In 2004, a group of feminist activists came together with the goal of educating and empowering Bosnian Herzegovinian citizens to embrace diversity and end gender-based violence. These were the seeds of CURE Foundation, an organization that has since earned the reputation of being one of the most visible non-profit human rights groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Energy, enthusiasm and passion for women’s empowerment are embodied in everything CURE does. Even their name, pronounced TSOO-reh in local languages, is an informal expression used throughout the Balkans to describe assertive and sometimes sassy young women.
Challenging issues remain abundant in a country where over 100,000 people were killed and millions were displaced through ethnic cleansing, war rape and genocide from 1992-1995. The war and resulting political, economic, and social upheaval paved the way for conservative and nationalistic attitudes to prevail, which have gravely impacted women in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, violence against women is widespread and under-reported, as is the trafficking of women and girls. Women are underrepresented in politics and tend to be excluded from decision-making; they occupy only 14 percent of seats in parliament.
“Our focus is on celebrating the strength and power of all women, and on empowering women to be a force that impacts positive social change in the society.”
Aware of the lack of public spaces for women and the advancement of their rights, in 2004 CURE organized a series of educational and artistic public events during the global campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Since then, CURE has annually been the national organizer of 16 Days for Bosnia and Herzegovina, playing a central role in making visible and strengthening the women’s movement and building an engaged civil society committed to women’s rights.
CURE also organizes PitchWise – Festival of Women Arts BiH, an annual festival of women’s art and activism. Now in its sixth year, the festival brings together artists and activists across generations to showcase hundreds of videos, sculptures, writing, poetry, music, paintings and performance arts. Artist-activists have a powerful role to play in advancing women’s rights in the public sphere, as CURE notes: “Through their unique artistic expressions, each woman artist and activist questions, transforms and deconstructs social issues, relations, identities and circumstances in her community.”
Through arts, politics and activism, CURE Foundation is helping to make women a strong force for social change and an active and engaged part of BiH civil society. CURE now has its sights on opening a Multimedia Educational Resource Center for women and girls, where the work of women and feminist groups from across the country and the region “will come together in one meeting place, to become an educational and inspirational model of learning and growth of the feminist community.”