We organised a fundraising dinner and donated the money to Remembering Srebrenica and our local Bosnian school. This fundraising dinner celebrated Bosnian women, Bosnian culture and served to raise awareness about the impact of war and conflict, on women. For this fundraising dinner, we brought together different communities and discussed issues of sexual violence, genocide and intergenerational trauma; which was delivered through a panel of all women speakers.
We used our event as a platform to campaign against violence and to celebrate the women of Bosnia, as guardians of peace, justice and equality. We began our event with a short film and spoken word piece and ended it speeches from an intersectional panel. All money raised was then donated to Remembering Srebrenica and The Manchester Bosnian School.
In January 2016 our delegation had the opportunity to visit the organisations that are working with women to heal the traumas of the Bosnia war. We also spoke with the Bosnian mothers who are fighting for justice on an international level. We wanted to organise an event that would pay tribute to these women and would also engage a diverse audience with the complex issues of war; particularly those affecting women. We felt that it was beyond important to run an event that was dedicated to women, to celebrate them but also to prevent such atrocities happening again.
Following our delegation in January, we spent several months planning and preparing for our event. We organised groups and subgroups that played to strengths of our delegates and we encouraged local community members to influence our process. We included our local Bosnian community at all levels in our decision making and we made sure that our event was representative of their thoughts and experiences.
We wanted our audience to be diverse and to range from local community members, to politicians and activists. What we did find however, is that our event attracted a lot of people who were previously unfamiliar with Bosnia and Srebrenica. This was a particularly positive outcome and some of our attendees even applied for the delegation programme.
We secured a venue almost 6 months in advance, immediately following our delegation to Bosnia. Securing a venue so far in advance meant that we were able to promote the event for longer and, we avoided clashes with other local community action events. We chose a Community Centre for our venue on the basis that it would be accessible, informal and with facilities for children and prayer. We chose this venue over a more corporate location as it enabled us to celebrate Manchester’s diverse cultural make-up. We were able to host an event with a multi-cultural audience, in a local Pakistani Community Centre, with a programme including Turkish and Persian Music. We aimed to make our event as diverse as possible, so as to reflect the values of diversity that are essential in preventing hatred and intolerance.
Our event surpassed our expectations in that it raised more money that we anticipated and it brought together different corners of the community in an extremely positive way. The quality of conversation and discussion was exceptional and I really feel this was a result of having an intersectional panel of speakers. Having an intersectional panel meant we facilitated a diverse conversation offered through different perspectives and we were able to achieve this, whilst still staying loyal to our theme of women.
Social media was a vital in our marketing and promotion strategy. We created a regional North West page in which we shared content about community action events happening across the North West and a specific event page for our Fundraising Dinner. This event page contained an Eventbrite link and a Ticketmaster link for people interested in attending. We shared constant updates regarding our progress and engaged our 20 delegates in the promotion strategy. Engaging delegates in social media promotion ensured that our reach was both wide and diverse.
We received all the help we needed in abundance and the RSI staff went above and beyond to support us throughout. I also feel that being able to create a strong connection with Remembering Srebrenica staff during our delegation to Bosnia, had a huge impact on the success of our event. Remembering Srebrenica staff were included in our social media groups and were always there to offer support and advice, which was a vital for our morale. We worked closely with RSI staff, former delegates and likeminded people throughout the process. This was a one of the main reasons our event was so successful.
The best advice I could give to any delegates or volunteers wishing to organise event, would be to form groups and partnerships with likeminded people initially. The success of our event was in part due to the fact we formed a diverse group that could share responsibilities. This also meant that we increased the amount of creative ideas and skills that made our event a success. We were able to delegate tasks when the workload was increased and to share responsibility amongst us. Organising an event as an individual can be quite intimidating and stressful, sharing this responsibility ensures that the process is both successful and enjoyable.
We feel that one of the most successful elements was how we were able to engage with our Bosnian community and to offer them space for reflection and memorial. One of the Bosnian women cried and told us that ‘no-one had ever done this for her community before’, this was the most successful part of the event for me, personally.
I take massive pride in how we were able to educate and inform people. Although we had quite traditional method of communication, we interspersed this with music and poetry. Not only did we educate people with a general overview of the war, we used art and music to explore sensitive issues in a more creative way. Diversifying our method of communication meant that we increased our impact and audience significantly.
Furthermore, by giving a platform to women particularly, we were able to break the silence that contributes to systemic oppression and sexual violence.
I wanted to honour the women of Bosnia, I wanted to pay tribute to them as sister and I wanted to campaign to end sexual violence in all areas of society. Attending an all women’s delegation was an incredible experience and changed my perspective on so many different things. It felt natural and important to organise and event that payed tribute to them.
My skills delegating and organising community action have been massively improved as a result of this event and through my overall experience with Remembering Srebrenica. Furthermore, my confidence in dealing with issues of a sensitive or complex nature has been improved and I now believe I possess a more specialist set of skills. I was honoured to be asked to host this event and that was a huge task for me. It required me to challenge and push myself into something I may have previously avoided and now means that I am more comfortable in public speaking. In addition, on a personal level, I really feel that I am blessed to be involved with Remembering Srebrenica and I am a more humble, kind and understanding person as a result.
Main Organisers: Aisha Mirza and Katie Parker
Reflections from Katie Parker