Recovering Business with Microcredit in Bosnia

Esmira Mustafic, born in 1967, lived in Skelani, 45 km from Srebrenica with her two children (son, 12 and daughter, eight). During the war they escaped to Srebrenica, a safe heaven in a UN protected area. In 1995 Esmira and her children were transported to Tuzla. Her husband is missing.

Esmira had some family members in Tuzla also in the same situation. Only her brother’s wife would send support—some second-hand clothes and humanitarian kits from Germany. Esmira would keep some of these items but sell the rest at the market. She would wash and iron each item carefully in order to sell it at a better price. But business was not good. It was, as she said: “One day, one piece. There was no effect. It was hard and I could not save any money to invest in tomorrow.”

Then she heard about BOSPO loans. She was introduced to BOSPO solidarity group lending, and she took $325 US together with 3 of her group members. She took her first loan on April 9, 1997.

She started working in the Tuzla market, going to Hungary where she bought clothing items in bulk for the season. In 15 days she made the amount of the loan. After she took the first loan, she waited for a year before coming back to the program last year. She expects to take a subsequent loan in April of $928 US and go to Turkey to buy the goods for the coming season.

“Today, I have two women working with me; I pay $139 US monthly for their work. I [own] a car and a small piece of land. I started building a house. I am still working at this market, and I regularly go to Hungary or Turkey.”

Esmira serves as the role model for the women at the market. Women come to her for advice and she is a great BOSPO microcredit promoter. She receives two paychecks: one for her husband’s working years (from his company) and the other from the Army. It is just enough for survival, and she is actually saving this money for the future, putting it aside while using her business to earn an income for living and reinvesting.

Esmira started alone, after the war, her own tragedy. “All my love for my husband I give to my children and that gives me strength to continue.” Her story is not unique in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“If there was not access to loan, I would not have been able to reach this status, and have $7,424 US in assets, two women working with me, my own plan for future, and financial security.”