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BIHAC, Bosnia and Herzegovina - A few years ago, Zeyneb *, a 33-year-old Iranian woman, started a long journey with her mother in search of a better life. After her parents divorced, Zeyneb’s mother worked various jobs just to feed her family. But in Iran, women are not allowed to work, so every project of hers was obstructed and destroyed. In search of basic living conditions, Zeyneb and her mother began their journey into the unknown. They crossed many countries and after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border to Croatia, they are now housed in the Temporary Reception Center Borici, in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Women and Girls Centre helped me to open up and make new friends

"At first, I was very sad. Locked in a room, I sat and wept over my fate. Sara, a girl from Médecins du Monde, invited me to this women's corner, to Women and Girls Centre at Camp Borici. I felt important there, and first and foremost, I felt alive,” Zeyneb begins her story.

In the past year, since UNFPA established the Women and Girls Centre at TRC Borici, 3241 women and girls’ empowerment services for migrant and refugee women coming from Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea etc. Since October 2019, the women empowerment program is co-funded by the European Union.

Besides the empowerment program, women and girls have access to psychosocial support with about 1100 services recorded, as well as workshops on sexual and reproductive health and individual consultations. A psychologist daily works with migrant and refugee women older than 15, and they also have English language courses, literacy courses, and numerous creative workshops.
At the Borici camp we also record 700
dignity kits distributed to migrant/refugee women and girls.

The program for protection and empowerment of migrant and refugee women and girls in Bosnia and Herzegovina is implemented by the humanitarian organization Médecins du Monde.

Through creative workshops, women make new friendships and share experiences

"Here at the Women and Girls Centre, our women's corner, we share the small joys of being women," Zeyneb continues. "We can just enjoy everyday ordinary, but important moments. I don’t feel discriminated against here, and I don’t feel undervalued and I am equal to others. I also feel that I am important, which is crucial to me in these difficult days. Every day we hang out, we do our make up and share happy, but also some sad moments."

Zeyneb works in the kitchen at the camp as well, which makes her feel like she is contributing in some way, and makes her days go by faster. Still, she is the happiest when she draws and gets to be creative in this women's corner workshops.

"In the early days, I was just drawing, and that was how I was expressing my pain and my fears. Painting helped to calm myself down, avoid fights, and de-stress. Now my creative work is on display all over the camp and that makes me really happy, that's a big deal for me. I'm proud and I am happy.

We learn different things in the workshops. I am learning English and I’m very excited and proud of that. I have helped translate from Persian to English several times here at the camp. Maybe one day I'll be a translator," Zeyneb tells us with a smile. "Plus, we have the professional help of a psychologist to help us overcome our personal problems and dilemmas."

"I like to make people around me happy. I made my mother a holiday card and she was so glad. I also painted little pictures and cards for the girls who work with us at the Centre as a token of gratitude for all the help and the good they have done for me."

For International Women's Day, gifts for every woman and girl

On the occasion of the 8th of March, International Women's Day,
all women and girls at the
Women and Girls Centre
received dignity kits and a celebration was organized
at the Borici camp on the very
day of the holiday.


Every woman has secret dreams

"My mother is ill and my greatest wish is for her to get better. My final goal is Switzerland, because my mother's family is there, but if I stayed and settled down here in Bosnia, I would also be happy. I want to have my family, children, and live in a peacefull country. In a country where a woman is free. That is how I finally feel here.

Here at the Centre we are learning to create and work and I feel that I have greater rights, as a woman I am equal with other women but men as well. It’s a new but a great discovery which no one can take away from me. I don't know what we would do without our women's corner here."

"Here at the camp, at the Women and Girls Centre, our corner, I found myself. I want to paint and compose music, to be an artist. And I want to have my own family tomorrow that will be full of love, understanding and respect," concludes Zeyneb, full of hope.

UNFPA is a leading agency in responding to gender-based violence in humanitarian situations and addresses the issues of reproductive health that are often overlooked during humanitarian situations. With the support of the European Union, UNFPA and partners are working to improve women's and girls' lives, and training service providers to give the best support to women and girls in humanitarian settings.

Text E.L. Photo D.C.

*Name changed for privacy protection.