COMPLETED AND ONGOING PROJECTS:
Partners for the Future - II
"Partners for the Future - II" was held in Tuzla, 25-27 April, as a follow-up meeting of the project begun in December 1998 with the support of the World Council of Churches (WCC). [for background, see "About Partners for the Future, Peace to the City, and Osijek & Tuzla"]
The meeting was attended by 23 representatives of various NGOs of three cities: Tuzla, B&H; Osijek, Croatia; and Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. The meeting's aim was to support the designated peace process in the post-YU countries and the "Agreement of Inter-ethnic Tolerance" signed by these three cities. The overall goal of "Partners for the Future - II" is to promote cooperation between municipalities, NGOs and religious communities locally and regionally.
On the first day of their visit, the guests walked through the downtown of Tuzla to put flowers on Kapija, the place of Tuzla's youth tragedy, and visited the memorial "25 May". After tears and minutes of silence, the group started spontaneously to talk about the need for peace-building in the region.
Mr. Jasmin Imamovic, Tuzla's Mayor, participated in the last day's sessions. The gathering was fruitful and was carried out in a warm, friendly atmosphere; a lot ideas for co-operation between the cities, NGOs and municipalities were born. The event was broadcast on Radio Tuzla and Tuzla Canton TV.
We expect results of the project to be more visible co-operation between the NGOs of the three cities, as well as more intensive co-operation between NGOs and local authorities. One outcome of the meeting is a strengthening of the ties between the CCPN and our partners "Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights", Osijek, Croatia, and "Women's Centre of Novi Sad" and Multiethnic Women's Group "Seleus", Novi Sad, Yugoslavia.
This ongoing project was begun in January 2002. The aims of the project are to overcome the legacy of the war and imposed borders, through meetings of women's groups; to define and strengthen the position of women in society and peace work; and to exchange information, experiences, and ideas and explore possibilities for further co-operation across borders. The project is supported by the WCC-Ecumenical Women's Solidarity Fund (EWSF), Omis, Croatia, with which the CCPN has a great, long-term relationship.
As part of the project, in February a CCPN group was a guest of the women's group "Femina", of the "Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights", Osijek, Croatia. It was a warm, interesting, and useful visit; under the general topic "Women in Media", the participants discussed the actual present position of women in post-Yugoslav society.
The next visit was to Novi Sad (Vojvodina, Serbia) in March, where the hosting groups were the multiethnic women's group "Seleus" and the "Women's Centre of Novi Sad". We had a very interesting and frank discussion about the role of women in the Parliament of Vojvodina, with Mrs. Jelica Rajacic-Capakovic of the Ministry for Women's Affairs.
In April 27/28, a Gathering was held in Tuzla, in which participated 32 women of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, from 18 organisations, from urban and rural communities of both entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Federation and the Republika Srpska), and from Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia!
This Gathering was again marked by warm, rich exchanges, and by interesting and fruitful work. Although from very different organisations and places, the participants addressed the same hard position of women, our similar difficulties and common interests, with a high interest in collaborative work for change.
The participant emphasised the urgent need for work on the empowerment of women through:
The last workshop, " Women are . . .", was a short overview of women's position in our reality, their reflections on it and their personal feelings womanhood. All of the participants (of ages from 17 to 60!) agreed to the sentiment, "I am happy because I am woman".
A visit of the Tuzla group to Macedonia, the last activity of the project, is planned for the end of June. The CCPN partners and host groups in Macedonia are the "Women's Organisation of Mavrovi Anovi" and the women's association "Ohrid's Izida".
The overall result of "Cross Border Women's Co-operation" has been new collaborations and the beginning of new common project. All the participants have high interest in future gatherings as a places to empower each other and bring new women into the work of reconciliation.
Regional Training for Women Peace Activists
held in Tuzla, 28 April to 1 May
Thirteen women from both parts of B&H (Federation and Republika Srpska), Serbia and Macedonia; leaders and volunteers from different NGOs; some of them active in different political parties; with high education level (5 of them with university degree), age 17-55 (average age, 31); of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, participated in the training.
Four participants, unfortunately, could not come in Tuzla because of documents: two persons from Novi Sad went back from the B&H/YU border; two from Macedonia did not recieve their passports in time. This made the group smaller than planned.
This three-months project was made possible by support from WCC-SEEEP (World Council of Churches South-East European Ecumenical Partnership).
A high level of tolerance and willingness to understand each other was demonstrated by all the participants, who, on their own initiative and spontaneously used all the languages and letters in their communication and on their wall posters made during the training: Bosnian, Serbian and Macedonian, Cirilic and Latin, written sentence by sentence (and sometimes in the same one!) all together, as were these women, peace workers from lands so recently divided by hatred even in their dialects!
The work was very intensive, in an open and sympathetic atmosphere, even during the most difficult topics of the full-day agenda. There were a lot of laugh and tears, especially in the last workshop, "Strength of Women", which showed not only our hard reality but also our strength and decision to better it.
The topics of the training were:
The time between as well as in workshops was used for sharing experiences, knowledge and ideas, and exploring possibilities for co-operation. A few new partnerships were established during this training.
All the participants expressed high interest in more education/training, as events which promote not only awareness and new skills, but also exchange of views and formation of new friendships. One of participants wrote in her evaluation: "I am bringing with me from the training a lot of new knowledge and friendships, new views on many things, new strength and self-respect!"
In the first part of 2002, the CCPN has prepared and/or solicited support for several new projects which await replies for their realisation.
In preparation (and needing support as of June 2002) is the third group for the BFE (Bridges for Education, Buffalo, USA) youth summer camp (this time probably in Hungary or Poland). It will be a mixed group, with students from both entities of B&H (Federation and RS), of all nationalities/religions, as were the groups sent in 2000 and 2001.
Unfortunately, the Open Society Fund B&H has for the third year refused our application for this next group as well as for the projected International Youth Camp in Tuzla itself, in which the partners are BFE, CCPN, the Tuzla Municipality, and the Ministry for Education of Tuzla Canton. This great project could be an opportunity for real work on tolerance, drawing participants from Southeastern and Eastern Europe to Tuzla and its tradition of tolerance and respect of differences.
Thanks to WCC-EWSF, the CCPN is included in the WCC-SEEEP long-term project of education within religious communities (lead by the Centre for Peace, Osijek).
Aiming to refine ideas and identify new collaborative projects, the CCPN president made working visits on 21/22 May to Osijek and Vukovar, Croatia. A visit to Novi Sad, Vojvodina/Serbia, was made on 4/5 June; new contacts and partnerships were established!
The CCPN Youth Group has been active since last year in obtaining the means to carry out its projects. The Group needs some space and at least one computer for its work.
So far in 2002 the Women's Group has been able to hold weekly meetings and workshops, although, like the Youth Group, it is without a budget. After a few years of work (see background), the Women's group is now interested in more concrete education (computers, languages, etc.), useful in their effort to improve our economic position (a lot of members, and women in the city, as well as in B&H at large, even those with high education, are unemployed). The Women's Group's interest in co-operation with similar groups from Republika Srpska and from the region is very high, and a few new project proposals are in preparation.
In April 2002 the CCPN changed its status from a voluntary to professional organisation, in which one person has full-time engagement. Financially, we cannot meet all of the organisation's needs, but the change in status should be the first step in further strengthening of the CCPN team. Thanks to the new office, opened in 2001, the CCPN members have been able to be more active in 2002; a few volunteers are now regularly included in the planning and fulfillment of projects.
Currently (June 2002), the financial situation is fairly tight. Only one ongoing project has outside financial support; this support allows us to cover half of our staffing and rent. The CCPN web site was inactive for more than a year, due to our inability to pay for it. Currently the site is being rebuilt and hosted by CCPN volunteers in the US.
Any kind of support is very welcome: information, education, advice, equipment, financing.
Financial support is necessary both for maintaining the office and for development of projects and programs. One serious problem is the lack of a car: this lack makes it impossible to contact rural communities where there is a great need for work in support of returnees and the rebuilding of trust).
As a city close to the borders of Croatia and Serbia, and known for its multi-ethnic / religious / cultural image and openness to all, Tuzla is a safe place for different groups, from the region and beyond, to learn about peace work.
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