MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

         Gender Mainstreaming in Practice

The process of mainstreaming gender equality in all spheres of social life in BiH requires, above all, actions raising awareness and knowledge about the causes and consequences of gender discrimination. General examples of gender inequality are most evident with regard to participation of women in public and political life reflecting their position in society, their position in the labour market and increased violence against women, including domestic violence. Progress in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in BiH was brought about by the Law on Gender Equality in BiH (2003) and the establishment of the Gender Equality Agency of BiH, Gender Centres at the entity level as well as other gender institutional mechanisms at state, entity, cantonal, city and municipal level. The BiH Council of Ministers adopted a Gender Action Plan of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2006. In 2010 the Funding Mechanism for Implementation of the Gender Action Plan (FIGAP) became operational and in the same year BiH became the first country in the Western Balkans to adopt the Action Plan on Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security (2010 – 2013).


In BiH the level of participation of boys and girls in primary and secondary education is almost equal, while female students outnumber their male counterparts when it comes to enrolment and graduation from institutions of higher education. For the school year 2012/2013 the registered number of students attending higher education was 102,357, of which 56,420 were female students (55.12%). In 2012 in total 18,279 students graduated, out of which 11,037 were female (60.4%). While females in the country have continuously outperformed their male counterparts in terms of higher education for a couple of decades this advantage is not reflected in the situation of women in the field of work and employment.

Work and Employment

Emina Merdžić, a widow returnee to Srebrenica. Growing strawberries is one of her means of ensuring self-sustainability. Her house was reconstructed under UNDP’s Srebrenica Region Recovery Programme.Emina Merdžić, a widow returnee to Srebrenica. Growing strawberries is one of her means of ensuring self-sustainability.

Men continue to outnumber women in the employed population. Women in the age group 16-64 accounted for only 32.8% of the active labour force in BiH in 2011, which was the lowest level of representation of women in the labour market in South East Europe. Labour market analysis shows that there are typical male and typical female professions and indicates the presence of a slight gender gap in wage levels in the private sector, where males have slightly higher wages than women.

Discrimination is also visible in the fact that the rights of women to maternity leave has been regulated differently in different parts of BiH (cantons and entities) as well as the fact that maternity leave is not always paid and that some women are left jobless after becoming pregnant. These issues need to be addressed through implementation of the current laws in combination with increased monitoring of the Law’s enforcement.

Participation in Political and Public Life

The percentage of women in legislative and executive authorities at all levels remains unsatisfactory, although the situation is much more favourable than in 1996 when the percentage of women in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina was only 2%. In 2011, only 19% of women were represented in the Parliament of BiH, 21.4% in the House of Representatives of BiH and 13.3% in the House of the Peoples of BiH. In the 2008 elections the electorate included 49% women and 51% men; registered candidates consisted of 64.8% of men and 35.2% of women, whereas among the elected officials 85% were men and only 15% were women. The percentage of women elected as mayors was the lowest, at only 2.86%. In 2011 out of 58 positions there were only 9 (15.5%) female ambassadors and general consuls in the diplomatic/consular offices of BiH. Within the judiciary of Bosnia and Herzegovina it is evident that women outnumber men amongst court personnel. The percentage for women ranged from 43.1% in the Court of BiH, to 67.5% in the municipal courts. Meanwhile, the total percentage of female police officers in 2009 amounted to only 6.3%.

Social Exclusion

The position of Roma women and girls in BiH society is extremely difficult. About 90% of Roma women have no access to healthcare, social protection or employment. The Alternative CEDAW report for 2010 quoted a nationwide survey that showed that almost 82% of Roma women were unemployed, 9% were working in the informal sector and 7% were begging for survival. In the public sector very few Roma (2-3%) were employed. A UNDP study states that nearly 80% of Roma women do not even complete primary education and only 4.5% of Roma women complete secondary education, compared with 9.2% of Roma men. The fact that the literacy rates of Roma women are consistently lower than those of Roma men is of particular concern, since the wellbeing of the family and especially of children is closely related to the level of education of the mother. 

Women with disabilities face daily discrimination, both as women and as persons with disabilities. They often lack adequate health care, access to services and are often socially isolated. The document “Disability Policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina” was adopted by the Council of Ministers of BiH in 2008. This document contains principles enabling entity authorities to make improvements in the area of rights of persons with disabilities, with special emphasis on women with disabilities. The most severe and most common forms of violating the rights of persons with disability in Bosnia and Herzegovina are found in the fields of social protection, health, education, rights of access to information, labour and employment and in the field of organised action of people with disability. Even where laws exist to regulate this area there is an evident record of discrimination in practice. 

Female-headed households make up almost one third of the total number of internally displaced persons in BiH. Currently 7,500 people are located in collective centres and are often subject to multiple insecurities relating to their physical and mental health, their age and the absence of a basic livelihood or family support, and their inability to return for reasons of personal security. During 2008 and 2009, UNHCR coordinated activities of relevant government institutions and international organizations in support of a number of women - internally displaced persons - who are also civilian victims of war or who have suffered sexual violence during the war, in providing them permanent and appropriate residence, and to improve their overall quality of life through various forms of assistance.

Domestic Violence

Back in 2002, a Modriča-based NGO “Buducnost” established a safe house aiming to provide safe havens for women who have experienced genderbased violence. The young woman in the photograph is just one of almost one hundred young women who will pass through this safe house this year alone. UNFPA and UNICEF cooperate on a joint project on gender-based violence and child abuse, supporting the provision of assistance for women and children victims of violence.A young woman who is the resident of safe house aimed to provide safe havens for women who have experienced genderbased violence.

Recent studies indicate that domestic violence in BiH is directed against women and children five times more than against men. Yet, it is very difficult to determine the precise extent of domestic violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The key reasons for this are primarily the hidden nature of the problem, the failure to report cases of domestic violence, the lack of uniform statistical records and the treatment of domestic violence as a purely "private problem".

In order to address this issue UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF have pooled funds allocation from FIGAP with the BiH Gender Equality Agency and undertaken the first Prevalence Survey on Gender Based Violence in BiH. According to the research findings, more than half of the women surveyed (47.2% in BiH, 47.2% in the FBiH and 47.3% in RS) had experienced at least one form of violence since the age of 15. One important research finding is that many women omit to recognise violence. There is a general lack of awareness of the different forms of violence as well as recognition of personal experiences of violence. 

A particular protective measure for victims of domestic violence is placement in a safe house. There are nine shelters currently existing on the territory of BiH. International organizations and UN agencies have supported and still support the work of these shelters, while their funding by government institutions is also improving each year. An example of this is the introduction of legal obligations in Republika Srpska to fund shelters from the RS budget (70%) and from the budgets of local communities (30%). Further progress in this regard is expected from amendments to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence in the Federation of BiH.

Trafficking in Human Beings

In the aftermath of war BiH is for the first time faced with the problem of trafficking in human beings and is considered both as a source and transit country for Western Europe and a destination for the victims from Central and Eastern Europe. A series of legal, administrative and operational measures have been taken to address this problem. According to the Report on Trafficking in Human Beings for 2010, 60 victims were identified in 2010, 19 more than in 2007. Of this number 52 were citizens of BiH, while four were from the Ukraine and another four from Serbia.

In response to the increasing number of domestic victims, the BiH has established legal and administrative measures to deal with victims and provide them with the necessary rehabilitation and assistance for reintegration into society. This includes a fund within the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of BiH to help the victims of trafficking in human beings. The fund is financed by BiH and international donors as are regional monitoring teams to ensure that the standards of care conform to the legal standards applied to the handling of cases of human trafficking. In 2009 BiH adopted an amendment to the Criminal Code determining a minimum sentence of three years of imprisonment for trafficking in human beings. Although BiH authorities investigate and processes cases there have been only three convictions in the last 10 years, which points to the pressing need to strengthen the links between the judiciary and the police.