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Break the Cycle

Article

As a part of the Humanity in Action 2019 Sarajevo Fellowship, new Fellows from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the US and other parts of Europe created civic action campaigns aimed at addressing a varied of issues in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Senior Fellows Catherine Campbell, Berina Porča, Shana Merrifield and Ismihana Čizmedžić organized an event to raise awareness about the access to rights for a particular minority.

They focused on those who suffered sexual violence during the war in Bosnia, who often times aren’t even thought of as a minority.

Growing up in Sarajevo, Berina has heard countless wartime stories, but she felt as though there wasn’t enough information dispersed to young people regarding the issue of war time victims of sexual violence. This is what inspired her to create the Action Project, Break the Cycle.

Berina believes that, “it is very important that we are not silent about these things because if we are silent, that means you are giving your approval.”

It is unclear whether the reason behind this issue not being addressed is because it can be viewed as a sensitive subject or if no one wants to admit that it happened and take responsibility.  This is why it is important to take steps to support the victims and inform them of their rights, in which many of them are unaware they have any. Our Fellows hope to bring this issue to a public space and spark further conversations.

Overview and Objectives

Dominant narratives that persist following mass atrocities often contribute to the erasure of minority experiences who have been marginalized due to lack of power, press and/or visibility. Victims of wartime rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina are particularly vulnerable to attaining justice as legal/political obstacles and general lack of social awareness infringe on their journey to reconciliation. In order to help establish their right to truth, Fellows are creating a website that will be a centralized resource in two facets: the first collating support groups and psychological resources that are available for victims to participate and contact, and the second analyzing current legal issues and recommendations for change. Fellows are aiming for a victim-centered approach that brings greater awareness, access to information, and concrete actions for change.

Event

As conversations regarding wartime rape are inundated with sensitive and negative messages, a public event was planned to highlight the strength and courage of those who have suffered from such traumatic experiences. A small billboard sized paper with the slogan ‘we hear you, we see you, we believe you’, with the website domain in the corner of the sign was made. The aim of the Fellows was to encourage people passing by to write messages of support to victims, and to attract interest in the web project. They also had a table set up with promotional materials to pass out information and explain what the campaign is about.