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Sarajevo Human Library

Project Overview

Using interpersonal contact to reduce prejudices associated with various minority groups.

Identifying the Problem

Like judging a book by its cover, people often discriminate against others based on the inaccurate and biased labels attributed to minority groups. These hurtful and harmful labels are often the products of a lack of information about the individuals to whom they are attached. While these labels could be challenged by interacting with members of minority groups, such interpersonal contact is rare.

Creating A Solution

The Human Library was created in 2000, and is based on Gordon Allport's Contact Hypothesis, which postulates that interpersonal contact can be one of the most effective ways to diminish prejudice and misunderstandings between members of majority and minority groups. Members of minority groups serve as human "books," and visitors learn more about these minority groups through personal dialogue. Lamija wanted to organize a Human Library event in Sarajevo, in order to provide an atmosphere that would encourage people to interact with representatives of groups that are affected by prejudices.

By drinking coffee in a cozy bar, participants converse with members of the LGBTQ community, feminists, vegetarians, priests, women with head scarves, and many other minority groups. This interaction provides an opportunity for those familiar with these groups’ labels, but unfamiliar with the reality of their constituents, to ask all the questions they want about the individuals and their identities. Participants not only learn more about these minority groups, but form personal relationships with the individuals with whom they have conversations. Through these safe and informal interactions, participants become aware of mutual similarities, which helps reduce prejudice.

More information about this project can be found by reading an article that Lamija wrote about her creation of the Sarajevo Human Library.

Lessons Learned

Lamija organized this event with Victoire Rio and Valerie Hopkins. Lamija admits that her project entailed a lot of time and energy, and that it is important to be persistent when organizing this type of event. She worked tirelessly to raise funds, secure the venue, find volunteers and promote her project. She enlisted the support of the British Council, Art Cinema Kriterion and several local NGOs in Sarajevo. She also needed many volunteer “books,” which she gathered by contacting local NGOs and personal contacts. She also utilized the Sarajevo Senior Fellows network, which helped lead to a snowball effect of gathering volunteers and raising awareness about the project. While it was a long, difficult process, she definitely enjoyed it, and reminds everyone interested in organizing a similar project to remember to have fun!

Get Involved!

Visit the Human Library website to learn about Human Library events in your own community. Lamija encourages anyone interested to serve as a “book,” attend as a participant, or even help organize an event!

Lamija’s next project will be to organize a variation on this project, which will be called Sarajevo Human Library Goes Green. This project will discuss ecological topics in an effort to promote the methodology as much as possible, so that others can organize similar events in their local communities. Stay tuned!

Funding

Lamija raised $650 for her project. Some of the money came from donors, but she also organized a promotion party (with a 1984 theme), and used the ticket money for the project.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Germany Germany 2010

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