Women and Public Life: My Trip to Bosnia

A BLOG POST BY STEPHENIE FOSTERBosnia - Women in Public life I just returned from an exciting trip to Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH), sponsored by the US Department of State, to talk with Bosnian women about how to increase their participation in public life and politics.  The genesis of my trip came directly from Aida Daguda, a dynamic alumna of last year’s Vital Voices/State Department Fortune 500 mentoring program. When Aida returned to BiH, she was motivated to build a network to support women.  Like most countries, women in BiH are underrepresented in elected office and in public life. They battle many of the same issues that face women across the globe, but also still face the legacy of the war.

As part of this program, we met with women in Tuzla, Banja Luka, Doboj, Sarajevo and Zenica.  Over the course of the five days, approximately 130 women (and 4-5 men!) attended the sessions.  In general and not surprisingly, women identified very similar barriers to greater political participation across the five locations.  But instead of just focusing on the barriers, the groups came up with potential solutions, which included:

  • recruiting women candidates,
  • working with the parties to develop outreach programs targeted at women voters,
  • urging parties to make women more prominent in the campaign and in the media to enhance visibility,
  • addressing the quota issue (in BiH, there is a 30% quota for candidates, but no reserved seats)
  • meeting with local newspapers to urge them to cover women politicians,
  • media training for women elected officials and candidates, and
  • use of social media (Facebook) to disseminate information particularly to younger women voters about why critical that they should vote, and vote for women.

After the sessions, the women vowed to continue to work together.  In fact, Aida started a Facebook group, “The Most Powerful Women of Bosnia Herzegovina,” (Najmoćnžene BiH), to bring these women (and hopefully many others) together to highlight the workshops and next steps.  As of today, April 23, the group has 138 members! K27UP7E2GYNZ

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