Indira Bajramović: “We were the first to enter Roma communities and deliver packages that we personally prepared”

Indira Bajramović, Roma woman, activist and economist, has been working to improve the position of Roma women in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for the past 20 years. During the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the director of the Association of Roma Women "Better Future" from Tuzla, she visited Roma communities and distributed food and hygiene packages provided by the association's donors, together with her associates. This article is part of UN Women in BiH campaign “Thank you, heroines”, aimed at raising awareness on numerous contributions of women during COVID-19 response.

Date: Thursday, July 16, 2020

Indira Bajramović, Roma woman, activist and economist, has been working to improve the position of Roma women in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past 20 years. Photo: Personal archive
Indira Bajramović, Roma woman, activist and economist, has been working to improve the position of Roma women in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past 20 years. Photo: Personal archive

"Although I was worried about my health, and also the health of my family and friends, I was active in the field most of the time. We communicated with donors on a daily basis and asked for additional funds to help socially disadvantaged groups from both entities. We were the first to enter Roma communities and deliver packages that we personally prepared. We may have saved some families in this way, because they had no basic provisions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic", Indira explains.

She admits that she was sad and disappointed, but in a way also proud, because she and her associates provided the only help to some Roma communities. "We distributed a total of 700 aid packages to the most vulnerable Roma families, but also to other families who were in need, both in the Tuzla Canton and in other BiH cities, in cooperation with members of the Women's Roma Network 'Success' BiH. Also, in cooperation with the Tuzla Community Foundation, and with the financial support of the International Solidarity Forum Emmaus, we distributed meals in Roma communities in the local community Kiseljak. I was in the field with our employees and we distributed 400 meals every day once every three days, and on other days volunteers from other organizations were engaged," Indira adds.

During the pandemic, together with her associates, she was engaged in the construction of a football field for youth and a playroom for children, as well as in the reconstruction of the canal that flooded houses in the local community Kiseljak, one of the largest Roma communities in the Tuzla Canton.

Indira, who has won numerous recognitions and awards, points out that women show exceptional abilities in the immediate response to crisis situations, yet they are often perceived as helpless victims and their capacities remain invisible and underused. "The challenge is to enable women to cope with the pandemic as easily as possible. This means that they should be provided with subsidies for the work they are doing, that children are provided with free attendance at kindergartens, and that social protection is provided for unemployed women who have large families. It is also necessary to economically strengthen women who are not educated and do not have a job, in order for them to provide for their families and to restore their confidence, but also to reduce domestic violence, which was on the rise during the pandemic," says Indira.

And while we are getting used to the "new normal", Indira has adapted her life and work to the current situation, and has focused her engagement on helping unemployed women and women who are victims of violence. "I plan to conduct research in the field so that I can adapt my activities to the real needs of women and girls from Roma communities. I am aware that the risk of the coronavirus spreading still exists, and that a large number of families do not have the basic means of subsistence. We are receiving requests for help every day. We never denied support to anyone," says Indira Bajramović at the end.

This article is part of the UN Women in BiH campaign “Thank you, heroines”, that is aimed at raising awareness about the numerous contributions of women who are on the frontlines of response to the COVID-19 crisis. Follow UN Women in BiH social media, read stories about some of these amazing women, and thank the women you think are heroines by using the hashtag #ThankYouHeroines. Together let’s support the women who are contributing to a strong COVID-19 response! #HeroinesTellTheirStories