“Nada Marković: Inspiration of strength and female action”

The municipality of Bratunac is located in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within the boundaries of the entity, Republika Srpska (BiH) borders the municipalities of Zvornik, Srebrenica and Vlasenica, and borders the Republic of Serbia along the Drina River for a length of 68 km. According to the latest available data (census from 2013), 20,340 inhabitants live in the Bratunac municipality, of which 10,091 are men and 10,249 are women. Of the total number of women, 50.9% have no or only basic education . As for economic activity, 4,977 women are inactive. The most common reasons for inactivity are early retirement, housewife status, inability to work and others. A large number of unemployed women and girls live in this municipality, as well as women of undefined status (women whose employment ended during the war and still do not have the age for old-age pension, and are no longer employable) as well as the category of young women who are educated, but have no employment opportunities.

If you thought that this was another in a series of texts about the demographic and historical picture of the municipality of Bratunac, you are mistaken. This is a story that is rarely written or told, because that’s what happens when you need to highlight great women who build and contribute to their local community day and night. In this same Bratunac where the “status of inactive women” reigns, Nada Marković, activist, fighter, heroine of today, has been strongly supporting and not forgetting the women in the bar for years. This tireless and fantastic activist brings life to this municipality every day and tries to empower women from her local community.

The biggest problem facing women in Bratunac is the lack of economic independence. Many women face poverty and limited employment opportunities. This limits their freedom and affects their ability to make decisions about their lives. Through the work of our association and cooperative, we try to empower women through training, support and access to resources so that they become economically independent and self-sufficient, emphasizes Nada at the very beginning of the conversation.

Nada Marković, although stationed in Bratunac, often does not count the kilometers she passes traveling and talking about the importance of support for rural women and the prevention of economic violence against women. With the same zeal and activism, she started the MAJA Kravica Women’s Association in December 2000 at the initiative of a group of returnee women who wanted to change the monotonous and difficult life of rural women. From 2001 to 2022, they implemented more than 180 projects , most of which were aimed at the economic empowerment of women, as well as projects to preserve cultural heritage.

We currently have 3 projects. In one project we are the bearer, while in two we are partners. There are projects that we implement even without a project, that is, we live with those projects. We must support women in solving their pressing problems, regardless of whether they have a project or not, Nada points out.

More than 320 women received economic support through grants for starting their businesses in agricultural production (raspberry growing, greenhouse production, dairying, animal husbandry) as well as in other areas (trade shops, mechanic shop, fitness club, etc.). Beneficiaries are young women and women from marginalized groups (single mothers, victims of violence, women victims of war torture and other vulnerable categories).

Only three years later, Nada also started the General Agricultural Cooperative “Women” , aware that in this way she can economically elevate local women and influence the prevention of exposure of rural women to various forms of violence, especially economic violence.

The cooperative “Zena” and our association “Maja” together form a strong team that contributes to the better position of women in Bratunac. Our cooperative focuses on the economic empowerment of women through agribusiness, and the association, on the other hand, works to raise awareness of women’s issues, and provides education and promotes gender equality. These two legal entities complement each other because through the cooperative women are empowered economically, while the association deals with the social aspects of their lives. In this way, they work together to create better conditions for women in our community. We can say that the association strengthens the capacity of women to realize their basic life rights, such as economic independence, which is the foundation for everything. An economically independent woman fights more easily for her and other rights in society and in the family, says Nada.

The cooperative is one of the best self-sustaining practices in the field of agribusiness and an important incentive for female entrepreneurship in the economic empowerment of women. However, the story does not end there, Nada moved on, so the cooperative was re-registered as a social enterprise at the end of 2022 . This type of social enterprise ensured the “visibility” of subcontractors, who are small agricultural producers and very often are not competitive for the existing market. Today, they produce raspberries on a plantation of 8 dulums, purchase raspberries and blackberries from subcontractors, freeze raspberries and blackberries in a cold store, provide catering services, rent equipment, provide support in the employment of women through the registration of commercial farms, support for the development of rural tourism, and the education of women in various fields.

Currently, we have 31 cooperatives, through our cooperative they market their products and achieve various results for the improvement of their own production, concludes Nada.

With this act, Nada ensured the existence of women from the Bratunac area, but also contributed to the promotion of women’s commercial farming , which is the key to the independence and liberation of women. By encouraging the increasing commercialization of female entrepreneurship, women achieve for themselves and their families means of living, health insurance and the possibility of going to a well-deserved retirement. Nada finds motivation through her social activism and the creation of positive changes in which women are economically independent and deserving of being given the opportunity to realize their full potential.

The International Day of Rural Women/Women from Rural Areas is celebrated every October 15th. This date was first marked in 2007, when United Nations Resolution 62/136 recognized “the key role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous culture, to the promotion of agricultural and rural development, food security and poverty reduction.”

Aware that she has to continuously work in the field, living her activism, on that day Nada, together with her members of the Maja Kravica Women’s Association, organized the Village Women’s Fair in Bratunac, where they distributed flyers and sweet delicacies to the citizens. The goal of this traditional action is to motivate women to stay in the countryside and to raise awareness of the importance of the countryside and the role of women themselves in the countryside.

According to Nada, the key to attracting and motivating young women in Bratunac was to build a community that supports their interests and ambitions. In doing so, she used a variety of approaches from workshops, courses, financial literacy training and organizing a large number of events and social activities, which promote mutual connection and support.

In a word, we encouraged women to share their dreams and goals and to develop plans to achieve them. This is how we created an inclusive community where young women feel inspired and supported, claims Nada.

When I spoke with Nada, I wanted to ask her something that cannot be read and found out “just like that”. Nada is one of the few activists who I can safely say cherishes feminist values, solidarity and support. She revealed to me that she would now go back to her twenties so that she would continue to be dedicated to the fight for women’s empowerment and social activism, and to acquire new skills to be as effective as possible in activism.

During the conversation, she also told me one of the anecdotes from her activism that gave her the strength to “step forward.”

One day, I had the opportunity to be a guest on our local radio station Bratunac, where I was supposed to present the project and the work of the association. I remember being filled with fear and anxiety before that public performance. I was afraid that I would make a mistake and fail to convey our message. After that performance, I went through a period of self-evaluation, wondering how I had done. However, a few days later, I met one of our fellow citizens who told me: ‘I heard you on the radio recently, Nado, you spoke very well, congratulations, and you know, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a university degree.’ Those words touched me deeply and left a strong impression on me. I realized that support can come from unexpected sources and that I should never be discouraged by the fear of imperfection. These words encouraged me to continue my activism path, regardless of all the obstacles and shortcomings. Since then, I have understood and learned the importance of sincere praise. It was a story that gave me the strength to continue my work without fear.

Hope, you have to meet if you have even forgotten about your own strength, skills, struggles… She will give you everything and understand, but she will not let you give up on your dreams. At Nada there are no “different”, at Nada there is only one person who can do a lot with combined forces. He always takes care of his women in Bratunac and puts them first. Nada starts her speeches at conferences with the sentence, “With us women in Bratunac…” referring to her friends, comrades, activists, entrepreneurs and all the women who work tirelessly for the social community, and hardly anyone mentions it. This text on a few pages is a small contribution to the promotion of Nada and its existence, because as long as Nada is there, I know that women in Bratunac will be strong, self-aware and fighting for “steps forward”. And as in the very anecdote she told us, a fellow citizen gave Nada the strength to fight her battles without fear, for me Nada is a spark that keeps me close to myself and my views. For me, she is a pillar on which I lean to rest a little and bravely step into new activist struggles.

Vildana Jackman , Master of Laws, long-time feminist and activist for women’s human rights. She has a master’s degree in International Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Sarajevo. She is the author and co-author of over 30 authored texts, publications, researches and analyzes in the field of gender equality and women’s human rights. She published a collection of activist texts entitled: “Journey through activism…” which is a collection of peace and feminist texts. He considers writing a part of personal and public responsibility for changing social reality. He lives and works in Sarajevo.

This story was written thanks to the generous support of the American people through the “Local Works” program of the United States Agency for International Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID). The content of the story is solely the responsibility of the author and the “Network for Building Peace”. The views expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.