Dzeneta Agovic

IMPULS (Serbia)

The population of Serbia is around 7.5 million. Bosniaks account for 2% of that figure. They live predominantly in the region of Sandzak, where they make up the majority. Sandzak  borders upon Kosovo, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Montenegro, encompassing six cities. One of those cities is Tutin, where we have a women’s group called Impuls. Since the year 2000, in the aftermath of post-Yugoslav wars and lagging economy, radical Islamic tendencies have been present in the area of Sandzak, leading to a rapid rise of religious fundamentalism, which has permeated all spheres of life, altering radically the lives of the women, while the lives of the men have remained basically unchanged. These changes refer to imposed dress codes, restrictions on their reproductive rights, freedom of movement, sources of joy, decisions about themselves …Women no longer have full access to health services, education and the labor market, while religious leaders turn into political leaders, financed by central religious institutions. The community has remained silent in the face of these developments. Some individuals, such as our group’s activists – who have a different outlook – constitute a minority and have no space the public sphere. Our group Impuls is one of the rare feminist groups in Sandzak, trying to empower girls and women through workshops, panel discussions, public actions, etc. Over the past few years, we have also been providing relief and support to migrants in the two centers that have been established in our community. In a social environment invaded by Islamic fundamentalism and clerical fascism, new needs arise for engagement in the local community so as to open up new spaces, as feminists and activists.

And finally, we take pride in the Festival of Women’s Friendship, our sisterhood festival that we have been organizing for five consecutive years. It is a festival bringing together more than 50 women from Serbia and neighboring countries, celebrating feminism, sisterhood and women’s solidarity, overcoming borders, retrograde tendencies, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and strengthening the women’s movement in the whole region.

My inspiration is feminism and solidarity at work, and the fact that there are women, in our closed and demanding community, with whom I share the same ideals. In the course of my feminist struggle, as a medical worker, I have an insight into the deteriorating position of women in our community. On the other hand, through my activism, I have established ties with women throughout the world and no longer feel alone in my pursuit for sisterhood on both the local and the global level. I truly believe that a different world is possible.