KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis
By following one of the main permaculture principles of integrating rather than segregating, the project of developing a food forest in Vojnić aims to bring together a group of women of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. With this we create an inspiring environment in a natural setting for non-formal education about sustainable ways of living, biodiversity, different ways to grow food, contemporary bio-art practices as well as a platform to empower women within their local community.
Municipality of Vojnić, located in the central part of Croatia, in the southeast of Karlovac County.
The municipality consists of 46 villages and settlements surrounded by agricultural lands and forests. The last population census registered 4764 inhabitants, 44.71% of whom were Serbs and 37.13% Croats. It is a first category Area of Special State Concern, an area of underdevelopment compared to the rest of the country in which the government implements certain policies to achieve balanced regional development. The unemployment rate has decreased in recent years but mainly as a consequence of depopulation. The number of unemployed women is however increasing, primarily workers with completed primary and/or a three-year secondary education. A less favorable position of women is also visible in the organisational structure of the municipality with almost only men in management positions.
The gender inequality was determined by the Development Strategy of the Municipality of Vojnić 2016-2020 that emphasizes improving the quality of life and social security for vulnerable groups as well as promoting racial, gender and other equality. However, of all the experts who participated in writing the Strategy, not one third were women. Our project was developed in order to include more women in different processes of the municipality, to strengthen their role in society as valuable members when it comes to strategic planning and their rights but also to educate them how in a situation of unemployment to still be financially independent. The project aims to empower women to become the initiators and voices of positive change and progress in the community they live in.
The starting point of the project is to establish a food forest, a popular permaculture system that imitates a forest edge and involves planned planting of perennial and self-dispersing plants, most of them with nutritional value. Through a series of workshops and lectures under expert guidance, we want to bring together women from Vojnić who are often focused solely on their own household and due to their remote place of residence don’t have long-term social contacts with other women. We want to give them an opportunity to learn basic tools of permaculture design and contemporary bio-art practices to work on a food forest. They will have the chance to interact with other women from Vojnić based exclusively on their interests rather than who they are or which ethnic group they belong to.
1. Preparation: defining a detailed project schedule; 2. Implementation and dissemination: permaculture workshops focused on building a food forest, workshops by artists on bio-art methods with all material available online to enable subsequent involvement in the project; 3. Evaluation; 4. Sustainability: focus on sustainability within the municipality but also expanding the project to other parts of the county by actively engaging participating women in transferring and implementing their new knowledge; 5. Long-term activism: initiate a strategy of women’s entrepreneurship in collaboration with the municipality to increase the financial independence of women in rural areas and to revitalise a vast number of unused municipal spaces that can be given to women for projects and/or businesses.
Expected results are: carrying out at least 15 workshops and lectures by permaculture experts and female bio-artists from Croatia; realization of a permaculture garden in Vojnić by engaging local women of all age groups; achieving a successful interaction between the cultural sector, the permaculture and local community, as well as the local government on securing a long-term usage of the municipal land made available for the project; approaching other municipalities in the county to further implement the project and engage other women; start to develop a strategy for women’s entrepreneurship in collaboration with local authorities in order to build a foundation for future employment increase among local women and contribute to their financial independence through community cohesion.
The EU had recently proposed a new Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy as a renewed political roadmap. Our project follows most of the priorities and objectives listed in the Plan, such as empowering individuals and building inclusive communities. One of the most important objectives in strengthening democracy is raising awareness on women’s rights by challenging gender stereotypes, boosting women’s economic empowerment and giving women the opportunity to lead and participate in economic sectors. We wish to think globally and act locally. Our project will tackle all the issues mentioned above in devising a strategy for the development of women’s entrepreneurship, offering ideas and solutions relying on specific issues of the locality.
Croatia is one of the EU member states with a continuous population decline due to higher mortality and lower birth rates and persistently increasing emigration. In this framework the Municipality of Vojnić is a paradigm case, with lack of employment and educational opportunities affecting many to move away permanently. By implementing the project we want to offer some of the missing opportunities in the community or at least a base that can later be built upon. We want the residents of Vojnić to have the same quality of life as other regions in Croatia and to educate them on how to be self-sustainable, to live and work with and from the greenness that surrounds them. We want our project to be the initial positive change that will lead to a prospective future for the local community.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs (including experts and artist’s fees): 32.800 EUR
Operational expenses (office expenses, communication, dissemination): 6.000 EUR
Travel, accommodation and subsistence costs: 3.200 EUR
Materials for workshops and food forest implementation: 7.000 EUR
We would appreciate any kind of feedback about the project, especially comments or suggestions of improvement by organisations from other countries who in the past have implemented similar projects in their local communities, to hear and learn about their experiences but also challenges.