Sabina Grubbeson, founder of the Loza Foundation, meets one of the women who survived several rape camps during the war in Bosnia.
Project in Bosnia for female war victims:
For more than 20 years, the female survivors of the Bosnian war have been silenced, been told to keep quiet, all alone with their traumatic experiences from rape camps, sexual assaults, torture and humiliating degradation. Loza Foundation feels that this is the time to break down the silence culture and support these women; a project they are starting as a joint venture with the organisation The Power of Women.
“By giving them psychological support as well as providing legal aid at the trials, we will seek redress the grievances and crimes they have suffered”, says Sabina Grubbeson.
Their lives were ruined by the horrors of war. The women that survived the rape and concentration camps during the Bosnian war have suffered in silence mostly due to the shame and guilt that were unjustly put upon them. Many of them have isolated themselves with their traumatic memories or even take their own life.
“Almost 25 years have passed and many of these women are in desperate need of medical and psychological aid, the majority are unemployed and live in poverty. Many have given up hope and their depression is passed on to children and grandchildren. Patterns need to be broken and society putting the lid on things certainly won’t help”, Sabina Grubbeson explains.
A report presented in 2017 by Amnesty International estimates that approximately 20,000 women were subjected to rape and sexual assaults during the Bosnian war, 1992-1995. The report, based on two years of research, shows that the victims are still denied justice. Less than 800 survivors have been given a certain monthly income. And since the war crime trials begun in Bosnia 2004, less than one percent of the total number of sexual assault victims have made it to court.
“Loza Foundation is in the process of developing a joint venture with The Power of Women in order to help the women that have had to endure terrible hardships. Not only by giving mental and financial support, but also by providing legal aid at the trials.”
In her research about survivors of the war, there was one life story that really touched Sabina, and that was the story of Leila, who was 16 when the war broke out. Her life changed dramatically overnight and suddenly not worth more than the packets of cigarettes she was sold for to various military brothels. She was raped day in and day out, was tortured and put through mock executions. Leila survived, but today, two decades later, she is still suffering greatly from her ordeals during the war.
“For some people, the war is over. For us, it has only just begun.” This is the start of the book about Leila and it describes to the reader what happens to a woman, who loses the right to her own body and is put through starvation, torture and degradation. But it also brings up how many women managed to survive the most atrocious crimes against humanity.
Leila has by now turned 42 and lives in a house with her husband and their three children. The memories from the war are still haunting her, but thanks to The Power of Women, she has regained hope and faith in the future. The organisation has helped Leila to get by. She started growing lavender and a donation gave her five beehives. So far she has managed to make a living on lavender soap and selling honey.
“In August 2018, I got to meet Leila and she told me about her experiences. Leila is one of the few, who have stood up for her rights while others have remained silent, paralysed by the emotional traumas they have had to endure. But now, twenty years after the war ended, it seems as though some of these women are ready to speak up, to break the years of silence. Perhaps a certain period of silence is required before the blockages can crack, or perhaps it is just time for action.” Sabina Grubbeson deliberates.
More opportunities are now being made available through Loza Foundation and The Power of Women for private individuals and companies to make donations to the various projects for female war victims in Bosnia.
“We ask for help so that we can support these women and give them the chance of a brighter future. For every year that passes, they lose the hope of ever having their grievances redressed, but they cannot forget what they have been put through. We shouldn’t either”, says Sabina Grubbeson.