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06. December 2005

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Austria/Bosnia and Herzegovina - Swanee Hunt and the Voices from the Women of Bosnia

“If we could live together 50 years, why cant we now? No matter how bad the shelling was, even though we were Serbs and the shelling was by Serbs , we didn’t go pressured. What happened here was never about ethnicity or religion. That’s a fake excuse used by the politicians who started the war. I asked myself, ‘what happened?’ Bosnians are good people. But we had no democratic tradition and weren’t taught to think independently. So when some idiots came along, they could manipulate the population. Masses are just stupid. Hitler was a genius at manipulating crowds. Many of these crazy politicians were psychiatrists so they probably knew how to sway people. The media campaign was in small bits. We didn’t see the whole picture.”
Alenka Savic talking to Swanee Hunt, author of “This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming Peace”.

Former US Ambassador to Austria, Hon. Swanee Hunt, was in Vienna earlier this month to promote her book, “This Was Not Our War.: Bosnian Women Reclaiming Peace”.
Hunt spent four years in Vienna and in her capacity as Ambassador, she extended her energies to the neighboring Balkan states, hosting negotiations and several international symposia to focus efforts on securing the peace.

Hunt has reached out to women across Eastern Europe, bringing groups of women leaders to Vienna, and making dozens of trips throughout the region. She became a specialist in the role of women in post-communist Europe, culminating in an article in the journal Foreign Affairs; the July 1997 “Vital Voices: Women in Democracy.”

A labor of love, Swanee Hunt’s books is borne out of her desire to have the voices of the women of Balkans heard. It boasts of a rich range and mix of women’s accounts after the war in former Yugoslavia and their efforts to heal the scarred and divided country.

The following are excerpts taken from her talk during the book launch in Vienna on November 3rd:

What I have done is to bring to the world the voices of the women in Bosnia. Not as victims. I was able to gather 26 women. Actually, I did not gather them together. I went to them or talked to them separately.
They are as different as I could find. There is a 60 year spread between them. There is a Muslim, Croat, Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, Atheist. They live in very different parts of the country. Their wealth ranges from royalty, jewels to a few chickens. And my goal was to have them talk about what they were doing after the war, to try to reconcile. I interviewed this women each for about four-five hours over a course of several years and I took apart of what they said and look for themes. And the book is organized around the themes.

I want to say that I am not talking about all women and neither is Alenka or Maja. And I am not talking about all men. I mean, there are great, great men who are not warriors. But we are talking about groups and there is plenty of social science research that talks about women being more collaborative in their style and wanting to connect more. And I think that comes into play in times likes this. Women tend toward relationships. We are very good at building relationships. Women are much more stronger when they are supported by a group. It is so important. And men tend to be able to advance themselves, pick a goal, shoot forward much more independently.

I don’t know if it is hormonal. I don’t know if it is all socialized. I don’t know if it is brain-wiring. And frankly, I don’t care.

You better be careful who you to make the peace treaty. Because if the only people you bring around the people are the warriors, you are not bringing people who have credentials in making peace. You are bringing people who have only proven that they can kill people.

For the women showcased in this book, this was not their war. But Hunt insists that is precisely why they should shape the peace.


Swanee Hunt's book "This Was Not Our War" can be ordered for € 20 through the Women without Borders office. If interested, please send an email to office@women-without-borders.org

 
 

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