“March of Peace” in Srebrenica, Bosnia Herzegovina
By Therese Hartwell, the former President of the American Women’s Group of Eastern Province, Saudia Arabia, and current member of FAWCO’s Ending Violence Against Women Task Force.
Download entire March of Peace article here
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself in the middle of a war, trying to escape with your life? How would you react? How would the experience affect you? In July 2012, I had the extraordinary opportunity to taste, on a very limited basis, just such an experience. In July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in and around the town of Srebrenica were killed over a several day span. The genocide marked the largest mass murder committed in Europe since World War II, and remains from the massacre are still being located today. I had the honor of participating in the annual “March of Peace”, a 3-day, 120 km route through Bosnia and Herzegovina to Srebrenica, which commemorates victims of the 1995 genocide. The march, now in its eighth year, takes the exact route followed by the refugees of the war as they tried to escape the massacre and over the years has attracted thousands of participants from all over the world. I participated with a fundraising team from Women for Women International, an organization whose mission is to serve women survivors of war. I decided to join the march because it was a unique way for me to continue my support for Women for Women and because I wanted to challenge myself physically and emotionally.
Given the nature of this experience one might think that I came away from it depressed and hopeless, but the truth is just the opposite. On the day of the commemorative ceremony, our group visited two women who have participated in the Women for Women program in Srebrenica. Each of them had lost their husbands and all three of their sons. While they were clearly sad on this day of remembering, they were incredibly grateful that we had come to share the time with them and are still living life with a sense of hope and abundance—an inspiration to us all. What a life altering experience these three days were for all of us who participated!
If you would like to learn more about the work of Women for Women International, or want to consider participating in the March of Peace in 2013, visit their website at www.womenforwomen.org, and join FAWCO’s participation in WfWI’s Join Me at the Bridge campaign on March 8 at the conference in Bern or through individual club activities.