When activism becomes a joke 

Bosnian citizens have seen numerous expensive, yet ineffective awareness campaigns financed by foreign donors over the last two decades. But a recent UN Women bus tour against gender-based violence might top the list. 

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
When activism becomes a joke  - NewsMavens
Bosnian bus celebrating 16 days of activism, YouTube

Why this story matters:

The Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3), the Anti-corruption Day (December 9), Human Rights Day (December 10), Migrants Day (December 18) -- December, just like all the remaining months of the year -- is full of international celebration days which the UN uses to promote particular development objectives. In Bosnia, civil society organizations mark many of them throughout each year by holding various awareness-raising activities -- from street performances to billboard campaigns. 

But what are we doing with all that raised awareness? Mostly nothing, because only a few campaigns translate into something concrete, into making changes in people's behavior and actions. 

A bus -- painted in orange and with the campaign's slogan "Let's end violence against women and girls together" printed on it -- that was roaming around Bosnian cities for 16 days was a sad reminder of all the donor money tragically wasted on meaningless activities in post-war Bosnia. 

If I was a passenger riding the orange bus, would I really be comfortable if approached by random policemen or social workers who are supportive only because they are hired by UN Women, while in real life they are nowhere to be found when victims of violence need them?

Or if I was a passer-by who saw the slogan written on the bus, would it really convince me to drop everything I'm doing at the moment and immediately join UN Women in its fight against gender-based violence? 

The bus campaign might have made at least some sense in countries with a high percentages of harassment and violence against women on public transport. But is it the case in Bosnia? We don't know.

In the same way that we don't know why the bus tour was organized during days with high air pollution levels, to which traffic heavily contributed. 

Details from the story:

  • UN Women and its partners have organized various activities for the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (held between 25 November and 10 December) in countries around the world. The umbrella name of the campaign is "Orange the World: #HearMeToo". 
  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UN Women organized a bus-tour visiting 8 cities during the 16 days. The bus took public transportation routes for eight hours each day, giving free rides to passengers while engaging them in a conversation with service providers such as police officers, social care workers and civil society representatives about the elimination of violence against women.
  • The discussions in the bus were aimed at increasing awareness of citizens about gender-based violence and the services that are available in case they need to seek information, advice or report violence. 
  • Almost half of female population of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been victims of some form of gender based violence, according to research studies. 
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