Women Organizing for Change in Bosnia and Herzegovina

WILPF engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2013, starting an initiative called Women Organizing for Change that focused on the importance of taking into consideration existing experiences and empirical knowledge of women who lived through an armed conflict and continued to struggle for women’s rights in the post-conflict period. The focus of the initiative was to shift the focus from “women as victims of war” to “women as agents of change.”

WILPF has, together with local and international feminist activists and academics, spent considerable time analysing and understanding both the Dayton Peace Agreement and subsequent post-conflict recovery and reconstruction processes in the country. The analyses were used to raise critical questions and propose alternative approaches to recovery process in Bosnia, as well as to extrapolate lessons and experiences from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in order to, together with women peacebuilders from other conflict and post-conflict countries, better understand what it takes to create sustainable peace.

Feminist solidarity dialogues

More than 20 years have passed since the end of the war in Bosnia and thinking about peace, and understanding what it takes to build a peace that is more than a mere absence of militarised violence, is something that is still highly relevant in Bosnia. The experiences of the Bosnian society with respect to peace negotiations; the peace agreement itself and the subsequent implementation of it; as well as other reforms intended to transition the society from war to peace are valuable experiences to compare with other contexts. Through this comparison we can pursue mechanisms to create peace founded in social justice, environmental awareness, human rights, demilitarisation, and gender equality.

Our analysis and discussion of the Bosnian situation have been shared through feminist spaces for dialogue with Syrian women activists in February 2014, and with Ukrainian women in June 2016.

Understanding political economy of post-conflict reconstruction and recovery processes

The margin of 20+ years since the end of the Bosnian war gives us a lot of evidence about the consequences of an absolute exclusion of women and civil society from peace negotiations. Those consequences are visible both in the content of the peace agreement and in the quality of the peace itself. A peace agreement negotiated only with a handful of men with guns, and implemented through a selective inclusion of ethnonational political elite, has never had the ability to address the underlying causes of the war; to unpack the militarisation of the society; or to build economic, political and social structures that uphold a sustainable and just peace.

Understanding Bosnia and Herzegovina today requires us to take into account the broader spectrum of political, social, and economic dynamics in the country, as well as to familiarise ourselves with both internal and external key players, such as the European Union or international funding institutions, in order to understand how their economic policies intersect with the needs of Bosnian women and men in the post-conflict context of the country. By using feminist political economy as an analytical tool, we are able to deconstruct seemingly fixed and unchangeable economic, social, and political parameters and work towards a more just and equal society built on democratic, inclusive, and transparent political and economic policies that promote social cohesion and solidarity across Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For detailed information on our analysis of the post-conflict recovery process in Bosnia, please see our report A Feminist Perspective on Post-conflict Restructuring and Recovery – the Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Other publications, analyses, and reports conducted under the initiative Women Organizing for Change in Bosnia:

For more information on the activities of the initiative please see womenorganizingforchange.org

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