From Where I Stand: “Nature has healed me”

Adila Suljević survived sexual violence and spent time in a detention camp during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that took place between 1992 and 1995. In the aftermath of the conflict, Adila became one of the first women to testify on war trauma. In 2016, she founded an NGO to build a support network for women survivors of wartime sexual violence and provide them with a space to talk freely about their trauma and feel empowered. She is also a farmer, cultivating and selling her own produce with support from a UN Women project that helped her expand her business and boost her economic opportunities.


Adila Suljevic. Photo: UN Women/ Sulejman Omerbašić
Adila Suljevic. Photo: UN Women/Sulejman Omerbašić 

"I see myself as a fighter. Through my farming work, I have improved my health and overcame wartime trauma. I feel good in nature, and the money I earn makes me feel fulfilled.

Eight years ago, my husband and I started cultivating a small portion of land with our long-handled hoes. We’re from the city and we’ve never worked in the field before. But I believe one can learn anything with enough will.

I recharge my batteries on my land. Before I started farming, memories of war were haunting me and I couldn’t fall asleep without medication. But now, I forget about taking pills. I haven’t trembled at night for years. I’m not taking any tranquilizers and I don’t go to doctors. I sleep peacefully.

I started a greenhouse recently and expanded my production with support from UN Women. In addition to growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, I also make and sell djuvec [a Romanian and Balkan oven-baked meat and vegetable stew], ajvar [a condiment made with red bell peppers], jam and lavender liquor among a variety of other products. I also started selling online through Facebook.

Farming also empowered me to take action in things I believe in. In 2016, I founded a local association for women survivors of wartime sexual violence in our town, Brčko [near the northeastern border of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia]. I wanted us to have our own space, where we can talk freely, not feel discriminated against and feel embraced. We need to feel psychologically and economically empowered to heal from the scars of the conflict.”

SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production

Adila Suljević, 52, is a farmer and the director of NGO “Suze” in Brčko. Her NGO provides a support network for women survivors of wartime sexual violence and offers them a chance to talk freely about their trauma. Adila expanded her agricultural business after receiving trainings from UN Women and UNDP as part of the joint programme 'Seeking Care, Support and Justice for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,' financed by the Governments of United Kingdom, Canada and UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. Her story links directly to Sustainable Development Goal 5, which calls for women's equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and natural resources, and Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production.

Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.