She told me several times that she was not sure as to how interesting her story was, because she did not think that she had achieved anything special. And I was listening to her and admiring her, because the path she took can be used as instructions for success for everyone. The type of success that you attain step by step by relying on yourself, your knowledge and abilities. The success that gives you rock-hard foundations and that makes you have no fear to try or do anything. It cannot be turned into money, because there is no amount of money that can be used to buy it, but it is invaluable.
She is Bojana Naimarević and I called her to talk to her because a comment she wrote popped up on my Facebook feed. In the general drabness and ”all is black, nothing’s right, we are doomed” statuses, there was a different, refreshing and positive status, full of faith in one’s own strength.
Bojana is a lawyer and the way in which she developed is proof that everything in life is a matter of attitude and way in which we approach problems. She demonstrated very early that she wanted to be much more than what the faculty was offering her, so that she found a way to get practical experience already as a student – at the court and in a law firm. She recognised the importance of informal education and she applied for all seminars and trainings that were interesting for her, learning and meeting acquaintances and making friends. She is a peer educator and non-violent communication trainer – and she acquired these diplomas through informal education and by engaging in various projects, volunteering at various associations, whenever she had a chance. This is why she was selected as the volunteer of the year in 2013.
As regards law, as a participant or trainer, she worked on all burning issues that the formal education only touches upon. You will hear more about that from her below. As regards her future, she would like to work at the EU Parliament or in diplomacy, at an embassy, international organisation or be involved in the management or participation in the work of an institute dealing with international public law or international relations. I somehow have no doubts that Bojana will manage to achieve some of all these things.
My interest in informal education started during my second year of studies. I remember that my first rebellion click was – why don’t we have English language at the Faculty of Law? And I had the idea to start an action to change that. Of course, when I mentioned this to my colleagues, their comments were ”What can you do about that, the curriculum is the way it is”. I said, ”Ok, but why should we not try to change that? ”
That, of course, was a naïve idea, back then I did not even research on formal ways in which I might do that, I rather started gathering the signatures of my colleagues in an ad-hoc manner, in order to deliver them to the Scientific and Teaching Council in order to for the matter to be reviewed by them, since we needed it. I remember that back then it used to be bun at the faculty, persons were saying that there was a colleague organising a rebellion, asking for changes in the curriculum. Some colleagues were saying ”We do not even know our mother tongue, why do we need English? ” But there was a significant group of persons that were supporting me. For me it was wind in my sails and I thought that it was great that there were persons wishing to improve their knowledge.
After that, back at the time when I enrolled at the faculty, there was absolutely no practical training. Today’s generations have it. They have visits to The Hague, simulations of court proceedings, etc. We had nothing. I wanted to acquire practical experience. So, one morning I woke up and I said, I am going to the Municipal Court to ask whether I could volunteer there, whether I can help. I still do not have a degree in law, but I am going to ask anyway.
Several days before doing that, I mentioned the idea to some persons I am close to, and they told me ”The president of the Municipal Court is terrible, she will never allow you to do that, why would you even ask”. I said: ”Ok, I am going to try”.
And I went there, I was asked whether I had an appointment, and I said that I did not, that I wanted to see the president. And I went to see her and said, ”I would like to do something practical, to see how you function”. And she was surprised and said, ”I have never seen this before that someone comes to see me and says this”. She was delighted. A completely different reaction from what others were telling me. So, I managed to go to the court. I was working with trainees, although she told me, ”I cannot give you any kind of certification, because in legal terms you are not allowed to work here, but you can see how we function”. And I would go every morning exactly at the beginning of their working hours and would observe the whole cycle of entry of a case in the system, trial, keeping of records. It was something completely new – theory and practice.
After that I worked at a lawyer’s office in Zenica based on the same principle for several months. I was not officially a trainee, but I was helping the woman. It was a wonderful experience that lasted several months, during which I learned how to actually draw up a complaint, how to draw up an application, claim, power of attorney, how to represent. Parties would come to the office and I would give them legal advice. It was incredible for me.
After that, Bojana participated in the project of the Association Frame from Travnik during the making of a short film. She prepared contracts for the actors, and since she also engaged in photography, she made photos for the film. The participation in this project and the effects that its screening had on the society made her wish she could do similar things in her own surrounding and use her legal knowledge for the well-being of the society. She applied for a seminar near Tuzla that was attended by around 15 participants from different parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her topics were focused on youth development and project design. This opportunity to socialise and the knowledge she acquired gave her new ideas.
When I came back, I applied at the local volunteering service in Zenica. They had a data base of volunteers that participated in different street activities, gathered signatures, pointed out various social phenomena in Zenica and the area around it. This is how I started working for them.
After the local volunteering service, I started working with YIHR. They were more closely related to my profession. I attended their seminars completely voluntarily. Having acquired practical knowledge at the faculty, I wanted to hear what was the real situation in the field. After the work at the initiative, I got in touch with the OSCE office in Zenica. We had meetings with representatives of the municipality and there were several representatives from the NGO sector, I on behalf of the local volunteering service and several other representatives, the Red Cross and some other organisations. They wanted to point out the issue of hate crimes.
After the OSCE, I focused even more on my profession, given the fact that my field of interest at the faculty was constitutional law, diplomacy and international public law and international relations, and got in touch with an association from Sarajevo dealing with international public law and constitutional amendments. I worked on projects with them, attended workshops, wrote my own proposals regarding our constitution, what could be amended, in order to present amendments and proposals. Through this association I got in touch with ELSA, the European Law Students’ Association, which hired me to hold lectures on constitutional amendments and my own proposals regarding these amendments.
Bojana’s interests are not focused on only one area, so that she also cooperated with the Media Centre, pointed to the issue of women’s rights and their violation, and she also attended media appearance trainings.
When I asked her what she was doing at the moment, Bojana told me that she was on a study trip in Vienna and Brussels. In Vienna, she visited all government levels and was able to see how they function on the spot. In Brussels, she learned about the European Union, met many MPs and high-ranking officials and learned from them how much they appreciate young persons that attend informal education and who are continuously trying to acquire new knowledge. During this visit, she got the possibility to do an internship and the European Parliament.
They are delighted and love young people who do more than what they have to. During the study visit, I therefore got the chance to do an internship at the Parliament and I am now waiting for the official application, although I was told that because of my references and my long work, it is almost a done deal, I only need to send a letter of reference when the call is published, and that is it.
I have always been aware of how many things I do not know. And it was important to find a way to learn.
All these things that I started from are available. There are online links, websites, they are not expensive, they are absolutely free of charge. I did not know anyone when I chose this path ten years ago. Nobody told me, ”You know, you will be accepted to that and that seminar, you will be accepted anywhere”. I simply applied and waited.
However, I wanted to attend these events. I frequently used my pocket money in periods when I had no job to attend these events. Because usually the accommodation and food were covered, but it was never the less the stay that lasted for days, from 2-3 days to summer schools that lasted almost a month, so that I paid for that from my own pocket. I never regretted this. It was my conscious decision. I knew that it was much better than sitting and drinking coffee and talking to other youth, saying ”There are no opportunities, no chances, there is nothing”, and wait for someone to call me and give me a position at a company and for me to sit there my whole life without any merit of my own.
I wanted to show that a young person’s voice can be heard, that he or she can be recognised by other persons that have the same way of thinking. That path might be longer, it certainly is longer, but it is better. All the knowledge I acquired over the years during such seminars and contacts that I established with people from different parts of Europe, even the world, can help me to first of all become a personality, and then to also have some references for a potential job. I am not a person that would feel good if I knew that my job was the merit of someone else.