USAID has helped BiH women move from the margins of society into the world of entrepreneurship. Vesna can afford her children’s school expenses thanks to money she earns gathering and selling herbs in Kalinovik. Sanela provides high-quality schooling in Teslić and employs six of her fellow citizens. Sanja is healing hearts at her own counseling center in Konjic.
Vesna, Sanela and Sanja are just three of the 100 women who received support from USAID to launch and grow their own businesses. There’s also the story of Dragana, the only female artisan making wooden tool handles in BiH. The story of Sanja, whose autistic son Slavko can now work by her side on their raspberry farm. And the story of Irma, who was given a chance and now pays it forward by employing persons with disabilities at her tea boutique in Visoko.
USAID wanted to offer women on the margins a lifeline, but through both concrete and systemic support. It laid the groundwork by creating a special fund to access their untapped potential and encourage them to launch their own business and help themselves, their families and their community – all in partnership with local authorities, to ensure a sustainable system of support.
Grants were awarded to 100 women from nine local communities – Visoko, Livno, Tešanj, Prijedor, Teslić, Kalinovik, Rudo, Konjic and Zvornik – 50 percent provided by USAID and 50 percent by the nine municipalities where the businesses were launched, for combined assistance of 680,000 Bosnian convertible marks ($430,000).
The grants yielded results. Today we are able to tell the stories of 100 successful BiH women*, women who jumped at the chance to create profitable, independent lives for themselves and showed everyone – including themselves – that they could do it. The money they earn is an important contribution – sometimes the only contribution – to their household budgets.
USAID’s support to marginalized women is a story about opportunities, systemic support, social inclusion, hope and success. It’s a story of lives improved and restored faith in the future.
Launched in February 2015, USAID’s Marginalized Populations Support Program supports activities of local organizations that advocate for the rights, empowerment and dignity of underrepresented groups of BiH society, and builds the capacity of local NGOs, BiH institutions and USAID implementing partners to do so. Providing underrepresented groups with opportunities to participate in civic and political issues, through their engagement in civil society organizations, will ensure that the government recognizes them as necessary and respectable partners in policy development.
USAID’s implementing partner for this five-year $3.4 million project is Institute for Youth Development KULT.