Feature Stories

Fighting for Women in Bosnia

When he started running in Sarajevo’s Race for the Cure at the age of 14, Nermin Music wasn’t sure his mother Ramiza would survive her breast cancer.

Now 19, Nermin is a goodwill ambassador for the race — a joint initiative of JDC’s Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP) and Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists — and Ramiza is healthy, a breast cancer survivor for about six years, and the leader of one of WHEP’s peer support groups for survivors and patients in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Established by JDC in 1995, WHEP focuses on the importance of early detection of breast cancer while providing psychosocial and other support services for women currently living with this disease. The program is currently active in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, and Russia, and also works with Israeli and Palestinian survivors through JDC’s COPE Forum.

In addition, WHEP provides leadership training for breast cancer survivors, enabling them to form NGOs, run peer-support groups, and advocate for better health care services.

Proceeds from last year’s Race in Bosnia and Herzegovina funded 1,400 post-surgery health kits and over 600 mammograms in 12 rural locations where access to these screenings would otherwise be unavailable.

Nermin began running in 2008 when Ramiza was still undergoing chemotherapy. Traveling alone from his small town of Brčko, he arrived at Vilsonovo Setaliste, one of Sarajevo’s largest parks, with one goal: to win the Race for the Cure for his mother.

Though he came in third and left disappointed, Nermin vowed to return to the race and pursue a win for his mom. The following year, a healthy Ramiza joined him at the race and Nermin came in second.

Nermin knew he wouldn’t be happy until he was the first to cross over the Race for the Cure finish line, and so he committed himself to intensive training. In his third attempt, now 2010, he won – despite tough competition from two ex-Navy members of the U.S. Embassy contingent participating in the event.

Though he nearly collapsed as he crossed the finish line, he was likely the happiest person in Bosnia and Herzegovina that day.

Accepting his prize on stage beside his beaming mother, Nermin said his dedication wasn’t just for Ramiza but for all who fight against breast cancer.

“I am running for my mom,” he said, “but I am also running for all the mothers and all their children.”

Today, the Sarajevo Race for the Cure — held this fall on October 5 — remains a positive force for change and an important dialogue-starter in the Balkans. In 2012, more than 6,000 people registered for the race, breaking the taboo and social stigma that is often associated with this disease in the region.

For more information on JDC’s work supporting women around the globe: http://www.jdc.org/what-we-do/jdc-impacting-women.html

Tags for this story: WHEP / Susan G. Komen for the Cure ®, Women, Health / Medical Issues

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