IVANA ŽANIĆ: Solidarity is looking at another woman and saying “I see you”, “I believe you”, “I am on your side”

This time, our guest is Ivana Žanić, jurist, human rights activist, feminist, the initiator of #breadforall action and our long-term individual donor. 

For many years, Reconstruction Women’s Fund has been developing the program of local feminist philanthropy, inspiring individuals to support feminist movement with small individual donations. Until now, we were mostly doing it through live events, meaning that 2020 wasn’t really working in our favor – but, thanks to the individual donors, including you (thanks!), our program of local feminist philanthropy remained active even in the absence of live events. Let’s go back to the moment when you decided to become our individual donor and contribute on a monthly basis – what catalyzed your decision? 

The decision came quite spontaneously. I have to admit I wasn’t thinking about it too much. I remember it was a couple of years ago at RWF when I learned about the individual donations. As the meeting ended, I went to my bank and made a standing order to allocate a certain amount for RWF each month. This is ongoing for a couple of years now. And, now, if I would think more deeply, I would say that I have made this decision at the intuitive level, because at the meeting, I found out that Reconstruction supports women’s organizations in entire Serbia, as well as non-formal groups. That’s when it became clear to me that those organizations must be having struggles with finances and have no capacities of applying for bigger projects that require administrative tumbles. That’s why the idea of RWF supporting them with small grants for projects with concrete results seemed like an idea in which I want to participate. 

When we speak about individual contributions, we are certainly not only speaking about money – the activists who receive the donations witness that they highly appreciate the very gesture of support, the fact that the community has them in mind, as well as their needs, and supports the struggles they lead. What is it like on the other side, on the side of a person who donates – where do you recognize the significance of your contribution, what are the moments in which you are glad to be a regular donor and supporter to women’s movement? 

Each public act of women speaking out and talking about daily injustices, violence and misogyny makes me say to myself: “Hey, our struggle is not in vain!” The latest events, when actresses publicly spoke about sexual violence they suffered from a “respectable” member of society whose authority and “teaching” methods have remained unquestioned for years, made me really believe that there is hope for us, as a society. Likewise, the initiatives of girls from Serbian provinces and the existence of non-formal groups are highly important to all of us in the women’s movement. It is a sign that we are setting a good example of impacting the society we live in – through local initiatives and projects. I believe that, when each of us does what she is best in, what she can, and when she contributes, she sets an example and gives ideas to others what they can do. We are more powerful than we believe, and united we can do much more. This is perhaps the most important reason for me to support the women’s movement in Serbia. 

We have started and continued to maintain the program of local feminist philanthropy based on solidarity, continuously revealing new shapes and meanings of this word. What does solidarity mean to you? What kind of solidarity is necessary to the women’s movement?

For me, solidarity is a way of life. Something immanent to my personality. I try to observe everything I do through this prism. I keep on asking myself – how can this be useful to others, to help them, to give them an idea? Practicing solidarity is not always easy. It takes a lot of consciousness about the other, about sometimes having to leave personal aspirations, likes, dislikes, preferences and the rest aside, for the ideas and values greater than ourselves. It seems to me that in the recent years this is what we lack in the women’s movement – steady consciousness about why we are doing something, what ideas drive us. Is it only at the level – I have to finish my project and earn my salary or stopping to thing – who am I doing this for? I keep on asking myself this. Contemporary society pushes us to work, achieve, experience burnouts at work, compete and appropriate an illusion of power. With this mechanical rhythm, we become detached one from another. And, for me, solidarity is looking at another woman, saying “I see you”, “I believe you”, “I am on your side.” Just this. And sometimes just this is the most difficult. 

Interview by Galina Maksimović

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