Rebuilding BOSFAM

In May 2014, catastrophic flooding and heavy rains destroyed the weaving center of The Association of Bosnian Family (BOSFAM), which has been a safe place for war-affected Bosnian women to come and earn an income for two decades. In 2015, with the support of dozens of generous donors, the workshop was rebuilt, allowing the women of BOSFAM to return to work.

Workshop Before
Workshop After

The Project

In 2014, the Balkans received a month’s worth of rain in a matter of days, leading to the worst flooding in 120 years, the destruction of countless buildings, and the deaths of at least 40 people. The heavy rainfall destroyed BOSFAM’s main workshop in Tuzla and left hard-working women without a way to earn an income. At its peak, BOSFAM had a network of 300-400 women, supporting 25-30 in its workshop each day. After the floods, only 3-4 women could come to weave and the network of women anxiously waited to be able to return. Without the workshop, BOSFAM’s very existence hung in the balance.

After a two-month crowdfunding campaign, including the support of 54 individual donors and multiple events hosted in the U.S., BOSFAM successfully raised $5,254. With the help of local contractors, BOSFAM finished the repairs to its workshop in Tuzla in June 2016.

The Impact

This opportunity was unique because it was not a handout. The women of BOSFAM are hard-working and wanted to earn their keep, and after years of displacement and hardship were not seeking charity.

By investing in the reconstruction of the workshop, donors were able to support:

  1. 15-20 women working in Tuzla workshop each day on a rotating schedule to accommodate a wide network of workers.
  2. 20-25 women working in our Srebrenica center two days a week.
  3. Wide network totaling 150 women workers.
  4. Children, elderly parents, and other family members dependent upon women’s incomes.
  5. Communities rebuilding socially and economically from Bosnian war.

The Vision

BOSFAM, led by the tenacious Beba Hadžić, emerged from the ashes of the Bosnian war in 1994 to support women from all sides of the conflict, regardless of ethnicity or religion. BOSFAM sought to provide a way for women to earn a sustainable income with dignity, support one another emotionally, and advocate for the return of their missing family members.

For the last two decades, the women of BOSFAM have worked together, creating handwoven ćilimi (traditional Bosnian carpets) and other handcrafted goods to earn an income and lead by a strong example for Bosnian civil society as tensions between ethnic and religious groups continue.

Sarah Srebrenica

Our Partner

In 1999, BOSFAM joined forces with the Washington, DC-based organization, The Advocacy Project (AP) with a mission to “help marginalized communities to tell their story, claim their rights, and produce social change.” AP began sending graduate student Peace Fellows to BOSFAM in 2003 and has sent a total of 15 Fellows to support BOSFAM and strengthen the partnership between the organizations.

AP has advocated for BOSFAM through campaigns, fundraising, memorial quilt exhibitions, and training in technical skills to encourage BOSFAM’s growth. AP has also shared BOSFAM’s Srebrenica memorial quilt project with other grassroots organization around the world and inspired women in Peru to Vietnam to Palestine to Mali to engage in advocacy quilting to share their stories.

AP’s 2015 Peace Fellow to BOSFAM, Sarah Reichenbach, as well as its Washington, DC team, amplified BOSFAM’s vision and supported them tremendously throughout the duration of the workshop’s reconstruction to ensure BOSFAM’s continued success.