Within the campaign ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence’ and HeForShe campaign, UN Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina will publish interviews with men who advocate gender equality in their community on the campaign website www.16dana.ba. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of UN Women or any other agency of the United Nations.
Blogger and famous psychologist Srđan Puhalo from Banja Luka often criticizes the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which makes him quite present in the country’s public life. He has published numerous writings on human rights, social justice and public opinion. A lifetime inhabitant of the Balkans, he attended school in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Banja Luka. Srđan enjoys his family life, and raises his kids to respect themselves and others.
Tell us more about how your work contributes to improving the position of women in BiH.
I participated in a lot of research on the position of women in BiH, which clearly shows that women are not equal to men in both the private and public spheres. Also, I participated in an analysis of Serbian language school books, which led to the conclusion that women and men are portrayed through narrow gender stereotypes. I have given lectures and am a regular at protests on the 8th of March. And I still don’t know how much that impacts the general improvement of women’s position in BiH! With my family, I try to be a good husband who supports his wife, and to raise my kids to respect themselves and others.
Which negative stereotypes about women are you aware of and how do you think society should fight gender based violence?
I am full of stereotypes that help me function easily in the environment I live in because I don’t have much time to focus on every person or event individually. I am trying to keep stereotypes on a “short leash” so that they don’t get out of control and bite or hurt someone. Without stereotypes, there would be no humor, and that is something we don’t want to lose. Of course, these stereotypes are equally present towards women and men. The fight against gender based violence should begin with zero tolerance towards violence without any excuse. Also, visible mechanisms should be accessible to everyone to protect victims and to enable them to return to normal life after having suffered violence. It is necessary to work with perpetrators, and not only with the victims. Finally, prevention is the basis of everything and it has to start at elementary school.
Why is media important for addressing violence against women and girls?
Because media easily reaches the hearts and minds of citizens. Media are one of the creators of public opinion and they pressure politicians, governments and institutions to implement laws. Media can ask questions and seek answers to many questions about the violence against women and girls.
In your opinion, what is the role of men in shaping a society of equal rights for all?
Nobody has it easy in BiH today. Women, especially, but men as well. Patriarchal society marginalized women and burdened men. Everybody is aware of this but they stay silent about it. It is not very smart to resist the expectations of the society one lives in, and price does not matter. I believe it would be easier for men to recognize women as partners with whom they share a common goal, privately and publicly. They must work together to transform the society of BiH into a decent, just and humane society of understanding gender needs, possibilities and desires. Men must have the courage to let women take over part of the responsibility, for greater and common good.
Is there a woman who inspired you in life and work?
Lately I think about the life and work of Hana Arendt who stood up to a lot of injustice because she wouldn’t betray her principles. Recently I read Marie Kiri’s biography where it is well explained what women went through in the first part of the 20th century to be acknowledged for their success. Many rights today are implied but that is a result of a long and heavy fight. Sometimes I think about my aunt Slava and what she could have done if grandpa Jovo let her continue schooling. Yes, I intensively collect comics on Modesty Blaise and one day I will leave them to my daughter because I would like her to be one of my daughter’s role models.