Over 20 years since the end of the 1992-1995 conflict, the legacy of the war is still felt in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political institutions. The separation into two entities (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska) because of the Dayton peace agreement has enabled ethnic divisions to remain embedded. Most political parties are divided along ethnic lines and politics tends to operate at the local rather than national level. Women, young people and ethnic minorities feel the impact of the past most strongly.
Women make up half the global population but are often excluded from decision-making that impacts on their lives. That’s why we are working to create more inclusive democratic institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina by improving women’s opportunities to engage in public affairs and politics. As part of the Western Balkans Democracy Initiative, launched in 2019 this progamme will encourage links and communication between political parties and independent organisations concerned with women’s rights to promote gender-responsive policies. The programme will support inclusive governance by encouraging women to become politically active and improving their overall representation in government.
Between 2014 and 2016, WFD combined political party and institutional expertise to support women candidates ahead of the local elections. The programme sought to increase the profile of women in political discourse and engage the media, political parties, candidates and other interested groups such as students and citizens in municipalities to raise awareness of the vital contribution women can make to political life. Six of the main political parties engaged in the programme to benefit more than 300 women candidates across Bosnia and Herzegovina. WFD’s approach addressed many of the challenges women face when running for a public office. Only through equitable representation of women in political structures, can the whole of society advance. WFD’s work has increased public awareness of gender equality issues, promoted fair representation in the media, and given women candidates the skills to run competitive election campaigns.