Emina (not her real name) was subjected to severe mistreatment and repeated acts of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). More than 20 years on, while she still bears the psychological scars of what happened to her, she is firmly focused on the future and on building a better life for her and her family.
It frustrates her when people – and in particular NGOs in BiH – speak about survivors of sexual violence as if they are all highly traumatized and vulnerable. She wants NGOs to acknowledge the resilience of these men and women and not to make assumptions about them.
With the assistance of the local municipality, Emina recently set up her own NGO which brings together approximately 50 local women. Only a small number of them are survivors of sexual violence, but for Emina all of them are survivors because they are strong and fighting for the future. She does not want people to speak only about women who suffered sexual violence during the BiH war. According to her, women in BiH face a common struggle and the composition of her NGO reflects this. She was a teenager when the war started and in her words, ‘I would like people to talk about the resilience of young women who, after the war, found themselves in very difficult economic circumstances but who decided to remain in BiH and to work hard’.
The women in her NGO regularly come together to talk, to socialize and to use their various skills to make items such as soaps, liqueurs and clothing which they can subsequently sell.