My dear unborn daughter
17. March 2015.
The troubles of a modern woman
19. March 2015.

Foto: UN Women

Written by: Alma Muharemović

The story was written for the competition on the theme “Women – yesterday, today, tomorrow”, with the aim to contribute to the discussion on the rights of women and girls in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Thick fog covers the town streets. It is freezing. The cold pinches the cheeks, ears, nose. The winter shows its true colors yet again. The scarf does little to protect me from the cold and the unique suffocating stench of smog.  Lukavac is the most polluted town in the country, I believe. Roaming dogs follow me. I got used to them. I like when they are close. Nameless friends craving love. They know my gait and they know I always carry something for them – a bagel, piece of bread, biscuits…

The station is already crammed. Sleepy faces, tired eyes, smoker’s cough and the noise of a rare passing car are the only sound.

I approach the group of women with whom I have been commuting on the same route from Lukavac to Tuzla for years. I nod to them silently. It is difficult to speak. I am not much of a morning person. I sometimes say I keep my energy for the classes I hold that day.  It is a way to justify my silence.

The bus stops and we slowly embark. Long, red articulated bus, its glory days long gone, wriggles like a fish on hook every time the gear changes. We once joked how we would never have the fear of flying, because we regularly experience turbulence on that bus.

Everyone knows their seats. It is a matter of habit.

Senka, an old lady in georgette pantaloons and crotchet headscarf revealing glimpses of henna dyed hair, with bags full of milk, cheese and cream sits in the front, just behind the driver. Her chatter is always the same – how many cows she has, how she will sell them all because she can no longer stand on the market all day.  But then again, there are her old “women”, returning customers buying only her stuff because they know it’s the best. For the last seven years she has been talking about giving up, taking a break, but everyone knows already that this commute is her life, a habit.

Sitting by the window in the second row is doctor Safija. She is a beautiful, sophisticated, kind, petit woman with a big heart. She is probably the only woman in the whole world who has replaced her makeup bag with a stethoscope. She examines someone every morning. We have all become so close that no one is shy to roll up their T-shirt or unbutton their shirt, for her to check their heart rhythm.   An occasional curious male passenger glancing at the exposed bra meets a disapproving stare, forcing him to look away. I sometimes think of us women riding the number 9 as musketeers – all for one and one for all, though we have never signed a pledge.

– Are you gonna give some A’s today, teacher? asks Mara, a saleswoman from Bingo.

-Sure, sure, I retort with a smile.

Mara asks this rhetorical question every morning, because her daughters are in college. One is studying to be a teacher, the other one is in business school. It is her intro to the talk about her children.

  • I tell my daughter Amila, you just do well in school, that will make you a true lady. There is this lovely teacher that commutes with me. She is a sight for sore eyes. Life is a struggle. Getting your degree and finding a job should come first. Women can do anything. We do good as mothers, as cooks, as hard workers and we stay beautiful in the process.

Everyone laughs as the driver turns the radio up when they start playing music after the news. Munira, a lively pensioner, whistles loudly to the folk tunes from the radio, starts singing and dancing in her seat, lifting everyone’s mood.

The conversation develops as we reach Šićki. Someone complains about having a tough night, someone’s child had a fever… Everyone has a homemade remedy to offer- egg white on chest, vinegar on feet. Hearing this, the petite doctor takes charge and offers advice to young mothers.

Džemila, mother of three, is particularly interesting. She is a management student in her late thirties. She says she wanted to be a stay at home mom while children are young, and get a degree and pursue a career later.

And so it goes every day. A sea of stories, a wealth of heroes, known and unknown sailors navigating the uncertain waters of life. Each with a dream, career, family. Each a universe of its own. There are workers, intellectuals, students, pensioners, young and old… They part ways at the station, but they continue a shared struggle for a better life, a better social status, like tiny streams joining into a raging river, watering the soil around it. What kind of world would it be without these strong, dedicated, persistent, emancipated women? I often look at them and I see strength and I feel happy and proud because I am one of them. A fighter, a woman, a mother.  The woman of the future.

”My name is Alma Muharemović. I graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy in Tuzla. I teach Bosnian language and literature. I enjoy writing and reading.”

Alma Muharemović

Profesorica bosanskog jezika i književnosti