In the face of adversity – including conflict in their homeland, being widowed and natural disaster – Bosnian sisters Safeta and Efita have remained courageous as well as steadfast in their determination to help others.
“Shortly after the floods I was totally confused,” says Efita of the May 2014 floods which destroyed her and her sister Efita’s farming business. She continues with surprising laughter “I started to clean … everyone said I was crazy. But my mind was caught up with cleaning. I could only think of fixing the computers so that we could get back to work.”
The floods were the worst the hit the region in over 120 years. They destroyed the poultry farm the sisters had built from the ground up after war ended in their homeland almost two decades ago.
The two women have an admirable sense of humour despite their hardships. This was the second time they had lost their belongings in a flood. In 2012, several days of rain caused the river behind their farm to break its banks.
“Fate met us more often. This is unfair, but we will not give up,” says Safeta, the younger sister. “And we don’t want to give up our laughter. We go out, we live, that is the most important thing.”
Both sisters lost their husbands during the years-long conflict in their homeland. They began again with nothing, but through hard work were able to build up the farm to over 6,000 chickens. They wanted to help others in their situation and founded one of Bosnia’s first women’s organisations in 2003.
The sisters have since – with support from CARE – shared their farming and small business knowledge with over 84 members of their local community. In particular, they focus on helping women-headed households and farms.
Despite losing their business in the flooding – which affected over 1.5 million people throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina – together with CARE, the sisters organised food distributions for hundreds of those affected locally.
“We support families, no matter what ethnic group they belong to,” adds Efita. “We always support women in our community so that they can play an active part.”
The women have ambitious plans to create more jobs for women in their area. They would like to expand the cultivation of raspberries in the region and build a production facility for raspberry juice or syrup.
“I am a born optimist,” says Safeta. “Fate plays with us, but I will not give up. I firmly believe that we – and many other women in our hometown – will live a life in dignity one day.”