Bosnia, Afghanistan
  Women for Women International -
Rebuilding War Torn Lives and Communities


Program in Bosnia-Herzegovina

With a US $50,000 seed loan and a further US $ 50,000 in scaling-up funds from Grameen Trust,

In any conflict, it is women who are the worst affected, and in the days that follow, they are the most pervasively underserved in reconstruction efforts. In the early 1990s, newly-weds Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina following the ethnic war, to distribute supplies and money. They were deeply concerned by the plight of women in the region, many of whom were war widows and internally displaced refugees with families to support. Ms. Salbi and Mr. Atallah failed to locate any organization that addressed the needs of these women who were marginalized within the emerging post-war society. On their return to the United States, they established Women for Women International (WWI), an organization that seeks to provide women survivors of war and other conflicts with tools and access to resources that will help them move from "crisis and poverty to self-sufficiency and stability". Using their holistic grassroots approach, WWI has benefited over 40,000 women worldwide in seven countries including Nigeria, Kosovo, Rwanda and Pakistan.

WWI is implementing a microcredit delivery program in war torn rural Bosnia-Herzegovina. It provides low-income women with opportunities to create self-employment, mostly in the agricultural sector. Up to January 2003, WWI has disbursed over US $ 5.9 million amongst 2,298 members, managing to keep a repayment rate of 100% since its establishment in 1997.

WWI is reaching out to women in Sarajevo, Srednjebosanski and Zenica-Doboj cantons. They were forced to become the breadwinners for their family. One of the aims of the program is to lead its members away from dependence on humanitarian aid and become economically self-sufficient. The women use their loans in four major categories of income-generation: agricultural activities, re-sales, trade and service provision. Over 63% of the beneficiaries use their loans for animal husbandry and growing and selling of fruits and vegetables in the local market. Other women resell products bought at wholesale markets for a profitable door-to-door retail business. Some have opened small shops that sell textiles and shoes. Finally, some women have gone into service provision by setting up tailoring services, carpentry workshops and beauty salons in their homes.

Hava Sisic of Centar Svrake-Vogosca Municipalty. On the seventh cycle of load,she invested her money in eggs and chicken production and small trade. She was the first center chief of WWI Bosnia.

The microcredit supervisors at the field level of WWI develop close relationships with the members providing motivational and business planning support to help make their projects successful.

The program's solidarity group philosophy follows the Grameen model, that stresses multi-ethnic

co-operation by insisting that each group must include internally displaced persons, refugees and members of the local population. All group members sign for loans taken by individual members once their business plan has been approved that states their understanding of the loan terms and their willingness to shoulder collective responsibility for repayment. The loans are given with 18% annual interest, and all money recovered from interest is re-invested in the program. The program also provides training on human rights awareness and leadership development. Through these initiatives, WWI hopes to raise awareness in its members about their contributions to society, as well as their social, economic and political rights. The program aims to create sustainable advocacy and support groups amongst the women themselves.


Project Impact in Bosnia

In December 2002, WWI Bosnia expanded its membership to 2,294. It had started with only 105 at the end of December 1997. The loan disbursement increased from US$ 57,077 in 1997 to US$ 5.5 million in December, 2002. From the beginning, the project has been able to maintain repayment rate between 98% to 100%.

During its six years of operation, WWI Bosnia has made a strong positive impact on the socio economic life of the poor in Vogoska and Sarajevo. Till December 2002, seventy percent of the poor households had crossed the poverty line.

The operational efficiency of WWI Bosnia was 144% in September 2002. This was achieved due to efficient field staff and by maximizing repayment rate by ensuring close supervision of loans disbursed. Each staff of WWI Bosnia is serving 450-460 borrowers, with a loan portfolio of US$ 220,441.


Beginnings of A Change

For over 23 years, women in Afghanistan have been trying to cope with the effects of civil war and ethnic strife. A majority of the nation's women have been denied their basic human rights, as well as access to economic and educational opportunities.

With the help of seed funding from Grameen Trust, WWI plans to implement a microcredit program in Kabul and its surrounding areas. As of March, 2003, WWI is already providing aid to 2,200 women. The funds for the microcredit project came as a grant to Grameen Trust from Princess Irene of Greece's Mundo en Armonia Foundation, earmarked specifically for the rehabilitation of Afghani victims of conflict. The project is targeting rural and urban widows, single mothers, women heads of households, as well as internally displaced refugees and returnees. In addition to microcredit, and in line with WWI's holistic approach, the project will also provide women with skills training and rights education. As the only NGO focusing exclusively on women, WWI is in a prime position to help Afghani women reclaim their lives and nation. The program will be established following the Grameen Bank Approach. Target groups will be sensitized and conscientised prior to loan disbursement. The support of the male members of the community is seen as essential to the success of this program, and to this end, there will be community forum where dialogue and understanding between project staff and community members will be encouraged.

Keeping their focus firmly on the poorest women in the communities they serve and with an unwavering belief in the inherent human rights, responsibilities and privileges of every woman, WWI is creating change, and bringing hope to thousands of women all over the world.

This report was compiled by Irum Ali, Grameen Trust


 Editor : Muhammad
Executive Editor : Khalid Shams 
Editorial Assistance :
Nazneen Sultana
Lamiya Morshed 
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