Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Johanna Arkåsen

Kvinna till Kvinna in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Kvinna till Kvinna has supported women’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1993. After the war (1992-1995), women were entirely excluded from peace negotiations and the country was left ethnically divided. To this day, thousands who have suffered conflict-related sexual violence and other war crimes wait for redress, while perpetrators walk free. Despite increasing ethno-nationalist rhetoric and tension, our Bosnian partners promote peace and reconciliation, gender equality and the rule of law.

Why we work in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended in 1995, but left behind a deep ethnic divide, a traumatised society and shattered economy.

During the war, it is estimated over 20 000 women suffered rape and other forms of sexual violence. More than twenty years have passed, but most have not received any redress. Victims/survivors have little access to medical, psychological and financial assistance, and perpetrators still walk free.

On paper, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s equality legislation is progressive. In reality, its implementation is patchy and widespread discrimination remains. Women earn less than men and rarely get paid maternity leave. In politics, very few women are ever elected or appointed to decision-making positions.

In the face of this, the Bosnian women’s movement promotes peace, dialogue and dealing with the past across division lines. It calls for accountability for war crimes and an end to violence against women.

As the country is embarking on constitutional reform, activists have united to call for the inclusion of a gender perspective into the constitution.

But opposition is fierce. Ethno-nationalist rhetoric is on the rise, so women’s rights activists are regularly threatened as they challenge the nationalist political agenda.

Bosnian women's rights activists preparing for an equality demonstration on 8 March, International Women's Day. Photo: Johanna Arkåsen / Kvinna till Kvinna
Bosnian women's rights activists preparing for an equality demonstration on 8 March, International Women's Day. Photo: Johanna Arkåsen / Kvinna till Kvinna

How we support women in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Together with our partner organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we work to:

  • Promote peace, transitional justice and reconciliation
  • Offer psychological and legal aid to victims/survivors of wartime sexual violence
  • Counter the stigma attached to wartime sexual violence
  • Prevent gender-based violence (GBV), including by changing men’s attitudes
  • Run hotlines and shelters for victims/survivors of GBV
  • Advocate for fair trials and legal protection of victims/survivors of violence and discrimination
  • Encourage women to vote and participate in decision-making
  • Advance equality through feminist culture and art

The Balkans: where it all started

Kvinna till Kvinna was founded in 1993, as a reaction to mass rape in the wars in Former Yugoslavia. Swedish women started raising money to support local women’s rights organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One of our founders talks about those early days »

Photo: Imrana Kapetanovic

Our partner organisations in Bosnia & Herzegovina

  • Association for Culture and Art CRVENA
  • Association of citizen Vive žene Tuzla 
  • Center for Women’s Rights (CWR)
  • Citizens’ Initiative Mostar (IGM)
  • CURE Foundation
  • Foundation Zenski Centar Trebinje
  • Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Banja Luka
  • It’s All Witches
  • Lara Foundation
  • Rights for All (Prava za sve)
  • Roma women association Bolja budućnost Tuzla
  • The Association for the Promotion of Urban Culture, Contemporary and Public Art “Rezon”
  • TRIAL International
  • United Women Banja Luka (UW)
Photo: Imrana Kapetanović

Peace without a gender perspective

In 1995, the Dayton Peace Agreement signalled the end of war for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Yet neither women nor civil society were invited to take part in the peace negotiations. As a result, the Dayton Agreement entirely lacks a gender perspective. It also established an immensely complex political structure and entrenched divisions along ethnic lines.

News from our partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina