The women's movement

Although women were excluded from the official peace negotiations that marked the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the women’s movement has been very active in peacebuilding  and reconciliation. It has garnered trust and has helped to build friendships between women from different ethnic groups.

The women’s centres that were founded during the war have been an important basis for reconciliation. They have enabled women to process the feelings of grief, fear, and hatred they had about other groups. These centres have also given women from different ethnic groups a place to meet.

Still, it is only in recent years, two decades after the conflict, that women’s organisations have really started to work on dealing with the past across entity and war narrative lines. At the same time it has been difficult to work on these issues as the climate in society is very harsh and often tainted by political manipulation and strong ethno-nationalistic rhetoric. A good example is the initiative “Peace with women’s face” that gathered organisations from different entities.

In this process the cross-border meetings between women’s organisations play an important role.

During 2013, women human rights defenders from Bosnia and Herzegovina started the initiative “Women for Constitutional Changes”. Gathering 36 civil society organisations and human rights defenders from more than 15 cities, it advocates for an engendered constitution within the ongoing reform process at the state level. To date, women have largely been excluded from decision-making and negotiations regarding constitutional reform, therefore the initiative plays an important role. Supported by The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, the “Platform of Women’s Priorities for Constitutional Changes with Amendments on BiH from Gender Perspective” has been developed, calling for the constitution to be reformed around principles of social justice, rule of law, and respect for women humans rights and equal participation of men and women.

Violence against women

Violence against women is a major concern to the Bosnian women’s movement. Women’s organisations provide psychosocial support to victims, court supervisions and shelters, and work with advocacy to improve legislation.

Kvinna till Kvinna also supports women civil society organisations in monitoring the institutional response to combating impunity of perpetrators of gender-based violence, including criminal and minor proceedings at courts, response by police and assistance by centers for social work. The organisations also work with evidence-based advocacy to promote the rights of victims to fair and equal protection and access to justice. For example, partner organisation to Kvinna till Kvinna from both entities, published the Report and Analysis of criminal proceedings in the field of gender based violence in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, with recommendations for how to improve the justice system’s response to combating GBV.

Political representation

Another important issue for the women’s movement is women’s political participation. In Bosnia-Herzegovina women’s groups try to influence election campaigns and support women who run for political office. They also try to increase women’s political participation by informing women in rural areas about the importance of voting.

A good example of these efforts is the Club of Women Parliamentarians of the House of Representatives of the FBiH Parliament formed in 2013 with the support of women civil society. The Club brought together representatives of all political parties and showed a willingness to run concrete activities for the protection of women’s human rights and, in collaboration with women human rights defenders.

Activists face opposition

However, on the whole, civil society has a low level of legitimacy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Women’s organisations often face opposition and the situation is particularly difficult for activists openly criticizing the ruling elites and those working with lesbian women’s rights and peacebuilding, since they are subjected to threats and violence.

Kvinna till Kvinna creates opportunities for young female activists to meet (for example through Young Women’s Peace Academy) so that they can network and develop. Through that support, the women’s movement has become more inclusive and the position of young women human rights defenders within the organisations has been strengthened

Senast uppdaterad: 2016-07-01