Young Women Peace academy training. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Bojana Mumin.
Cooperation was one of the tasks for Kvinna till Kvinna volunteers Dajana Mehdin (to the left in white t-shirt), Marina Jevdjenic (in the middle, also in white t-shirt) and the other participants at the Young Women Peace academy training. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Bojana Mumin.

Young peace activists facing the past

Dealing with the past is essential to achieve sustainable peace. That was one of the main lessons learned by volunteers Dajana Mehdin and Marina Jevdjenic from Sweden, when participating in a training in Bosnia and Herzegovina on peace work.

The training was part of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s Young Women’s Peace Academy (YWPA), which aims to strengthen women in their role as peace builders and conflict solvers.

”The program in Bosnia was largely based on the local context. The themes we discussed addressed in various ways how we can deal with the past and create conditions for peace,” tells Dajana Mehdin and Marina Jevdjenic.

Challenging to look back

The training lasted for four intense, informative and emotionally tough days. First the participants worked with the theme “Dealing with the past”, a central concept in peace work.

”We had many interesting, and at the same time very charged discussions. It was challenging for everyone to look back and relate to the war in Bosnia. Inevitably, it brought forward many thoughts and emotions,” says Dajana.

Young Women’s Peace AcademyThe YWPA project is run by Kvinna till Kvinna in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Serbia and Sweden. It has around 100 participants.

During 2015, they undergo training in peace building, conflict resolution and advocacy work and carry out an individual project within these themes. YWPA also connect each participant with a mentor.

Among other things, the discussions revolved around how wars can be prevented.

”All participants shared their personal experiences. That openness within the group was really special,” says Dajana.

Roots in the region

Both Dajana and Marina have their roots in the Balkans, which made the training emotionally challenging for them. Still, in spite of having many preconceptions about the region, their outside perspective also became evident.

”Our views on politics, feminism and activism differ from the Bosnian women’s – positions that have been shaped by the different contexts we live in. When we discussed how we can contribute to the process of reconciliation after the war/with the past, it became clear that the war is not as present in our daily lives as for the other participants. It has helped us gain a greater understanding of the political and cultural context of the Balkans. On a personal level, it has been stimulating and challenging to get this insight,” they say.

Shared experiences

In Sweden, Marina and Dajana have already taken part in YWPA’s stage 1 training and last weekend stage 2, was held in Stockholm, where they shared their experiences from Bosnia with the other Swedish Kvinna till Kvinna volunteers.

”This trip has given us an understanding of how complex building peace, solidarity and stability is. But it is not impossible! And the most positive thing that we take with us is how clear it was that all of us there took to the training and the discussions. And also how the talks about activism and feminism took up more and more of our time as the days went on!” says Marina and Dajana.

Besides women from Sweden and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the YWPA includes participants from Serbia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan and Armenia. During the fall, they will, among other things, produce a publication on the committment and challenges for young peace and women human rights defenders.

Matilda Reiderstedt

Updated in: 2015-06-16