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CHIBOW Researcher Hosts SEMA Study Tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina

SEMA (“Speak Out” in Swahili) – the Global Network of Victims and Survivors to End Wartime Sexual Violence, initiated by Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation, unites female survivors of wartime rape from 21 countries across all continents. They are joining force to end rape as weapon of war. CHIBOW ECR Amra Delic, a human rights activist, together with survivors from the Association Helping Victims and Survivors of Sexual Violence in War “Our Voice” from Tuzla Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and supported by the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted a SEMA activists’ study-tour in BiH between 25.10.2019 and 28.10.2019. 2017. Miss Malini Laxminarayan, a program officer of Dr. Mukwege Foundation and a coordinator of SEMA Network, and Mr. Volodymyr Shcherbachenko – a director of the Centre for Civic Initiatives of Eastern Ukraine headed the visiting delegation of the Ukrainian Survivors Network. The goal of a study-tour was an exchange of experiences and the sharing of knowledge and best practices related to supporting conflict-related sexual violence survivors.

During the first day, SEMA activists attended several meetings in Sarajevo with representatives of the UN agencies’ mission to BiH (UNFPA, UN Women, UNDP, IOM), OSCE BiH, TRIAL Int. Programme in BiH. They all support a variety of different projects intended to improve the status of CRSV survivors in Bosnia, including direct support to the survivors, as well as engagement in community-based projects. Subsequently, SEMA activists attended the meeting with Raisu-l-ulama (Grand-Mufti) of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina Husein Kavazović. The Grand-Mufti expressed his great empathy for the suffering of wartime sexual violence survivors worldwide, and appreciation for the efforts of Dr. Mukwege and his Foundation, emphasizing the importance of religious communities’ support for the victims and survivors, as well as their contribution to fighting the stigma attached to survivors of CRSV.

On the second day, a fruitful exchange between Bosnian and Ukrainian survivors took place at the meeting hosted by Behram-bey’s Madrassa in Tuzla and the “Our Voice” Association. The meeting was moderated by two experts in the field of CRSV in BiH, Amra Delić and Jasna Zečević, a director of the Centre for therapy and rehabilitation “Vive Zene” Tuzla, both. During the meeting, a history, the goals and activities of the “Our Voice” organization and “Vive Žene” Centre were presented to the visitors, and possibilities of a future collaboration with the Ukrainian Survivors Network considered, emphasizing the importance of survivors’ activism and supporting their associations. Survivors from “Our Voice” shared their experiences in breaking the silence and reporting the crimes committed against them, their ways to recovery and empowerment, anti-stigma campaigns, as well as their personal experiences with a war-rape prosecutions in the courts in BiH and access to justice for the victims. Amra Delic pointed out the importance of wartime rape survivors’ global networking, as well as supporting survivors activism in their common efforts directed towards the improvement of survivors’ status, their social recognition and integration, as well as prevention of sexual violence in war. Representatives from the Dr. Mukwege Foundation and the SEMA Network of Survivors then visited the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide 1992-1995 in Sarajevo, and Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Museum, where they paid tribute to the victims of genocide. At the meeting held on the final day of their visit, SEMA activists learned from representatives of the Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Policies of BiH about legislations and procedures of obtaining the status of a “civil victim of war” for CRSV survivors in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the provision of the rights of the victims, but also about difficulties in the implementation of the existing laws which present obstacles to reparations.

Almost three decades of experiences and lessons learned in Bosnia and Herzegovina in this field were significant for activists from conflict and post-conflict countries such as Ukraine, so that a study-tour to Bosnia is evaluated as a fruitful and beneficial experience for a knowledge building of SEMA Global Network of Victims and Survivors to End Wartime Sexual Violence.

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