10 years of SOC: Battles Worth Waging are Best Waged Together


Sarajevo Open Centre could always boast of a dedicated team ready to take all challenges head on, overcome problems together and also have a good time. The line between the professional and private life of SOC team members has always been very blurred, and this makes us stronger because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are ready to help out at all times. The following pages are dedicated to our team, our Steering Committee and Assembly, as well as people who no longer work with us on a regular basis but are still an important part of the story.


Jozo Blažević, 31
Program Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Hate crimes
What would you like to achieve as your main activist/advocacy goal?
I’d like to see Bosnia and Herzegovina become a country that recognises LGBTI persons as equal members of the society. LGBTI people who were born here, who live in BiH, work and pay taxes like all other citizens deserve to be free. I hope to see LGBTI people live a life without fear and violence, I hope to see them happy and smiling, because we are after all talking about basic, fundamental human rights.


Emina Bošnjak, 33
Executive Director

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Everything Sarajevo Open Centre does 🙂
What would you like to achieve as your main activist/advocacy goal?
I hope to see two things (relatively soon): a law on same-sex partnerships and legislation that regulates women’s participation in the executive branch, in accordance with the Gender Equality Law of BiH. We’ll be working very hard on both of these issue and I hope our efforts come to fruition.


Jasmina Čaušević, 41
Program Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Feminism, women’s rights
Who do you look up to in your activist/advocacy work?
Zehra Muidović, after whom the childbearing centre in Sarajevo was named following World War II. It was a symbolic gesture, a hope that every newborn will be an anti-fascist. She was a partisan, a heroine of the National Liberation War and the revolution, a member of the Anti-fascist Women’s Front, a determined anti-fascist, agitator and conspirator. She hid Radojka Lakić and many other comrades in her apartment on Alifakovac. She organised a forty-day-long military intelligence course on using radio transmitters. She carried out “the most intense conspiratorial work, with great commitment”.


Inela Hadžić, 29
Program Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Human rights in general, especially women’s rights and gender equality

What would you like to achieve as your main activist/advocacy goal?
A real change in the mind-set of citizens when it comes to respecting human rights, and actual implementation of legislation.


Delila Hasanbegović, 26
Program Assistant

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Gender equality, feminism, women’s rights

Activist/advocacy role model:
There are so many, I wouldn’t know where to begin. My co-workers are my role models: the intelligent, hard-working, dedicated SOC team that creates a vibrant, dynamic work atmosphere. Also the people I get to meet regularly, the activists who inspire me to show solidarity and fight for a society of equality and justice.


Lejla Huremović, 30
Program Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Working with the media and the LGBTI community

Favourite thing SOC has done so far?
Every intervention in public space. Every time we occupied public space and increased our visibility. Two things in particular come to mind: the spontaneous mini pride in May 2016 and the performance in front of the BBI Centre on Coming Out Day in October 2016.


Marina Jovović, 33
Financial and Administrative Manager

Favourite thing SOC has done so far?
I had butterflies in my stomach, and felt happy and proud when we organised a protest in front of the building of the Government of Canton Sarajevo instead of the banned march on 13th May 2017. You could hear the sound of drums, people came with their children, friends and partners, rainbow flags were everywhere and for an hour or two it felt like we’d briefly defeated homophobia. We were free, and I hope we continue to fight for freedom.


Nikola Kuridža, 28
Program Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Gender equality, anti-fascism, LGBTI rights and freedoms, human rights, confronting the past and reconciliation
Activist/advocacy role model:
Due to my views on class and authority I don’t care much for role models, but there are two people in particular who have shaped my worldview. These are Judith Butler and Madonna. As a student of philosophy, I found in the writings of Judith Butler all those things that are deliberately omitted from the education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her work paved the way for a completely new, more humane outlook on the world. Through her activism, Judith proved that she wasn’t just a philosopher preaching from an ivory tower. I’ve been following her work for years. As for Madonna, she proved that a pop icon can be both political and achieve commercial success. She is a pioneer in using popularity and media influence to question gender roles, religion and sexuality, which she has managed to do more or less successfully. She has continued to question women’s role in the society, as well as defy the image of an aging woman by refusing to bow down to patriarchal notions of “aging gracefully” that apply to women only. Her involvement in raising awareness on HIV and AIDS is also of immense importance.


Maja Lukić-Schade, I’ve been told I look like I’m 33
Program Manager

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Rights of LGBTI people, women and other marginalised groups

Favourite thing SOC has done so far?

The thing that galvanizes and motivates me the most is doing pioneer work that’s never been done before. I can’t really pick a favourite activity, as there have been many. I’ve been following the work of SOC since 2010, and the screening of the film To je naše dijete has a special place in my heart. It was the first event following QSF (not exactly a public event, as only a handful of people knew it was happening. I think the police ended up outnumbering the audience). We were all quite scared. I would also single out the first trainings for police officers, teachers, psychologists and pedagogues, as well as the human rights march when rainbow flags were proudly on display on the streets of Sarajevo. I am also very proud of the brave SOC team members and other activists who were part of the performance “Naši životi postoje i izvan četiri zida” and other street actions.


Vladana Vasić, 27
Advocacy Manager

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Gender equality, human rights of women and LGBTI people
Favourite thing SOC has done so far?
I can’t really pick a favourite, but I have a soft spot for the first time we commemorated IDAHOT in 2013. We organised community events for activists and the LGBTI community in SOC, and together we made a banner to commemorate the date. We put it up on the bridge on Skenderija in the wee hours of dawn, before the clock struck 6, because we were so scared of being seen. Of course, by 9 a.m. the banner was already taken down, but the media covered the story and we managed to convey our message. This is why the “level 0 pride”, i.e. the protest walk for IDAHOT 2016 was so significant. It showed the immense progress we’d made as activists and as an organisation. It also showed how far the LGBTI community had come, since we were no longer hiding and giving in to fear. We are continuously making forward strides.


Dina Vilić
Administrative and Finance Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Leaving comments on LGBTI and feminist issues on various message boards and participating in heated online discussions J
Favourite thing SOC has done so far: The protest in front of the Government of Canton Sarajevo after the cantonal Ministry of Traffic banned the march against violence directed at LGBT people. We were all on the same page and stood there as one. I think the protest has made us stronger and more capable of carrying out bigger actions in the future.


Maida Zagorac, 25
Program Coordinator

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Political participation of women
What are the advantages and disadvantages of activist/advocacy work?
The chance to do something I love and believe in, something I live for, a chance to become the change I want to see, to help create a society without discrimination or prejudice where everyone is equal – these things are invaluable and are much more than perks that come with the job. I should also add getting to know interesting people, learning new things, working in a vibrant environment, travelling, improving professionally, doing street actions and seeing happy, smiling faces around me. Disadvantages include always fearing what comes next, the agonisingly slow pace of change, a lack of understanding from other people, worrying how things will turn out, being disappointed by failures and lack of response from the authorities. Luckily, the will and the desire to build a better society is stronger than the occasional setback. 🙂


Naida Kučukalić, 33
Former role in SOC:
LGBTI Community Outreach Coordinator
Current job?
I’m currently a freelancer. I’ve taken on work as moderator, facilitator, workshop leader, translator and author.

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Empowering individuals, LGBT persons, working on equality, combatting violence and torture, primarily against women. Whenever we stand up for those who are suffering, we stand up for ourselves as well.
What do you remember most about working in SOC?
The great energy that was created within the team and the community. It only grew stronger with each new person coming in. There was a sense of trust and people felt they were in a safe space, and could enjoy in that safety at least twice a week. The sense of togetherness, despite all our differences. We didn’t have the same needs or the same priorities, but we were in it together. We talked, argued, learned from each other, laughed, cried, and shared our most intimate stories. We left a part of ourselves there, knowing it was safe. We brought all our secret identities out into the open. We danced. Those are actually my most precious memories – the hours spent preparing events for the community and socialising with the community in the room on the ground level every other Friday. Later we would all clean up and go to a friendly cafe to continue hanging out.


Aida Spahić, 35
President of the Steering Board of SOC

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Freedom of choice and expression, anti-discrimination
Favourite thing SOC has done so far?
The Merlinka Festival because it’s a great way for members of the community to get together and get to know each other, and because it features important, empowering films. I love Merlinka.


Arijana Aganović, 33
SOC Assembly and Steering Board Member

Former role in SOC: I did all kinds of work in my three years at SOC. From being a steward when we organised the first gay & straight parties at a club formerly known as Podroom to serving as manager of the Political Participation program. The roles of ‘project coordinator’ and ‘project assistant’ meant overseeing numerous activities in the 2010-2013 period when I was actively involved in the work of the organisation. The activities were related to culture of religions, film screenings, LGBT programs, etc. Today I am a member of the Steering Board.
Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Gender equality, with a special focus on the political participation of women
What were the most important life lessons you learned while at SOC?
SOC was a watershed moment in my life because I realised that fighting for equality and a just society isn’t merely a job description, it’s a lifelong call and I try to uphold these principles whenever I can.


Elmaja Bavčić, 34
SOC Steering Board Member

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Freedom of speech and assembly, feminism and equal rights and opportunities, gender-sensitive policies
What are the advantages and disadvantages of activist/advocacy work?
Although often perceived as a marginal activity, activism is a key component of fulfilling the goals of an organisation, addressing the needs of the community and the needs of people whose rights are under attack. Our advocacy work often suffers if we aren’t visible on the streets and if we don’t create pressure through this channel. Activism is the very core of the organisation and it has helped us come this far. We’ve opted for a combination of activism and advocacy work and we will stick to it going forward.


Damir Banović, 34
President of the Assembly of SOC

Former role in SOC: A co-founder of SOC
Current job:
Senior Assistant at the School of Law in Sarajevo

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Law and social research
What were the most important life lessons you learned while at SOC?
That achieving one’s ideas and ideals is possible.


Mariña Barreiro Mariño, 32
SOC Assembly Member

Former role in SOC: Program Manager
Current job?
Right now I’m working as Head of Human Rights at OSCE Mission to BiH

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Fighting for justice and equality
What were the most important life lessons you learned while at SOC?
SOC was everything to me. I learned everything there is to know about my job: how to set daily priorities, write project proposals, raise money in order to fulfil the goals together with my co-workers. Most of all, I learned that you can’t get anywhere by yourself. You need teamwork in order to be successful. We can achieve good results only if we’re all pulling in the same direction. Oh, and most importantly – in SOC I found friends for life, people I consider my family.


Saša Gavrić, 32
SOC Assembly Member

Former role in SOC: Activist, a co-founder of SOC in 2007, executive director from 2011 to 2016
Current job?
After five interesting years of managing SOC it was time both I and the organisation made a change. Currently, I’m working as a Gender Equality Adviser at OEBS Mission to Kosovo.

Main area of activist/advocacy engagement: Institutions in charge of promoting and protecting human rights, human rights legislation, institutional mechanisms for gender equality in federal/complex political systems
What were the most important life lessons you learned while at SOC?
You can change the world, if you want. That’s what I did. But it’s also important to change yourself and to shift your focus from work to love, the people who surround you and your personal happiness.