Tuzla is a city and municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is situated on the southeast slopes of the Majevica Mountains and occupies the central area of northeast Bosnia. The population of the city is approximately 100,000 but the greater municipal area has over 170,000 inhabitants. Tuzla is the economic, scientific, cultural, educational, health and tourist centre of northeast Bosnia. The area of Tuzla has always been closely tied to its salt resources. The oldest written records, left behind by the Greeks, prove that even they were aware of the region's salt. The present-day name is derived from the Turkish word Tuz, meaning salt.
Tuzla municipality consists of 40 administrative local communities and two Local YEPP Sites are operational: YEPP Simin Han and YEPP Gornja Tuzla.
YEPP Simin Han covers an area of 26 square km and is composed of several smaller settlements. The population of Simin Han before the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina was 4,591 inhabitants (52,2% Bosnian Serbs, 6,4% Bosnian Croats, 14, 7% Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks, 14,7% Yugoslavs and 6,1% others) but during and after the war the population more than doubled, because of the migration of displaced persons from other parts of Bosnia.
At the time when “YEPP” was first introduced in the community, in 2001, about 10,000 displaced people of Bosniak nationality, mainly from eastern Bosnia, and 2,000 local people lived in Simin Han. Around 25% of the population was under the age of 18. Today, most of the migrants have settled and estimates are that there are 8,000-10,000 residents in this community, but the number of young people is slowly decreasing (from over 1000 students in 2001 to around 600 students in 2011). Most of the nongovernmental organizations are well networked at the community level.
YEPP Gornja Tuzla is a remote settlement in the north-east part of Municipality of Tuzla at the slopes of “Majevica” Mountains and geographically is covering 50 square km. This settlement has approximately 4.000 inhabitants with 280 pupils attending the only primary school in this area. Other important institutions are Community Centre Gornja Tuzla, Infirmary and Firehouse. The biggest businesses are private meat factory “Menprom”, private construction company “Pupex”, private market “Bingo” and several other small businesses. Many buildings and institutions in Gornja Tuzla are devastated and neglected by local government and even local people. One of the most important public places in this small neighbourhood is the Community Centre. It is a cultural-educational centre built in 1980. During the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina the Community Centre was devastated and although some rooms are renovated for different use and purpose, its infrastructure and premises is still far from pre-war conditions. Nevertheless, it is the most important building for inhabitants of Gornja Tuzla because it is used by 20 non-profit organisation and non- formal civic groups as well as political associations for community meetings. Each year more than 1000 people use this Community Centre. Active citizens’ of Gornja Tuzla have invested a lot of their volunteer time and efforts in bringing this Community Cenreand the whole community of Gornja Tuzla back to life.
It was the Freudenberg Foundation Tuzla that originally initiated YEPP Simin Han in 2001 and later in 2003 this work was continued by Tuzla Community Foundation. Tuzla Community Foundation started cooperation with YEPP Gornja Tuzla community in 2008.
In 2001, due to the post-war situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a specific local context of Simin Han with the majority of displaced population suffering with war trauma, YEPP Tuzla Simin Han directed the attention towards empowering youth and community through activities that would help reconstruct the damaged/non-existent infrastructure; promote the economic, social, and cultural development; support education and training; strengthen employability, self-initiative and entrepreneurship; support social cohesion and promote active citizenship and community action.
YEPP Tuzla Simin Han aimed at empowering young people in their personal development; increasing education and employment opportunities and choices; rebuilding and empowering the community and strengthening democratic citizenship.
In 2008, another Tuzla local community, Gornja Tuzla, joined The YEPP Community Network enabling its citizens of all age groups to become beneficiaries of the projects and activities implemented by Tuzla Community Foundation. The focus of YEPP Local Site Gornja Tuzla iscommunity organizing activities as it is believed to be the most adequate for the local work.
Thus the “YEPP”’ approach and methodology was combined with citizens’ actions inspired by community organizing activities.
Social cohesion, education, capacity-building, recycling,women’s participation, entrepreneurship and active citizenship. What are your projects and achievements up to date?
Over the years, the two YEPP Local Sites have run a number of youth empowerment projects that have enabled young people to develop the skills to become agents of change in their community, with a sustainable approach adapted to the various stages of a young person’s development. Children aged 9 to 14 take part in the Leadership Project, which develops their civic awareness and confidence to initiate change in their environment. As they get older, they can implement this change through projects funded by the TCF through Youth Bank, which was set up in 2004 thanks to transnational contacts and training. In 2010, young people sitting on the Tuzla Youth Bank Board awarded 18 grants, totaling €4,800, to successful projects from 56 individual applications. In terms of youth participation, a big step was made in 2009 with the formation of a Youth Council in each YEPP Local Site. These have been able to influence local decision-making by meeting regularly to plan activities and have sent representatives to the local community councils. This has inspired other areas where Tuzla Community Foundation is active to form their own Youth Clubs and participate in public life at the local level. As part of its community organizing approach, the Tuzla Community Foundation also runs a Small Grant Fund for Citizens’ Initiatives to help local residents improve living conditions and social cohesion in the area. The scheme has also strengthened the capacity of local groups and associations to write project proposals and develop monitoring and evaluation tools.
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