Program Officer, Balkans and Caucasus Programs, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
A: I think some of it too I mean especially when you are doing it right at that the very early stage. Like I said this was the first time a lot of these groups were coming together, a year after the war or whatever. At a certain point, you could come back to these women's groups a year or two down the road and they were definitely more in power and they were much more knowledgeable about what was in it for them in terms of collaborating with these other women. So I think their strength and resolve was increased so I think their ability to kind of do their own thing. So I guess I do think that the effects of bringing them together in general especially they raise their kids and the impact is there. I think it is also that maybe at the beginning they would not have stood up to those spoilers who wanted to say, "Don't do it,' but two years down the road they are able to say, "Forget you, this has been a benefit to me, I can see the continued benefit to me and I am going to do it anyway," which is empowerment and there is a better chance that it will get bigger. At one point two years later we took them to Bosnia to go see how they had been doing the same thing there and you know you come back the same person. There was so much more confidence, so much more aware, "This is my future that I am building and I see it as being an important part of it and maybe it is not what I want but I know this is the way to go forward and so I am going to do it." If you would have brought that in early on that never would have happened.
Q: But that cross knowledge component is pretty important you think?
A: I think so depending on the group you are talking about, but especially with women in a society where traditionally they don't have a voice. You see it is like okay it is not just us they are dealing with, it is these guys they are dealing with and they have been dealing with them longer because what happened in Bosnia happened years before and these are some of the hiccups they had a long the way. And yeah, I think it really builds up and it doesn't always have to be totally culturally relevant but obviously they all used to be a part of one country so I mean they are speaking one language or they can speak the same language so I think it is even more powerful in that way. But I think you can do that from one continent to another depending on the groups, but I think it helps them to take it out of their own context and see it on a bigger scale, which I think is definitely more powerful for them. So they don't feel like they are alone in what they are doing and the issues that they are facing so they can be like, "OK, somebody else has been through this screwed up thing and maybe they have made it or they have made it further then we have." So I think it is good.