Bijeljina youth openly talk about violence in adolescent relationships

“There is no 'positive jealousy' or 'justified slap' - Love must not and should not hurt!"

Almir Panjeta for UNICEF
“Nema ‘pozitivne ljubomore’ ni ‘opravdanog šamara’ - Ljubav ne smije i ne treba da boli!”
31 May 2022

The team “RESCPECT” of the School of Economics from Bijeljina, applied and passed among the top five at the 5th UPSHIFT workshop for young people aged 13 to 19 whose ideas were awarded grant funds of 3,000 KM each. Their selected theme was "Violence in adolescent relationships" under the motto "Love must not and should not hurt". Katarina Stević, Jelena Petrić, Nikolina Lancuški, Dragan Vulin and Katarina Božić decided to talk about something present, about which there is very little public discourse.

"Young people enter into relationships without even knowing what a relationship is, what it looks like, they don't have enough self-esteem, and then when they happen to be victims of violence in such a relationship, they have a misconception about what love should look like." team member Katarina Stević tells us, adding that they received support from the school's professors for the realization of the idea, because they were glad that young people were thinking about this topic.

“We live in a time when we are 'bombed' by the media content that practically promotes such behaviours, starting from various reality shows, through movies, music videos, in which violence is shown almost as normal, and we thought we needed to do something in such an environment.”, Katarina and the rest of the team tell us at the beginning of the conversation.

They planned to talk about the topic through lectures for students from seventh to the ninth grade of elementary and all grades of high school, as well as through the short feature film "When Love Hurts" for which they prepared the script.

They prepared for realization of the project by gathering all relevant information, but also doing some field research during which they had the opportunity to talk to victims of violence in adolescent relationships and visit the Women's Organization "Lara" which runs a safe house, where they had the opportunity to obtain direct and relevant information.

"When we initiated the story, we knew what a problem was, but we didn't realise how huge it was. We heard stories of victims, had the opportunity to hear how due to their youth and inexperience they were not able to recognize either psychological or physical violence.", said the team, sharing some of the experiences they encountered during the research and interviews with victims:

"The victims described how they were in fear, how they felt betrayed by the person they love and did everything they could to not lose them, and how in the end everything escalated with threats to them, but also to their family. "It stopped only when they talked about it with a close person, and in the end, only in one case, when reporting the violence to the police, after which the person received the necessary support."


“Nema ‘pozitivne ljubomore’ ni ‘opravdanog šamara’ - Ljubav ne smije i ne treba da boli!”
“Nema ‘pozitivne ljubomore’ ni ‘opravdanog šamara’ - Ljubav ne smije i ne treba da boli!”

"The problem is that children and young people have limited opportunities to educate themselves and do not know how to act.

We explained to our peers that they can always turn to a school psychologist or pedagogue, that they can report the case to the police, the Center for Social Work or associations dealing with violence, or simply talk to someone they trust.”


The team held two workshops for 200 primary and secondary school children and young people and posted a short video from the lecture on YouTube. The reactions were great, and all stand out as a useful and fun experience.

One of the goals the team was to continue the project, so they decided to use their knowledge and experience to make a feature film.

" I am glad that I was able to contribute to the story being told in this way and to create a film that can help young people not find themselves in the situation of our main protagonist, so that even if it happens to them, they know that it is not their fault and that they should not feel guilty or condemned for it, that they know how to recognize violence, how to react, where to refer and how to continue with life, knowing that things such as 'normal jealousy’  and ‘justified slap’ do not exist, says Jelena Petric, one of the team members who acted in the film.

Members of the team feel the benefit on a personal level too, by having better awareness and knowledge, so they can more easily recognize such cases and react adequately.

"We have received unexpected support from the media, and we hope that at least some of them will take the topic more seriously in the future." In our school, there is a Council of students to whom we remain available because we will certainly continue to deal with this topic through study and work. We do also hope that the education system and schools will adequately get involved in this sensitive topic.

UPSHIFT workshops are implemented by the Genesis Project in Banja Luka in partnership with UNICEF and with financial support from USAID, within the project "Strengthening Social and Health Protection in Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina". The UPSHIFT methodology was developed in UNICEF's Office of Innovation to provide young people with the skills and resources needed to identify problems in local communities and devise solutions to them.

At the end of the workshop, the teams present their ideas to an expert jury, after which the jury selects five teams whose solutions are recognized as most innovative, most feasible, and have the potential to improve the quality of life in the community. Those teams are being rewarded with 3,000.00 KM grants to implement their ideas.