Strong women, strong society:

With EU support, ReLOaD2 initiatives play a role in the prevention of gender-based violence

November 23, 2023


A key role in the fight against violence against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is played by civil society organizations (CSOs), which advocate policy changes and provide support to victims and to prevent violence against women. CSO projects that help create a safer environment for women victims of violence have been recognized within the Regional Programme for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD2).

"I was exposed to long-term violence in my marriage, and since I was exposed to domestic violence as a child, it was normal for me. The slogan was "Shut up and suffer"! Unfortunately, I still live in a violent marriage, knowingly, because I don't have any income of my own to become independent, and the institutions that should take care of me don't listen enough", said the 56-year-old victim of violence from Goražde (anonymous identity). Unfortunately, this fate is shared by thousands of women similar to her in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Concern for one's own safety and fear of public condemnation prevented this woman from Goražde from speaking about her problem for years, but luckily help reached her thanks to the "SEKA" Association, which as part of ReLOaD2 implemented the project "ASSOCIATED FOR EQUALITY - PREVENTION OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE".

This project offered free educational workshops for 12 women from Goražde who experienced various traumatic experiences. At the workshops entitled "Together we learn and act", they gained new knowledge in the field of gender-based violence, and how to act adequately and preventively in cases of violence by empowering themselves. Through the project, school lectures were also held for students of the VIII and IX grades of primary schools, during which 145 young people were trained to recognize and adequately react to gender-based violence.

"I have the opportunity to participate in workshops that help me work on my self-confidence in order to take the right step and leave a marriage in which I am a victim of violence. Panic attacks are less, I can control the situation, now I love myself more and I know that it is not normal to suffer violence,"
said the 56-year-old woman.


"Everyone needs additional knowledge, it helps us to raise our daughters better, but also to influence changes in society so that there are as few women as possible who are victims of violence," said one of the participants, Hanka J.

CSO data shows that the number of victims seeking help is increasing year by year in cities across BiH. At the same time, activities carried out by CSOs helped encourage women victims of violence to report violence and seek protection and support.

Association "SEKA" says that for the safety of women, continuous work on education and sensitization of all institutions, organizations and individuals who should be the first hand of protection is needed in order to approach the problem of violence preventively and repressively.

Pedagogue and coordinator of the project "United for equality - prevention of gender-based violence" Amina Sarajlić says that the cases of femicide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which shook the public of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past year, have only awakened decision-makers in institutions to the importance of this topic. In the last two years, femicide has been committed as many as 20 times in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"The traditional and patriarchal structure leads to the fact that citizens do not recognize violence, ignore it or are afraid to point out the violence. Goražde is a small town where everyone knows each other, and there is a great possibility that the perpetrators of violence will find out who reported them. Usually, the male perpetrator has personal connections with police officers and gets information that he shouldn't", Sarajlić points out some of the problems in society.

She adds that there is a gap between theory and practice in the judiciary, because cases are not registered as "violence against women or domestic violence", but as "dysfunctional family relations" or "violation of public order and peace", which further complicates the path of protecting women. victims of violence. Also, the victims are not provided with financial or social assistance or accommodation in case of need.

"Most victims stay with the perpetrators if they don't get help from their families or if they don't have their own income. Through the active work of the coordinating body and the "SEKA" Goražda Community Center in the area of the Bosnian-Podrinje Canton, progress has been made in ensuring protection for victims, but a lot of dedicated and dedicated work by all participants in the chain is needed to restore the shaken trust of women in the institutions.
said Sarajlić.


ReLOaD2 also supported the project "Eastern Sarajevo - a city without violence" of the Women's Association "Women's Interactive Rural Center" (ŽIR), through which 60 young students of psychology, sociology and pedagogy will be trained in adequate and timely support for victims of violence, both psychological, as well as legal.

Through the project, ŽIR plans to develop an SOS application for smartphones, which provides the possibility for victims to search for information via the chat option, receive psycho-social and legal support, and report violence to the organization via the "panic" button.

"This is a very good way to systematically unite CSOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina and provide support in this way, each managing a support system in their organization, with the possibility of easier and faster cooperation",
said the executive director of ŽIR, Milena Regoje.

Regoje adds that due to the influence of the entrenched patriarchal society in BiH, it is necessary to ensure that every individual knows how to recognize violence and why it is important not to live in violent families and communities.

"Various social events and technological development enable faster access to information, creating the appearance that violence has suddenly increased in BiH in recent years, when in fact it has really been present all these years," said Regoje.

CSO data shows that victims of violence are at risk of physical and mental health, from the presence of fears, anxiety, depressive thoughts, feelings of guilt, withdrawal from society, to lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Therefore, the ultimate goal of the projects supported by ReLOaD2 is to provide support to as many victims as possible, and contribute to sensitizing and informing society about gender-based violence and its consequences.

The ReLOaD2 program is financed by the European Union (EU), and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in BiH in cooperation with local governments.