Excelling in Diversity: What happened behind the scene?

Excelling in Diversity: What happened behind the scene?

The desk research has shown that the solid body of legislation addressing anti-discrimination and equality in BiH that resembles EU law in many regards is only partly effective. Reasons include generally weak labour market institutions (e.g. labour courts), high unemployment and an overall atmosphere marked by the ethnic and social division. 

This is a moment to use the opportunity to reset the BiH business sector’s approach to diversity and inclusion, and gives enough elbow room to introduce new approaches, procedures and practices that will be both effective and beneficial for the businesses, bringing prosperity and advancement to our economy as well as for different vulnerable social groups, creating a single unique encompassing approach to social inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s business community, and saving resources and time in tackling the issues of inclusion and diversity  women, LGBTI people, Roma people and people with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This is to be done by introducing the diversity and inclusion certification process, which will serve as a starting point for the business to examine where do they stand in terms of diversity and what needs to be corrected or improved in this regard, but also as an ending point/goal in reaching the optimal conditions for securing that diversity and inclusion practices are accommodated into their everyday work, with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of marginalized groups such as women, persons with disabilities, LGBTI persons and Roma people.

Behind the Excelling in Diversity certification process are the organizations that make up the D&I coalition, which through working with various marginalized groups have gained insight into the problem they face in employment and work in general.

The Sarajevo Open Centre, a coalition-coordinating organization, has been working to advocate for the rights of LGBTI people and women for more than 10 years. SOC also promotes the human rights of LGBTI people and women publicly and advocates at the national, European, and international level for improved legislation and policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By working on European integration issues, SOC is improving human rights in general and encouraging further development of civil society.

“It is extremely important to stop discriminating against certain groups in society when hiring, but also when staying at work. We need to strive for equality for all citizens and turn our differences into strengths. Therefore, for raising awareness, but also a step forward towards the values ​​that the EU family of countries nurtures, domestic companies and institutions that provide equal conditions for work and employment to marginalized groups of society, just like those who are not, are crucial” says Aida Malkić, SOC program manager.

The Association of Citizens for the Promotion of Roma Education “Otaharin” was formed in early 2005 by parents of Roma students and other citizens interested in Roma education in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Working on the issue of education, they noticed that the support they provide to Roma children to facilitate their access to education is only one step on the path to the inclusion of Roma men and women of all ages. “Working with the community and constant presence in the community has resulted in a high degree of trust of the Roma community towards Otaharin, provided us with a clear insight into all obstacles and problems that Roma men and women face on the path to full social inclusion.” With this in mind, we have strategically decided to implement interventions that will be aimed at anti-Gypsyism, as the main cause of marginalization and discrimination of Roma men and women, but also the consequences of marginalization that are mostly reflected in education, housing, health care and employment of Roma and Roma women and thus for the first time in BiH established an integrative inclusion program. When asked about the importance of certification for Roma men and women, they answered: “One of the burning problems faced by Roma men and women is the low employment rate. Discrimination in the field of employment is very pronounced and is often deepened by potential employers, without existing support projects having very limited scope and results. The transition from education to labor markets for young Roma Roma women is also very difficult. The certification process will provide an opportunity to identify and highlight employers who are willing to take part in social responsibility and actively support the fair inclusion of Roma men and women, as well as other marginalized groups, in the labor market. We hope that these positive examples will serve as a beacon for others to integrate the principles of social responsibility into their business and become active participants in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”

Foundation 787 is a non-governmental, non-profit and apolitical organization, founded in August 2014 to change and improve the position of women and youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The primary mission of the Foundation is the economic empowerment of target groups through education and mentoring, as well as providing support in the development of their entrepreneurial ideas.

Through their work with entrepreneurs, they realized that position Women in the labor market are not satisfactory.

“Inclusion and diversity are topics that, unfortunately, are just entering the labor market in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through many years of work with women entrepreneurs, we have realized that, although there is progress, the position of women in the labor market is still below the level of satisfaction. There are many challenges that members of marginalized groups face daily, which greatly limit their opportunities for progress and further development. We consider it necessary to point out these challenges and raise awareness for us as a society to start activities to address them. We are glad to be part of an initiative like this, which will initiate positive changes through its activities and contribute to both the individual and the entire BiH. society. ’’

Market Makers, a donor to the project, believe that the role and potential of the private sector are often neglected in promoting diversity. 

“We believe that encouraging private companies to ensure a more receptive environment for employment and career advancement of all individuals, regardless of racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation, as well as other identities, through the improvement of internal policies and practices, is an important complementary activity to others. projects and efforts in this domain. Understanding diversity, and the consequent promotion, protection, and active management of diversity, not only creates a better working and business environment for excluded and marginalized groups in society but also has direct benefits for companies in the form of improving HR practices and outcomes. Therefore, we are glad that together with the Sarajevo Open Center – an organization with a strong reputation and one of the leaders in the field of human rights and work with marginalized groups in BiH – we have taken the first steps towards creating solutions to promote diversity and inclusion “in” to the private sector and “through” the private sector. Certification and training and capacity building services of private companies in this field, which will be provided by SOC together with partner organizations, represent an innovation in the market and an element that was missing in previous initiatives aimed at the same goal, but also an element that will certainly affect business transformation. HR culture in the long run “, said Amar Numanović.