This story by Ahmedin Đozić was originally published in Balkan Diskurs, project by. Post-conflict Research Center (PCRC). An edited version is reproduced on Global Voices as part of a content sharing agreement.
Srebrenica is a city and municipality located in the easternmost part of Republika Srpska, an entity of Bosnia Herzegovina. It has a mountainous town of about 2,600 inhabitants, while the municipality has a population of about 13,400 people. Its main industries are salt mining and a spa. During the Bosnian War in June 1995, Srebrenica was the scene of a massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys, which was classified as an act of genocide by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.
A group of Srebrenica women have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by making protective face masks for people in their communities.
Valentina Gagić-Lazić, is one of the founders of the association that brings together the group of “empowered women”, Sara-Srebrenica. He is also an activist in Srebrenica since he moved there in 1995, and explains the origin of the initiative:
“Nismo željeli potencirati gives his uncle samog udruženja, već pojedinaca. Ibrima Halilović, zaposlenica fondacije MI BOSPO je reagovala prva. Javila nam se i rekla da želi da šije, ali da nema šivaću mašinu. Brzo smo razmijenili ideje i došli do rješenja. Stavili smo na raspolaganje sve resurse koje smo imali u Udruženju, poput mašina, materijala i konca. Ubrzo smo organizovale prostor koji smo formirali kao malu radionicu. “
We did not want to do this only as part of an association but as individuals. Ibrima Halilović, who works at MI BOSPO, was the first to respond. She contacted us and told us that she was willing to sew but did not have a sewing machine. We exchanged some ideas and quickly came up with a solution. We gave him all the resources that our association had, such as machines, materials and thread. We also organize a small space for a workshop.
The group started with just six women: three sewed and the rest washed, cut and ironed the masks.
“The idea was to show our fellow citizens that we are by their side in these difficult times. We hope these masks make you feel more protected. We are many in Srebrenica and we must unite through communion and mutual care. Our work has become known because more and more people started supporting us. The women began to contact us, offering to donate materials and to help in other ways. Everyone should help as much as they can. The spirit of solidarity, in these times, can be felt ”, added Gagić-Lazić.
The dynamic group includes women from different professional spaces who have the same goal: to support their community. The women in the group are Valentina Gagić-Lazić, Stana Medić, Željka Milovanović, Hilda Đozić, Jelena Bibić and Ibrima Halilović.
Valentina Gagić-Lazić helps with cleaning, cutting and ironing, while Stana Medić – one of the Sara-Srebrenica founders – assists with sewing the masks at home due to her high risk condition.
Željka Milovanović joined the initiative with her own sewing machine. She works at the EKONOMIK factory that makes pre-made containers, and her colleagues at Srebrenica say she is a fierce fighter who does not shy away from any job when it comes to helping her community.
Hilda Đozić works at the House of Good Tones – a cultural project for children – and an active member of her community, she helps with the manufacture and distribution of the masks. He reacted quickly to the health crisis and coordinated with the administration of the Casa de los Buenos Tonos to have a workplace for the initiative.
Jelena Bibić, another active member of her community, makes and prepares the masks for sewing with her daughter.
Collectively, they have sewn over a thousand masks and distributed them to store workers, pharmacies, seniors and others, and also in villages neighboring Srebrenica.
Sara-Srebrenica continues to serve the needs of the local and expanded community, working alongside the Red Cross and the Civil Protection office in Srebrenica to ensure that its resources are accessible to all. As mask production continues, demand has increased with the implementation of mask requirements.
“The reason we joined was to contribute. tea. We wanted to do something concrete and useful. as we always do. We react instinctively. It is important that we share a spirit of solidarity in these difficult times. We must do everything in our power. I think that has been the driving force for all of us, ”Gagić-Lazić said.
By helping their neighbors in these times of great need, this innovative group that is helping in many ways is a reminder of the power of determined women to support their communities.