Day Two – Sarajevo & Zenica – Alison Wheeler – Director of Online Marketing

Sahzija – I am the definition of a new business woman

The next morning Seida and her team picked me up in front of the National Theater in downtown Sarajevo and we headed to Vogosca on the outskirts of Sarajevo. We stopped in front of Vildana salon, a freshly painted small building surrounded by a neat white fence. Upon walking in the door, we were greeted by Sahzija Brkanic, a microcredit client with Women for Women International for nearly 4 years. She lost her husband during the war and had to find a way to support her two children, rebuild her home and her life. She stressed to us just how hard things were for her in the beginning. But now, after much hard work, she has opened three beauty salons. Her two daughters run the other two salons and she runs this one.

Solidarity Group Meeting

As we pulled up to our next stop, I noticed two buildings. The one on the right, a bombed out building, had no windows and UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) plastic covering what was once the roof. This is how most buildings in and around Sarajevo looked after the war. Then I looked at the building on the left, completely rebuilt with flower boxes hanging on the windows. We went into Sifa Kadric’s home, a client of Women for Women International’s program for 8 years. Inside were nearly a dozen women meeting to make their microcredit payments, talk and support each other – financially, if necessary, and emotionally. One of the women told me about her cosmetics and tailoring business. Another one spoke about growing and selling agricultural goods. As many of them spoke, I kept hearing the same theme. Because of this program, I was able to rebuild my life and put my children through school.

 

 

Gordana – A Woman of Courage

After many cups of coffee (the Bosnians often drink a thick, strong coffee very similar to Turkish coffee), we left the solidarity group meeting and headed to the outdoor market on the outskirts of Sarajevo. We met Gordana, a tall blond Serbian woman, selling shoes in the open marketplace. She told us she had sold goods in this market before the war, during the war and after the war. When Serbs were forced out of this part of Sarajevo, she refused to leave. She didn’t leave during the war and she wasn’t going to leave after the war. This was her home. And as she put it, “Courage. I have courage. I am courageous.” Indeed you are, Gordana.

The Building Blocks of Business

From Sarajevo we then headed to Zelenica, an industrial town an hour north of Sarajevo, to join classes in the core program. In one of the smaller rooms in the Zelenica office, we met a group of women participating in hands on jobs training. About 10 women were watching the instructor trace a pattern and sew a skirt.

In the larger room, we sat with 20 women as they discussed a lesson from the Women for Women International manual, Women in Economics. The women discussed the volume and type of housework they do at home. Then the facilitator asked the group of women, “What are skills you do everyday that you could professionally outside of the home to earn an income?” The women broke into small groups and determined how much they would earn if they provided services such as cooking, cleaning or caring for children. For the next lesson in the program, the woman would be forming small groups and developing a business plan around the services they had identified. They were laying the foundation to start their own business and support themselves.

 

 

 

 

In the larger room, we sat with 20 women as they discussed a lesson from the Women for Women International manual, Women in Economics. The women discussed the volume and type of housework they do at home. Then the facilitator asked the group of women, “What are skills you do everyday that you could professionally outside of the home to earn an income?” The women broke into small groups and determined how much they would earn if they provided services such as cooking, cleaning or caring for children. For the next lesson in the program, the woman would be forming small groups and developing a business plan around the services they had identified. They were laying the foundation to start their own business and support themselves.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Day Two – Sarajevo & Zenica – Alison Wheeler – Director of Online Marketing

  1. Pamela

    Thanks so much for these updates. My mom’s sponsored sister is in Bosnia, so this was great to see. I check this blog for updates all the time, I’d love to see more things posted, more often. Love the pictures, too!

  2. Qenan Osmani

    I wish to get in contact with Ikanoviq Husein who lives in Zenica . Can you help me to get eachother together.
    Best regards from
    Qenan Osmani

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