Helping people with disabilities find paid employment in Bosnia and HerzegovinaPublished: Dec 10, 2021 Reading time: 3 minutes
Kerim from Bosnia and Herzegovina was born with an intellectual disability, which made finding a paid job challenging. But he was lucky. 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, is working to empower people like Kerim to be competitive in the open labour market.
The project aims to improve economic opportunities for persons with disabilities (PwDs) in eight cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina by helping them find paid work. Trained employment counselors provide support to PwDs during their job search, and they assist them with job preparation as well as with performing their work until they can do it independently. Having their own source of income is very empowering for Kerim and his friends, but for many people with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, paid employment is an unattainable dream.
During a recent interview at his job, a social enterprise called Greens run by the organisation ProReha, Kerim was busy planting basil. He said that he is grateful to work at Greens, which produces vegetables, spices, and edible flowers.
Kerim has been employed for six years. “I arrive at work, I finish my tasks. I water the plants, and give them my attention and love. Hasa, Nadja, and I discuss what needs to be done,” Kerim says. Nadja Smaić is an employment counselor who helps people like Kerim find and retain paid employment. She says: “I once spoke to an employer about hiring a person with a disability, who literally told me: ‘we don’t need another child’. Employers feel that they have to spend more time overseeing people with disabilities,which is something they don’t want to do. But this is not correct. As you can see from our example – it is not true,” Smaić explains.
Sanja Lepić, PIN Project Manager, says: “Our idea is not only to equip the PwDs with the skills and knowledge needed to find employment and perform their work, but we want to take into account their preferences and talents.”
“We must change the paradigm so that employers recognise the benefits of employing PwDs, who represent an untapped labour resource. That is why we also work with potential employers,” Lepić explains.
Companies are encouraged to provide internships and employment for persons with disabilities, while being empowered to adapt their workplaces to provide a safe and supportive working environment for their new employees.
Lepić notes that: “The internship program has proven to be the best way to connect employers and PwDs. We have had 13 beneficiaries who acquired valuable work experience that helped them land work contracts or increased their chances of employment in the open labour market.”
Research done as part of the project has shown that Bosnia and Herzegovina has not yet systematically tackled the issue of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market. Employment of PwDs is not seen as an investment in the economic empowerment of the economy and the citizens, but rather as charity.
“Employment is critical for the true inclusion of persons with disabilities in a society,” says Lepić, adding that “we need to learn to see them as equal and valued members of our communities and ensure that they have all of the same rights as everyone else.”
PIN has a long history of working with people with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Together with 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 social conditions for people with disabilities so they can live, work, and socialise freely in their communities, and retain greater control over their lives. PIN also runs awareness-raising campaigns in order to combat discrimination and prejudice against people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.