Empowering people with disabilities in Bosnia and HerzegovinaPublished: Feb 11, 2022 Reading time: 3 minutes
25-year-old Nejra Halilović loves her job. She speaks to us while carefully preparing cappuccinos in a coffee shop established as a social enterprise by SUMERO, a local NGO, in the suburbs of Sarajevo.
Halilović says, “I’ve been working at this coffee shop for two years now, to help me prepare for finding a job in the open labour market. It is not my first job, I have some work experience from before, but this is a job that I love and I do it lovingly.”
As part of the “My Work – Economic Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities” project, funded by the Czech Development Agency, People in Need (PIN), together with regional partners ProReha, SUMERO, and Nešto Više, is working to empower people like Halilović to help them find employment.
To this end, PIN is training employment counsellors in eight cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on how to support people with disabilities during their job search, assist them with preparing for work, and help them perform their work until they can do it independently. At the moment, the project is helping 13 beneficiaries acquire valuable work experience that will increase their chances of employment on the open labour market.
In addition to equipping the beneficiaries with the skills and knowledge they need to find employment and perform their work well, PIN seeks to take advantage of their personal preferences and talents. Halilović, for instance, is very friendly and outgoing. “I love talking to the people who come into the coffee shop: I have a morning coffee with them, we have many topics to discuss. And I am happy that I can serve them and that they like my coffee,” she says.
And as she lives in subsidised housing and doesn’t pay rent, Halilović benefits from a financial freedom that is only a dream for many people with disabilities: “I spend my pay check mostly on clothing for myself, and sneakers or boots, depending on the weather,” she explains.
As part of the project, companies are also being encouraged to provide internships and employment for persons with disabilities, while receiving support with adapting their workplaces to provide a safe and supportive working environment for their new employees. Sanja Lepić, PIN Project Manager, says: “We must change the paradigm so that employers recognise the benefits of employing persons with disabilities, an untapped labour source. That is why we also work with potential employers.”
PIN has a long history of working with people with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Together with our local partners and authorities, we have been working to change the system of care for people with disabilities throughout the country. By supporting the process of deinstitutionalisation and promoting independent living services, PIN aims to provide more dignified conditions for people with disabilities so they can live, work, and socialise freely, and retain greater control over their lives. PIN also runs awareness-raising campaigns that involve self-advocates and youth helping to combat discrimination and prejudice against people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.