Sowing the seeds of women’s empowerment in rural Serbia

Date: Thursday, December 19, 2019

Nada Lojanicic, in the village of Bukovik, Southwestern Serbia. Photo: UN Women/TV Forum Prijepolje
Nada Lojanicic, in the village of Bukovik, Southwestern Serbia. Photo: UN Women/TV Forum Prijepolje

By turning her interest for growing rosehip berries into an enterprise, rural woman and single mother, Nada Lojaničić, is building her own business and self-esteem with the help of a UN Women project funded by the European Union.

Single mother, Nada Lojaničić, had never worked in agriculture, but she always dreamt of growing rosehip on her own land. A UN Women supported women's entrepreneurship initiative, which provided business training, guidance and financial assistance to rural women, gave her the confidence to finally follow this dream.

Through the initiative, the Women’s Forum Prijepolje – a local NGO that operates in southwestern Serbia where Lojaničić lives – organized two workshops. Forty local women were trained on business plan development. Of those, Lojaničić was among the six whose plans were deemed most promising, and who were awarded the equipment necessary to further develop their business ideas. She received funds for the necessary machinery including a hand-held digger, trimmer, seedlings and a fence for her rosehip plantation.

"I was truly encouraged that we, women, should have our own business. I was not even aware this was something I could do all on my own," said Lojaničić.

In the past, Nada Lojaničić read a lot about growing rosehip and admits that she was interested in this particular plant because it was considered easy to grow while also being esthetically pleasing. Once planted, rosehip keeps growing year after year and it contains various health benefits too, making it a viable business opportunity. Her enterprise is even more promising as there are local buyers for raw rosehip fruit, saving Lojaničić any marketing outlays.

To date, she has planted 200 rosehip seedlings and plans to expand her plantation, once her business is successful. In this early stage she is also relying on her family to help out until she can afford to hire workers.

This is one in a series of similar initiatives that UN Women in Serbia is supporting through the EU-funded project entitled: Support to Priority Actions for Gender Equality. This effort aims to specifically benefit rural women who face multiple forms of discrimination.

Olja Janković Leković, Project Officer with UN Women in Serbia, said that prioritizing the economic empowerment of rural women is fundamental to the overall development of society. "We are very happy to see that our project is making a real difference in the lives of rural women. Seeing their businesses grow along with their self-esteem is probably the most rewarding aspect," Janković Leković concluded.

She said that UN Women in Serbia will continue supporting the economic empowerment of women across the country, with a particular focus on those living in rural areas.