Association “Žena” Janja – bearer of positive changes in the local community

The town of Janja in the extreme north-east of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a real example of socially useful activism in recent years, both by individuals and by non-governmental organizations, of which. There are nine non-governmental organizations in Janja.

One of these is the Women’s Association “Žena” Janja, which was founded on April 4, 2003. However, the real awakening and activism of this Association happened with the appearance of the Covid-19, when female activists and members decided to contribute by tackling the lack of masks. At a time when masks were in short supply all over the world, they made more than 1500 masks at their homes, already in the first days, and distributed them to the residents of Janja.

According to the president of the Association, Ramiza Bogaljević, it all started with the need of women to solve their own existence and leave the house and start working on strengthening the role of women in the process of improving social life in the local community.

“Today, the Association has 65 active members, and their number is constantly increasing. Getting to know the principles of democratic decision-making, affirmation and engagement of women in society, improving their position, fighting for easier employment, protecting single mothers and minors, advocating for environmental protection, humanitarian work, helping the elderly and disabled, preserving culture and traditions are just a few goals of our Association,” says Ramiza Bogaljević.

The path to achieving such goals in today’s times is not at all easy, and in order for the Association to achieve success, it must include a wider aspect of activity in which the different affinities of its members can be expressed.

“Our activities are actually socializing through work in the field of handicrafts, tailoring education, knitting, traveling and visiting other Associations for the purpose of getting to know each other and exchanging ideas. We organize gatherings of women on the occasion of March 8 and Eid holidays, but we also participate in the preparation of meals, when other Associations welcome guests on marking significant dates. Such is the case with the reception of guests – former camp inmates, who every year from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina visit and commemorate the suffering of prisoners in the “Batković” camp in Batković, otherwise known as the local community near Bijeljina,” says Ramiza.

Nevertheless, one of the most important contributions in the local community and environment, as far as we could notice in the work of this Association, is the strengthening of inter-ethnic relations, which our interviewee confirms.

“In the past two years, we have realized three inter-religious bazaars, two in the House of Culture, and one on the banks of the Drina river in the summer period, when the presence of the diaspora increased during annual vacations. 45 exhibitors from different ethnic backgrounds gather at our bazaars. Within the bazaar, you could buy our products, such as natural homemade juices, jams, starch, tarhana, sour program and various handicrafts that represent our traditional values. This year, we distributed New Year’s and Christmas gifts to children of primary school age, and we also participated in the marking of the Day of Interreligious Tolerance at the Secondary Vocational School in Janja, for which we received the Svetosava recognition of the school as a sign of gratitude.”

When asked whether they plan or already coordinate with other non-governmental organizations to improve social life in Janja, the president tells us:

“Our Association has long-standing coordination with the local Lara Foundation, which wholeheartedly helps us in all projects. This year, it also extended to cooperation with the women’s Association “Žena ženi” and “United Women”, who attended the first conference of “United Women” from the diaspora and rural areas, which was held in Kladanj. At the end of April, another conference will be held in Tuzla, where we have been invited, and in the middle of July, the conference will also be held in Janja, where our Association will be the host. We also have great cooperation with the Women’s Association Beli Anđeo from Dvorovi near Bijeljina and the Women’s Association “Žene za tradiciju” from Šerići. Last year, we cooperated with the OSCE, where we worked on the cooperation between us and the association from Novo naselje Janja. Then we had a workshop on project proposal writing and a plan to open a women’s multi-ethnic center. Everything was realized with the help of the OSCE, with the aim of bringing together and accepting diversity through joint work and socializing, both on religious and traditional grounds.”

Their work, as a positive example these days, is being noticed by numerous media houses, and their interest in doing something for their community, and therefore their family, further increased when they came across the support of the mayor of Bijeljina, Ljubiša Petrović.

Namely, this year in the very center of Janja, in an attractive location, the City of Bijeljina gave the Women’s Association a building with a large plot next to the Janja River.

“The city of Bijeljina came to meet us, provided the building, but also certain funds for its renovation. In that building, we will gather and organize our bazaars and workshops in the coming period. We are planning to decorate the rooms in an ethnic Bosnian style, whereby one room will contain the traditional values of the Bosniaks, and the other of the Serbian people. We want everyone to feel accepted and welcome. We believe that the unity of diversity is possible, and that this is the advantage and wealth of our community. We really succeeded in that, because the interest of women from the surrounding villages is increasing day by day.“

In support of this, the days of the month of Ramadan are ahead of us, which are holy because, among other things, they bring people together on the path of good, so we will have a series of activities in that field” – says the president of the Association, Ramiza Bogaljević.

On May 15, this Association will mark twenty years of its existence, and at the same time a new beginning with the first performance of its choir in folk costumes. We believe that this Association, together with other non-governmental organizations, will certainly bring a new quality and strength to life in this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because if in our tradition a woman is defined as the pillar of the family and home, then she is certainly one of the main bearers of positive social movements in the local community.

Author: Elvir Ibrišimović

Photo: Elvir Ibrišimović