Rotary clubs in Grand County help with outreach for Bosnian girls | SkyHiNews.com

Rotary clubs in Grand County help with outreach for Bosnian girls

Submitted to the Sky-Hi

Grand County Rotary clubs play a major role in a Rotary International grant to promote basic education and literacy for rural girls in Bosnia. The Rotary clubs of Winter Park/Fraser, Granby, Grand Lake and Kremmling contributed a total of $5,250 in cash to match funds from Rotary International and Rotary District 5450 and contributions from other Rotary clubs. The $45,275 grant, recently approved by the Rotary International Foundation, Evanston, Ill., will employ workshops, campaign-style outreach, and mentoring programs to promote gender equality and basic education of girls. The Rotary grant reviewer called the project "innovative and an important effort."

Also contributing cash toward Rotary International matching funds were Rotary clubs of Boulder, Summit County (Frisco), Breckenridge Mountain, Denver Mile Hi, Grand Cayman (British West Indies), Mostar (Bosnia), and the Rotary Club of Denver.

The lead club and largest single contributor is Denver Rotary. Felicia Muftic, a member of the club, and a resident of Fraser, served as the project grant writer and champion, with assistance from husband Dr. Michael Muftic, a native of Croatia, a country that neighbors Bosnia. The Muftics have been frequent visitors to Bosnia over the past 40 years.

The Rotary Club of Mostar (Bosnia) will implement and oversee the grant, contracting with nonprofit Novi Put to provide educational and advocacy and hands-on execution of the grant. The grant will focus on the canton (state) surrounding its main city, Mostar. Novi Put has been designated by the Bosnian Ministry of Security as an anti-human-trafficking partner. Novi Put (translation: New Road), also provides advocacy services for promoting education, and is a counseling agency for domestic violence and child abuse in Mostar.

Keeping girls in school has the added benefit of reducing the number of girls who are at risk for becoming victims of human trafficking. Bosnia has become a major source of human trafficking as girls seek alternatives to poverty, widespread domestic violence, and lack of education needed to become employable. Large numbers of girls in rural Bosnia do not complete elementary school, according to United Nations agencies. One result is that Bosnia has become a major source of human trafficked girls in recent years as travel restrictions were lifted.

Rural cultural prejudices held by all ethnic groups in Bosnia give preference to educating boys, especially so when resources are tight. About 100,000 Roma (commonly called gypsies in the U.S.) natives of the area provide no education whatsoever for their girls. Adding to the problem, the Bosnian federal government had prosecuted no traffickers in recent years and local laws treat juveniles 14 years old and older arrested for prostitution and begging as perpetrators, not victims.

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Bosnia (formal name: Bosnia and Herzegovina or BiH) was part of the former Yugoslavia and hosted the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympic games. Sarajevo is Bosnia's capitol. Bosnia's population is similar to Colorado's though it is one-fifth in area. Between 1990-1995, it exploded in a horrific civil war between ethnic groups that resulted in coining the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe tactics used by combatants during the conflict. Government gridlock due to continuing political quarrels between ethnic groups, corruption, and a deteriorating economy, with unemployment of over 50 percent in cities and 80 percent in rural areas, has made Bosnia the poorest country in Europe.

The grant approved by Rotary International is a Global Grant, a new program initiated in 2013 for larger grants. Among its areas of focus is promoting basic education of girls and gender equality. The most famous face of gender equality and promotion of education of girls is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen nearly killed by the Taliban and nominated for a Nobel Prize . Malala's father was one of the first members of a Rotary Club in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

Winter Park/Fraser and Granby Rotary clubs contributed $2,000 each, Grand Lake Rotary, $1,000, and Kremmling Rotary $250. Rotary District 5450 provided $10,000, all participating Rotary Clubs contributed $16,850 and the Rotary International Foundation provided $18,425.

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