We are honored to announce that Emina Bošnjak, the Executive Director of SOC, is one of the 12 winners of the New Executives Fund grant that is assigned by the Open Society Foundations, and that is meant to support new leaders of the non-profit organisations all over the world, from Malawi to Brazil. From 15 to 17 November she participated in the two-day event in London that was dedicated to this year’s winners’ mutual acquaintance, and to mutual counseling and learning. Now, in front of her is the period in which she will implement a set of activities, in order to translate the vision of the organisation into reality.
The winners of the award are organisation with a broad spectrum that are focused on open social issues, like the human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers, education, health care, independent journalism/media, strengthening the rule of law and democratic culture etc.
In the following lines, we bring you the short interview with Emina and her overview of the importance of this award.
For starters, what does it mean to you to win this award, in the context of the work you have been doing for many years now in the field of human rights, through Sarajevo Open Centre, as well as in a wider activist sense, and to be among these great organisations and people who also received the grant?
It is a great honor to be in this exceptional and diverse group of new directors from all over the world who do inspirational work and achieve remarkable results! I have to say that it is a special kind of recognition and opportunity, so I would like to thank the BiH Open Society Fund for being nominated for this grant. The Grant recognizes the fact that being a new director is not an easy job, and that it includes leading through changes, establishing new relations, and many other challenges. The now leaving president of OSF, Chris Stone, has established this program knowing what it means to be in this position and how aid in the form of discretionary funds, including the small ones, can provide space for maneuver where the new directors can manage the new role faster and easier, and build the space for their vision and leading the organisation. It was interesting to hear that the challenges other executive directors face are the same as the ones I face in my work, and that nothing is unsolvable even though it might seem like that.
Can you, in short, describe how and on what will these funds be spent, in the context of the organisation’s further work on promotion and protection of human rights, and social inclusion of LGBTI persons and women?
This grant will be used for achieving many goals, however its flexibility leaves the possibility to react on potential unexpected situations related to human rights of LGBTI persons and women. Initially, it was planned to use the grant to help with expanding the work with the LGBTI community through the activities and services that require multiple funds, and that are very important to us in our strategic work on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and to explore the possibilities of transition from psycho-social to social-economic support, as well as from violence and discrimination issues to the social inclusion of the LGBTI community. We will have the chance to research and conduct systematic programs of empowering, inclusion and mobilization of LGBTI community and the people who support us. One of the very good sides of this grant is that it will give us the chance to map and create new possibilities of lending funds for the further work of the organization, which, with the relatively small amount of financial support through this grant, can provide the long-term stability for the organization.
Having in mind that, in summer 2016, you took over the position of director of Sarajevo Open Centre, it would be interesting to hear how you are dealing with this kind of responsibility so far, and what does it mean to you to lead an organization this big, whose part you have been for a longer period of time; what are the challenges, advantages and disadvantages?
I am still learning and I will probably be learning as long as I am holding this position. It is a great challenge to lead and motivate a team this big, and at the same time keep the level of quality, professionalism and innovation that Sarajevo Open Centre is known for. The additional layer of complexity is in the fact that we have two programs that, though connected, still require a high level of knowledge of two areas: women’s rights and gender equality, human rights of LGBTI persons. When we add to it the process of BiH EU Integration, that we use as a prism to look into these two programs, then everything gets additionally complex. However, it is an incredible feeling when you see the changes happening around you, even the small ones, how people and the environment are changing thanks to our work, and on the horizon you see better, more inclusive and equal BH society. We hope that we will remain strong on our path towards that goal.