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Regional Report from Rada Boric, V-Day Regional Coordinator for Bosnia & Herzogovina, Croatia


V-Day Sarajevo 2003
March 18-19, 2003
Crossing the borders of difference

A young man approached us showing his red T-shirt. It was written: I use my strength, but not against women. Damir. (his name means: yes to peace!)

V-Day Sarajevo 2003 brought together activism and art

Seventy women from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the countries of former Eastern Europe gathered in Sarajevo, in the time of yet another war, to share their experience and reinforce the message of peace. The performance of "The Vagina Monologues" in different Slavic languages enabled women across regional borders to understand each other through the universal language of their bodies.

Sarajevo was chosen as the center for this regional gathering of women because the entire history of Sarajevo, before the Bosnian war, was one in which different cultures and religions co-existed peacefully. Devastated by war, Sarajevo became a metaphor of the possibility of bringing peace and co-existence of different cultures and religions again. A place in which the violence has stopped. By organising the V-Day event in Sarajevo we honoured not only the victims of war, but women survivors, women feminists and peace activists who care for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.

V-day Sarajevo was hosted by women's group Zene Zenama (Women to Women) and organised by regional board of women. Announced in the Bosnian media, it attracted a general audience so that 500 women and men had seen the performance in the National Theater (where in 1998 Necessary Targets were performed).

At the press conference held at the theatre and hosted by the magazine "Max" and the major of Sarajevo, Mr Muhidin Hamamdzic, the V-Day movement was presented along with the V-Day 2003 vision: From V-Day To V-World.

Eve Ensler spoke against the war in Iraq, stating "nothing has been learned from Sarajevo and Afghanistan". The Mayor of Sarajevo gladly accepted the title "vagina friendly mayor".

At noon, women gathered in front of the theatre to protest against the war on Iraq. Protest petitions were signed, as well as one demanding a unique criminal code of all parts of Bosnia (divided still!).

A young man approached us showing his red T-shirt. It was written: I use my strength, but not against women. Damir. (his name means: yes to peace!)

Activists from many networks that oppose violence against women met in the Hotel Bosnia and spent the afternoon talking about their experiences with violence, and inspired by Eve, imagined the world without it (When violence against women and girls stops I shall...)

Next day, a taxi driver told me: the whole town speaks about Vaginas. Vagina warriors.

The evening was spent, together with other women and men, at the gala performance of "The Vagina Monologues", performed by actors from different countries.Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and Russian actors read monologues, among them well known Serbian actor Mirjana Karanovic, the young Russian actor Oxana , Bosnian Mehida Musliovic, Ejla Bavcic, Gordana Boban … Before reading "My vagina was my village," documentary testimony of Bosnian rape survivors was heard. Vesna Masic, Bosnian actor, directed the event and made the performance memorable.

Eve's speech at the end of performance made a strong impact on the audience. She took the audience on her journeys through Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Riff Valley in Kemya and Juarez, Mexico, showing how violent the world could be, but also how taking actions against it could stop violence.

Next day, a taxi driver told me: the whole town speaks about Vaginas. Vagina warriors.

V-Day Zagreb
March 16, 2003

V-Day Zagreb was hosted by a new women's center, Women's Room, that works against sexual violence against women, and promotes women's sexuality. The Theater Kerempuh has had a production of the The Vagina Monologues" for the past two months and the performance on the 16th was a V-Day benefit performance for Women's Room. Four hundred seats could not host all the women who wanted to come to see the performance and hear Eve speak. Many activists have known Eve for the past seven years, and the event was a chance to meet her again.

A press conference was organised after the performance with Eve having just arrived that evening from Islamabad. She spoke about the war on Iraq, and her experiences from Kabul and Islamabad.

1000 euros were raised that evening enabled Women's Room to buy a new computer. The computer's nickname is: godmother

On the March 17, Eve Ensler, V-Day Executive Director Jerri Lynn Fields, Sanja Sarnavka from B.a.B.e organisation, and myself, regional V-Day coordinator, visited Ms Zeljka Antunovic, the Croatian minister of defence and one of four women Ministers of Defense in Europe (there are six all together in the world). Eve wanted to introduce the V-Day 2003 vision - From V-Day to V-World - a world without violence with a plan of action to demand 1% of government's defense budget to go toward the defense of women. The security of women will guarantee the security of the world.

Ms Antunovic talked about her position as a women Minister of Defense in post-war Croatia and agreed to support 1% demand and promised to talk about it with other women ministers at their joint meeting.

Eve lobbied for 1% of military budget in Sarajevo later that week - talking to Lidija Topic, young Deputy Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was good to see women in powerful positions. who are aware that national security (and international) can not exist if women are not secure.

What I learned: when Vagina Monologues are done by young people, it gives more hope that we would see world without violence!

V-Day Mostar 2003
March 20, 2003

Young women (and men) from a group Mladi Most (Youth Bridge) hosted their very own V-Day event, V-Day Mostar 2003.

The entire month of March was devoted to activities against violence against women, and the last event was a performance of "The Vagina Monologues," performed by young students, (none of them in arts!).

Mostar, with it's destroyed bridge, which earlier, for centuries, connected people from the both banks of river - East and West, Muslim and Christians, is slowly healing its wounds, and young people are the best healers, the new force of life. The performance was perfectly fitting with their work in a new cultural centre where we gathered in the afternoon. At a workshop, women gathered from different projects, and young men working in the center proved that different ethnicities or religions are not barriers…

The evening performance, simple but powerful, made us all laugh and cry. It was good to see Muslim and Catholic women together, young men and women. Thanks to Ana and her friend's actors. They might travel with their performance to the villages around Mostar to make vagina miracles. (In Herzegovina there is a well-known pilgrimage Medjugorje, where, it is claimed, Holly Mary appeared).

(What I learned: when Vagina Monologues are done by young people, it gives more hope that we would see world without violence!)

- Rada Boric