During our recent visit to Croatia and Slovenia Anmar Pretorius and Derick Blaauw visited the organization DESA in Dubrovnik. DESA was founded in 1993 by refugee Croatian women hiding in a Dubrovnik hotel during the war and siege of the city. The organization started as a spontaneous reaction of women, crocheting household articles from torn fabric, in order to develop activities supporting women during the war and post-war period. Many of the women were left to take care of families when their husbands died in the war, were severely injured or were left unemployed after the war. Anmar and Derick were warmly welcomed by Seka Lomov, herself a survivor of the war and siege of Dubrovnik.
Today DESA focuses on sustainable development of Croatian regions. With tourism the current cornerstone / foundation of the Croatian economy, many of the recent projects had a tourism focus. Projects included language proficiency (in English, German, Italian, Spanish, French and Russian) to improve communication with tourists, cooking jam from local oranges, and training in entrepreneurship. Through some of the projects cultural heritage are preserved while creating opportunities in the tourism industry. While mostly involved in the economic empowerment of women through education, DESA also offers projects for young unemployed people living on remote islands – where they only have access to primary schools. Recent projects were in the form of workshops, seminars, lectures and round-table discussions. Various partners and donors are involved in DESA projects including local centers of development, civil society, Croatian ministers, the European Union and universities (from Spain, Switzerland, Croatia, etc).
A truly inspirational story shared with us by a remarkable woman! We undertook to remain in contact and will follow DESA’s progress regularly.