Updated: Jul 4
About Ms. Ana Tikvić:
Ms. Ana Tikvic studied Journalism at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, Croatia. In 2015, she enrolled in the Department of Acting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2019, she participated in a performance titled, “NovinarKE”, which discussed the abuse of journalists and women in media. She is also a co-founder of “Nisam tražila”, an initiative that focuses on bringing awareness to the subject of sexual violence and abuse.
Gender Equality Statistics for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Gender Development Index: 0.94
Gender Inequality Index: 0.149
Complete Interview With Ms. Ana Tikvić
Grace Souza Why do you think women speaking up about their experiences with sexual harassment has become more frequent in recent years? Do you think social media plays a role in women finding their voice? If so, why?
Ana Tikvic There is this whole new wave of feminism that is called cyber-feminism. Social media plays a very important role today, and it is logical if we think of its availability almost everywhere. So, it is very easy to join a feminist group.
Our Facebook page (website) are good examples. It has been a very easy and reliable way to talk about their cases. During the first days after creating the page we decided to remain anonymous, and in those circumstances, we received five hundred messages. It seems that our Facebook page was more reliable than the police, lawyers or even friends and family
Anh Doan What are some root causes of gender inequality in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how do you think your roles and positions as of right now contributing to raise or resolve problems of gender inequality here and in Europe?
Ana Tikvic Balkan countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro are countries in transition. Their origin goes back to the end of a conflict that in some cases became an armed conflict and concluded with the end of Yugoslavia. Since then these societies have been trying to create their own state, their own economy. In this long process, they have found issues difficult to deal with: poverty, for example, or gender inequality. We are still building our education system, and in that process we are trying to incorporate sexual education from primary to high schools. Unlike Croatia, unfortunately, Serbia nor Bosnia & Herzegovina have not even begun that process. Very likely, the powerful influence of the Orthodox Church is a very important factor in these two cases.
And not having sexual education in schools is a very important problem since a lot of people don't even know what sexual harassment or gender-based violence are. In many cases, regardless their ages, we have met women not knowing that what they had experienced before coming to us is gender-based violence and therefore they do not know that there are legal ways to stop it.
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho
What I understand is that in your opinion, sexual education is essential to deal with gender-based violence…
Yeah, for sure. It is crucial. I remember when I was a teenager. We didn't have, you know, smartphones and access to the Internet all the time. We could only find this kind of information (sex, relationships, boys…) reading magazines. I remember one of them was called Okay, or something similar. It included a section for teenagers to ask a doctor about this. And I remember reading things such as Oh, my God! I kissed a boy! Am I pregnant? But now you can find information about almost anything in the Internet.
Other than that, in our countries most parents do not talk about sex with their children. In my case, my mother had me when she was in her twenties, and although both my mother and my father were well educated, she never talked with me about sex. I learned everything I knew talking with my friends and reading magazines. Unfortunately nothing has changed in these ten or fifteen years.
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho Is the government in Bosnia & Herzegovina doing something to introduce sexual education in schools? Is it possible to imagine the government of Bosnia & Herzegovina introducing sexual education in 5 or 10 years?
Ana Tikvic Not now. Maybe in five or ten years
Stephen Park During your time working with abused women, have you encountered many stories where bystanders did nothing to help or report the incident? If so, do you see a way to get these people to report the abuse, or do they not trust the system? Are they afraid of the repercussions of speaking?
Ana Tikvic When we talk with those women, we really avoid questions such as Why didn't you report? I have the feeling that that's the first question that everybody wants to ask, and I understand, but why?
It is very dangerous to report sexual abuse when the person is not ready. That can be very, very dangerous. Emotionally, psychology…
Other than that, all these victims are really afraid of their husbands, friends, parents, neighbors, because, as I said, talking about even regular, normal sex. Shame is another important aspect in these circumstances. Finally, they do not trust the police, they do not trust the system. Our tribunals are very slow… And repeating the traumatic experience they try to forget in front of some people they do not know (police officers, lawyers, judges…). This judicial process in some cases is longer than the sentence itself! And when the victim reports the case… Today we have read about another femicide in Croatia, the victim had denounced her husband repeatedly, she obtained a restrained order, even so he killed her hours ago… I understand why they do not go to denounce the situation
And about bystanders, it is difficult to justify some behaviors: this is not my problem. It is more common, for example in Croatia, to call the police because a neighbor is having a loud birthday party, than to do it if there is a fight between a man and a woman. It is something that some people prefer to ignore.
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho
What is the most common stereotype about women in Bosnia & Herzegovina and in general in the Balkans?
Traditionally it was women should marry and become a housewife. Unfortunately, it seems that it has changed. For example, a friend, also an actor, told me the other day, you, young women, still like to get married, but you also like to divorce… It is also true that, slowly but it seems that it is changing. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, more and more women go to college, and that should be the beginning of a new era.
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho What was your parents' reaction when you told them that you were going to college?
Ana Tikvic They supported me. They both went to college too.
Ashlyn Belote According to an article titled “Nisam Trazila: Four Girls Who Fought Against Gender-Based Violence” from Balkan Diskurs you mentioned that women had more confidence on your Facebook Page than on the system. What do you think should be changed within the system so that victims of sexual assault feel more comfortable using it?
Ana Tikvic I didn't go to law school. I'm not a policeman. I'm not. I'm not psychologist. And, you know, everybody here in Bosnia, is asking us that same question. I am not the person that should fix this. It is those with power who should do it: they are very well paid for that. The only answer I have is get your job done. You are, you know you're really well paid for it.
During the pandemic, the government imposed a very strict locked down in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Domestic violence increased, and the existing safe house did not work very well. But the water, gas and electricity bills were more expensive than ever. The government did not solve the problem.
We should begin trying to give the government more credibility, and to achieve that goal we need to put an end to corruption in this country. At all levels.
The system is also very slow. It does not help the victim properly. When you report a crime, the police takes you to the police station. They are not offering you physical or psychological help first. Once in the station, they ask you a number of senseless questions difficult to answer because you are in shock and you do not remember the details they are interested in. Sometimes, you do not remember the color of his shirt and that is suspicious. In these circumstances, it is not strange that women in Bosnian & Herzegovina decide not to report sexual violence.
Hannah Sachs Have you faced any resistance to moving forward, or any specific challenges within creating new legislation. And where did that come from? And additionally, what advice would you have for people who want to push legal advancement for other issues?
Ana Tikvic Rather than opposition, what we have found is a very slow pace introducing the reforms we believe are necessary. For example, we advocated the need to implement sexual education. Public opinion in general supported the idea. The government seemed to accept the idea. They created a working group, but they have done nothing during the last year, not even a draft defining sexual harassment. We are still waiting.
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho Are women involved in politics in Bosnia & Herzegovina? Is it possible to imagine the country led by a woman?
Ana Tikvic Yes, women are involved in politics in Bosnia & Herzegovina and in general in the Balkans. For example, Croatia has a female president: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho Would you vote for a candidate only because it is a woman?
Ana Tikvic No, I would not vote for a woman just because of her gender. For example, in the last presidential election in Croatia, I am a Croatian citizen living in Bosnia, I had a chance to vote for a woman, for the current president, I did not do it. I preferred to vote for a male candidate because ideologically I identified myself with him.
Stephen Park Based on your experience, what is the best way you’ve found to prevent abuse before it happens? Have you encountered pushback in implementing preventative efforts?
Ana Tikvic Well, unfortunately, most of the times you find out when it already has happened…
Nevertheless, prevention begins in schools with professionals, professors talking and explaining sexual abuse, sexual harassment. Our society should work on that: implementing comprehensive sexual education. When you are young it is difficult to know if something is wrong without proper knowledge. I remember when we were ten, eleven, we were hiding in our toilets, and after that we told our friends: boys are grabbing me, and I don't want that… and your friend sometimes told, Oh, but he likes you... That was the way they had to tell us that they liked us… That is how we dealt with these situations because we did not have sexual education.
Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho How difficult was to be a female college student?
Ana Tikvic I attended the Academy of Performing Arts, and this was a little bit different, above all because classes were smaller, much smaller than for example in Business. So, we knew each other very well. We were almost like a family, including our own professors. In fact, it was difficult sometimes to keep distances with our professors. That was the most important issue… but in general it was a very good experience.
Katie Lilley How can women around the world, particularly students, show support for more gender equality?
Ana Tikvic I think that we all must start with ourselves and our close friends. Listening really carefully. Watching really carefully, because when we began our project, we ourselves or somebody else very close to us have experienced sexual harassment. And then we did not really know about this issue. We did not talk about it. You should talk about this issues with your friends and even with those you are not as close as to call them friends. It is not easy to talk about this, but it is necessary.
Grace Souza If you could talk to your seventeen-year-old self. What would you tell her now?
Ana Tikvic That's a great question. Well, I would tell myself to believe more in myself. I would tell myself to talk more about gender-based violence (sexual harassment), above all when having a feeling that something is going wrong.
Our childhood can inform our experiences and guide our views. How has your upbringing in Eastern Europe informed your perceptions of gender and gender roles within society? Is your upbringing similar to that of the younger generations in the Balkans?
Ana Tikvic In my family my mother had a voice, so I can claim that my experience was uncommon.
I was born in the early 1990s, a time when we suffer terrible wars in the region. The situation did not improve after the end of these wars. Later it was difficult to have a smartphone or access to the Internet. All we had was popular teen magazines. In these circumstances, my parents never talk with me about these ideas (gender-based violence). They did not consider that part of their role, I suppose. I never asked them. And I never asked why they did not tell me anything about it. Eventually I will do it. Everything was very different from what we can find now. I feel I have nothing in common with teenagers now. I am not sure if this situation is better or worse than that I experienced. Now with social media, smartphones… I have a friend. She has a daughter who is 14 now. She has a friend in class, and it seems that she sent some pictures to her boyfriend, and he published all of them… She is 14… How could that happen? We have to be very careful.
Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho Thank you very much again. It's been a pleasure. It's been an honor. Thank you for accepting our invitation and thank you for doing what you are doing. We need people like you.
Ana Tikvic Thank you very much. It's been my honor. I have a great time. Thank you. Thank you very much.