a few minutes with… seida saric, women for women international (wfwi) country director for bosnia and herzegovina

April 03, 2011  |   column: WHAT'S NEW

tell us what you do in your position as country director:

i run the wfwi core program which involves human rights education, vocational and business skills training for the women we serve. i also write micro-finance loans for the women who are finishing the core program and are looking to start or maintain businesses.

how many women receive micro-finance loans from wfwi in bosnia and herzegovina?

about 6000 women are currently receiving loans of generally between $1000 and $7000. many of these women are building agricultural businesses.

were you personally affected by the war?

i was 20 years old and a student in sarajevo when the war broke out. my family’s home in herzegovina was directly on the front line. my father was sent to a prison camp and my mother was forced to flee. i left school and my existence was singularly about survival. sarajevo was under siege for four years. i was able to finish school after the war ended in 1996.

what has life been like since the end of the war?

today it’s tough economically, politically and socially for everyone in the country but women have paid the highest price. immediately after the war ended, the country received a lot of humanitarian aid from the international community but, because there are so many other crises in the world, a lot that support has dropped off.

what impact has the kate spade new york hand in hand program had on the lives of the women enrolled?

the impact has been huge—it’s amazing to see these women gain the courage to change their lives and expose their daughters to what they’re learning about political and social issues. for many of them, this is the first time they’ve ever felt respected. the economic impact is also enormous. the money the women receive from hand in hand helps them send their children to school. since the country’s economy collapsed, many of their husbands don’t work—for the women to be able to use their skills to support their families is remarkable. if the women are doing well, then entire communities have the chance to improve.

what is the most difficult part of your job?

the hardest part is, as a result of space limitations, having to turn away women who desperately want to join the program. it’s also a challenge to help women sustain their businesses in light of the everyday hardships they face.

what is the best part of your job?

being inspired by the women, participating in their happiness and celebrating their successes.

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