Sarajevo Urged to Honour Women’s Wartime Heroism

Sarajevo Urged to Honour Women’s Wartime Heroism

BalkanInsight_logoA Sarajevo-based NGO has proposed a memorial to the unsung heroes of the Bosnian war – the women whose hard work and courage helped the city survive the 1992-95 siege.

The NGO Education Builds Bosnia and Herzegovina, which proposed the construction of the memorial, said the city would not have got through the three-and-a-half year siege without the courage and dedication of countless women who worked and provided for families while under fire.

“We are working on the memorial to honour women in Sarajevo because women saved Sarajevo,” the head of the NGO, Jovan Divjak, told BIRN.

“The army defended the city… but the women saved the city. They lost children and gave birth again,” said Divjak.

One such woman is Sadeta Dervisevic, the mother of two children and one of the founders of the Dobrinja wartime hospital in Sarajevo.

Dervisevic received the international Florance Nightingale medal for her “exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict”.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina however, Dervisevic’s wartime courage remains little-known, just like hundreds of thousands of other women who worked to maintain families, hospitals and communities.

“Mothers and women really gave their all, from cleaning, getting water, food… We conjured up food [out of nothing],” Dervisevic recalled.

“I left my two sons and went to work, since I worked in the Dobrinja hospital. When a shell fell, we waited in fear for the wounded and dead to see if our children were among them, to recognize them by shoes,” she said.

Gender studies expert Zilka Spahic-Siljak said that Bosnian society has overlooked the “strength and courage” shown by women during and after the war in countless peacebuilding activities.

“Women here had a huge role in peacebuilding,” Spahic-Siljak told BIRN.

“Because of their role behind the scenes, their activities weren’t viewed as dangerous so it was easier for them to cross entity lines, and the lines in the minds of people poisoned with nationalistic ideas. Those women believed they could only save their dignity and humanity but helping other save theirs,” she said.

The idea to build the memorial to women has been presented to the local Sarajevo authorities for consideration.