Fearless: Professor Janet Powers and Linnea Goebel

This week we would like to recognise Professor Janet Powers and recent graduate Linnea Goebel ’13 for their work in Bosnia this summer helping to set up a group of female embroiderers with an Amazon Marketplace account to sell their wares on the internet.

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Professor Powers first became involved with the group of twenty Bosnian war widows in 2011 when she traveled to the country to interview women’s groups for her book. Like most other women in the country, where the  unemployment rate is about 43%, they struggle to support families, many of which include older children who are unable to support themselves in the economic climate. They are extremely talented at crocheting, knitting, and embroidering, but lack a market for their goods. Professor Powers became their liaison, bringing their wares home with her to sell at different craft fairs and markets.

Linnea became involved in the project while taking the professor’s Global Feminism course. She was already interested in the region and was learning Serbo-Croatian with another professor. Linnea had the idea to expand Professor Powers’ efforts by creating a store online, and the two of them applied for a grant to travel back to Bosnia and make this a reality.

At the beginning of the summer, they flew to Sarajevo and helped the women to take an inventory of their wares and write up descriptions for the online stores. Professor Powers had also been conducting research with focus groups on campus about what other types of clothing and what styles would be popular so that the women could expand their selections. This trip was also an opportunity to begin incorporating her findings into their work.

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The last hurdle that they need to overcome in order to get their storefront online is to set up a bank account for the women that can be accessed in both Bosnia and the US, which is made difficult because the country is not part of the Eurozone. Professor Powers will be handling this project herself now that Linnea has departed to spend a year in Moscow.

We’d also like to give our shout out this week to Professor Powers and her co-researcher, also a Bosnian refugee. In addition to this project, the two of them have organized various peace-building projects in the country. These have included various concerts for peace and efforts to bring Catholic and Muslim women from rural areas together to share their stories of loss and unite over the fact that suffering is not contingent upon ethnic identities.

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