FACT SHEET: Marginalized Populations Support Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Speeches Shim

Project Snapshot
Total Funding: $3.4 million
Project Duration: February 2015 – February 2020
Implementing Partner: Institute for Youth Development KULT (a local organization)

The Challenge

While the international community has long supported activities that facilitate inclusion of marginalized populations in civic and political decision-making in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), these groups are often overlooked or ignored by the BiH Government. As a result, many citizens – youth, women, religious minorities, Romani, disabled persons, minority returnees and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons – remain unheard and excluded from mainstream social, cultural, economic and political life.

Youth are disaffected. Romani, largely disenfranchised, are excluded from decision-making processes, while most cannot get the skills or training they need to join the labor market. Persons with disabilities are marginalized from early childhood. Many are institutionalized and lack access to basic education in mainstream schools. BiH society continues to abhor the idea of homosexuality and most institutions ignore discrimination or violent acts against LGBTI persons. In fear for their physical safety, most of them stay hidden from the public sphere, and, as a result, LGBTI activism is weak.

Women’s participation in political and public life is extremely low. Women in BiH earn less income than men, their unemployment rate is higher, they rarely own or manage a business, and they are frequently pushed to the margins of society. The situation is worse in rural areas, where women are mostly marginalized, excluded from social life and denied opportunities for personal development.


Our Program

Launched in February 2015, USAID’s Marginalized Populations Support Program supports activities of local organizations that advocate for the rights, empowerment and dignity of underrepresented groups of BiH society, and builds the capacity of local NGOs, BiH institutions and USAID implementing partners to do so. Providing underrepresented groups with opportunities to participate in civic and political issues, through their engagement in civil society organizations, will ensure that the government recognizes them as necessary and respectable partners in policy development. 

USAID’s implementing partner for this five-year $3.4 million project is Institute for Youth Development KULT.


Implementation and Results

The program provides grants to local organizations that promote the rights and dignity of marginalized populations and to enhance their performance and management capacity through formal classroom training, mentorship and one-on-one coaching. Training topics include legal structures, financial management, human resources, internal control systems, project performance management, procurement systems, organizational sustainability, and monitoring and evaluation. The program also builds the capacity of USAID partners, institutions and government leaders to promote and protect the rights of these underrepresented citizens. A component of the program is designed to respond flexibly and swiftly to public demand for humanitarian and other material assistance. 

By the end of the project’s life, the activity will:

  • Strengthen the performance of at least 40 BiH NGOs and other organizations, including associations, civil society organizations, BiH institutions, and small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • Enhance the performance and management capacity of at least 75 USAID local partners through group trainings; and
  • Build the expertise of at least 75 BiH government leaders of municipalities and ministries collaborating with USAID.


USAID has helped BiH women move from the margins of society into the world of entrepreneurship. Vesna can afford her children’s school expenses thanks to money she earns gathering and selling herbs in Kalinovik. Sanela provides high-quality schooling in Teslić and employs six of her fellow citizens. Sanja is healing hearts at her own counseling center in Konjic.

Vesna, Sanela and Sanja are just three of the 100 women who received support from USAID to launch and grow their own businesses. There’s also the story of Dragana, the only female artisan making wooden tool handles in BiH. The story of Sanja, whose autistic son Slavko can now work by her side on their raspberry farm. And the story of Irma, who was given a chance and now pays it forward by employing persons with disabilities at her tea boutique in Visoko.

USAID wanted to offer women on the margins a lifeline, but through both concrete and systemic support. It laid the groundwork by creating a special fund to access their untapped potential and encourage them to launch their own business and help themselves, their families and their community – all in partnership with local authorities, to ensure a sustainable system of support.

Grants were awarded to 100 women from nine local communities – Visoko, Livno, Tešanj, Prijedor, Teslić, Kalinovik, Rudo, Konjic and Zvornik – 50 percent provided by USAID and 50 percent by the nine municipalities where the businesses were launched, for combined assistance of 680,000 Bosnian convertible marks ($430,000).

The grants yielded results. Today we are able to tell the stories of 100 successful BiH women*, women who jumped at the chance to create profitable, independent lives for themselves and showed everyone – including themselves – that they could do it. The money they earn is an important contribution – sometimes the only contribution – to their household budgets.

USAID's support to marginalized women is a story about opportunities, systemic support, social inclusion, hope and success. It’s a story of lives improved and restored faith in the future.

*Several of these stories of success can be viewed on the USAID/Bosnia and Herzegovina web page at: www.usaid.gov/bosnia/results/transforming-lives.