Last week Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb military chief General, was convicted during a UN tribunal of genocide and other war crimes committed against Muslims and Croats in the 1990s. Since 2013, six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders have been sentenced to a total of 111 years in prison for expelling and murdering Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 war, according to a recent report from Al Jezera. While this act of justice offers inspiration and hope for a better future, those living in a post-war society continue to face adversity and uncertainty.
Freedom of media is facing intimidation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is under political deadlock as a result of the Bosnian constitution that developed from the Dayton Peace Accords, an agreement that ended the last war. Giving cameras to young adults is an empowering act that can lead to moments of great opportunity.
Project 1948 is an American-based NGO with an international focus in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The NGO aims to influence young adults by providing them with a camera and a voice, which is practical, insightful, and even necessary in the fight to influence policy-change. Photography can provide a voice to society’s most marginalized and vulnerable, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this includes members of the country’s youth population. However, the Bosnian government, with its tripartite presidency, has failed to recognize the importance of listening to the voices of the young.
Together, Photographers Without Borders and Project 1948 set out to document the “Cup of Peace” photo-voice program through photography and videography. In May 2016, Photographers Without Borders Founder, Danielle Da Silva, travelled with videographer Jeff Garriock and photographer Mel Hattie to experience what both organizations share: the power of photography. The team explored the honest and hidden lives of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia now recognized as the independent country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Founder, Jenifer White, Ph.D., explains Project 1948’s role in participatory photography and using the human voice as a platform for social action and policy-change. Her role includes facilitating a global team of photographers, writers, and human rights enthusiasts. She aims to influence the international community by promoting intercultural dialogue; collectively empowering young adults through photography to begin a conversation with policy- makers; and by raising awareness of the “Cup of Peace” photo-voice program globally.
Project 1948 embodies peace, justice, and strong institutions by employing a two-part model: 1) displaying the visual language of photography while highlighting human rights concerns and; 2) catalyzing policy-change through youth capacity building. Social inclusion is the cornerstone of this non-profit organization’s approach. Engagement with the arts can propel young adults to become community leaders, effectuate change, and strengthen their institutional representation.
The organization takes an innovative approach to achieving sustainable peace and empowers young adults to begin an international dialogue in order to hold officials and institutions accountable at all levels of government.
While on assignment for Project 1948, Hattie marched with the LGBTQI community in a human rights demonstration on May 17, 2016--the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. It was during this march when she learned more about the Sarajevo Open Centre—a group with a solid foundation, hope, and a common cause—and their successes in overcoming instances of hate. She found similar patterns of support and activism during her interactions with the young adults participating in the “Cup of Peace” photo-voice project.
“Many of the “Cup of Peace” photo-voice participants were young adults around my age. They had amazing dreams, perspectives, and insights regarding their country. Thank goodness because they taught me so much. And they were so generous with their time. People were always stopping to have a coffee. It’s the Bosnian way. If anything, I’m most grateful for the new friendships made while shooting for Project 1948. I hope to continue my support in the fight for human rights that can lead to the fulfillment of young dreams for their country” says Hattie.
On July 13, 2016--the House of People from the BiH Parliamentary Assembly adopted amendments to provide explicit protection for the LGBTQI community. These legal amendments were the direct result of supportive LGBTQI groups and organizations presenting human rights concerns.
To learn more about Project 1948, watch our latest episode of PWB TV on Youtube, and click here to help supply more cameras to Bosnian youth.
This article was first published in PWB Magazine Issue #8, with edits made by Jennie Pearson.