Every child deserves a good start; an equal start! Then again, thousands of children throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina have no access to basic services because of who they are, where they live and how they live.
Children’s book “You and Me: the Same Love” tells six stories about children who are excluded from normal social life because of their special characteristics – being children with disabilities; belonging to a minority group; their family situation; or maybe even their personal feelings. These stories tell us how important is to accept others that are different to us; they tell us about positive impacts that take place when we embrace differences as riches, and not as hurdles.
For the making of this book, Save the Children partnered up with three Bosnian and Herzegovinian authors: Ferida Durakovic, Sonja Juric and Tanja Stupar-Trifunovic who wrote the stories.
The Sunflower with the Bowed Head and My Brother Tony are the stories written by Sonja Juric, an author from southern town of Mostar. The first story talks about the difficulties faced by autistic 4-year old Maja, whilst the second one is dedicated to Tony, a boy with Down syndrome, whose enrollment into primary school is uncertain. “It is very important to learn the youngsters about the tolerance and respecting diversities in the society. Every child deserves an opportunity to go to school and have a happy childhood regardless of their appearance, social status, ability to talk, walk, see or any other reason. Each child needs to be surrounded with love and understanding coming from their environment, protected and free, so they could grow to be a tolerant person”, said Juric.
Muki is a Lovely Boy and I Am Different are the stories written by Ferida Durakovic, children’s author who lives and works in Sarajevo. Her first story talks about the Roma boy who is trying, with the help from classmates, to fit into school and environment, which refuses to accept him. I Am Different talks about a girl with eyes of different colors – one is blue and the other is brown, thus making her stigmatized both socially and psychologically. “This book is indeed intended for children who are somewhat departing from, so called, social standard. I emphasize in my stories, as do Sonja and Tanja, that all children are born out of same love, that they need to be equal, and not deprived from participating in the world. The world is cruel and inaccessible for many anyway, let alone for children born out of love, but with different fate. We should show them more care and nurture and tell them – what you lose on the swings, you make up on the roundabouts. A life can take one talent away from you, but you will develop another, and I will help you do that .”
Ana, the Goal-Getter and Homesy and Needsyare stories written by Tanja Stupar-Trifunović, author from Banja Luka who writes both poetry and fiction. By leaning on idea how to accept differences, while at the same time being aware that children are the most vulnerable category and susceptible to prejudice, her first story talks about a girl, Ana, who fantasizes of becoming a football player. By doing so, Ana does not fit in the socially preferable image of a young girl and is therefore exposed to peers’ insults, which makes her very sad. “It was easy to write since I often felt like Ana, imprisoned by other people's expectations that did not match my own interests and wishes”, admitted Tanja. Working as a journalist, she recalled how strong impact the children from orphanage had on her. She observed them more closely in one creative writing workshop. “I felt that I wanted to write something about them and thus came the Homesy and Needsy. I often heard negative comments from school children and their parents about the children from orphanage, and this story intended to invoke more sympathy in them for these children,” said Tanja. Also, Tanja talks with lot of compassion about children isolated from common social life and agree that it is very important to nurture the concept of unity in diversity.
Working to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to survive, have access to health care, education and other basic services, regardless of who that child is or where they comes from, Save the Children started their global three year campaign in spring 2016 called “Every last child“.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the campaign focused on creating opportunities for all children to have access to preschool education as a prerequisite for good and equal start. “Our country is greatly falling behind European Union when it comes to inclusion of all children in some kind of preschool education. On the other hand, statistical data show that the first five years of life are crucial for intellectual, social and emotional development. We focus our efforts through this campaign to make sure that children from vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities, children from rural areas or Roma children have equal opportunities as other children and are enabled to have preschool education,“ said Director of Save the Children for North-West Balkan, Andrea Žeravčić.