Female persons aged 17 – 45 are needed to sell watermelons. A young woman is needed to work in a quiet café.  A female receptionist aged 20 – 35 is needed to work in a hotel. A female photographer is needed.

Written by: Vanja Stokić; Photo & Video: Ajdin Kamber

This is the beginning of four job advertisements, which we picked from a pile of similar ones. Although forbidden by the law, the sex and age of employees are clearly specified. In this case, women older than the required age are totally excluded as well as men of all ages. Such job ads demonstrate that the potential experience of seasoned employees is unimportant. The only thing that matters is youth – female youth. Employers cannot and do not want to explain why this is so.

Foto baza

“A maximum of 40 years of age is OK. Girls working here are quite young. Girls that work in a café too. Say, 20, 25. We admit girls of that age. We have only one woman aged 40, she’s our oldest employee. That is simply what our guests like, that’s it. I don’t know what to say, it’s simply our rule. There’s no specific reason, we simply hire young persons”, said a female who works in a Banja Luka hotel that is looking for a female receptionist aged 20–35 through a public job advertisement.

In another job ad, a female photographer is needed. An eTrafika photographer asked why they excluded men from the ad. According to them, he, a man with many years of experience in shooting and editing photos, and recording and editing videos, has no right to even apply for the job. He did not get the answer why. The employer rudely interrupted the conversation.

“I don’t have to answer. Good luck and goodbye,” he said, among other things.

We contacted the Employment Office of the Republika Srpska, asking if such ads are an example of overt discrimination and how to fight against it. However, people from the Office did not share our opinion.

“Regarding job advertisements and staff selection, we point out that every employer is primarily interested in trained and professional staff, and employers have full freedom when choosing staff, which is their responsibility”, they said briefly.

The Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina is very explicit. These are undoubtedly clear examples of discrimination.

“The right to gender equality is a value promoted by the Constitution, but not by international documents. The key document on gender discrimination is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It is clear that vacancies must be advertised in such a way that people of both sexes can apply. That’s the red line!” said ombudsman Ljubinko Mitrović.

He adds that they issued a press release in one case when a job advertisement sought female workers up to 35 years of age.

“Of course, this is not acceptable for us. That is a direct violation of domestic legislation and international standards.”

Ljubinko Mitrović, Photo: Ajdin Kamber

The RS Employment Office has about 68,000 unemployed in its records. The number of men and women is approximately the same, and most unemployed are between 45 and 60. There are a total of 25,000 of them. Most of the unemployed are qualified male and female workers.

“What is particularly interesting is that, unfortunately, people up to 40 years of age have the opportunity to leave. Therefore, we know very well, and we should not hide it, that there’s mass migration to Western Europe countries. People between 40 and 60 are not welcome even in the West. These are people who do not speak foreign languages and who find it very difficult to learn them. Furthermore, it is people who have already settled down here. They have a place to live, but do not have a job”, says Mitrović based on a report published by the Ombudsman Institution.

He also warns about the type of work performed by women. Their research shows that women are most often employed in low-productivity industries and have low incomes.

“Most often, these are jobs in hospitality and trade. The provision of services is also an industry where many women work. In addition, there are some production industries like shoe or clothing production, jobs with awful working conditions and halls where several hundreds of women work. Of course, what particularly worries us is shift work and working late at night.  That implies getting back home late at night, and possible violence against women”, he says.


Understanding the situation of middle-aged, unemployed women and wanting to help her mother, who had only one month of work experience in her workbook, Tamara Jović from Zvornik started a cleaning agency in 2017 called “The Super Woman”. Highly educated and unemployed, she decided to create a job for herself. A job to herself, her mother and fellow citizens who couldn’t find a job.

“I decided it was time to make that turn in my life. I also wanted to help my mother because a woman over 40, who has only completed elementary school and who has about a month of work experience, will find it very difficult to find employment. She was not the only one; 128 women were in the same situation, which was the information from the Zvornik Employment Office. They were like her, with up to a month of work experience,” recalls Tamara.

Tamara Jović, Photo: Ajdin Kamber

She did market research, fundraising and training.

“There are a million little things one needs to learn and I learned a lot from my women. Things from cleaning to selling a service. In most cases, these women had a job but worked without an employment contract. Our goal was for these women to stop illegal work because we cared about their future, given that we all need a pension in the future. Frankly, it was much easier at that moment to find a female employee. It was enough to advertise for a job on Facebook and a dozen of them would respond within half an hour. It’s a little more difficult now. There’s a deficit of employees because people go to work abroad”, she says.

“The Super Woman” focuses on employing women over 40, without work experience and proper training. Five years ago, there were about 2,000 unemployed in Zvornik, according to the information available to Tamara. Over time, she expanded her target group to include women under 40. There are currently six of them, while they hire more women if necessary.

Sanja Kostić (37), who needed a regular source of income, also found a job with “Super Woman”. She has been working with the cleaning agency for several years.

“I had periods when I was actively looking for a job without success. That might have been because I wasn’t a member of a major political party. When I looked for a job, it was always the same reply – “we will call you, leave your details.” And then, waiting. I didn’t want just to sit and wait uselessly, and luckily Tamara appeared. We started the business and I am very happy”, says she.

Sanja Kostić; Photo: Ajdin Kamber

She points out that work has changed a lot in her life.

“I have made many friends and, as a single mother, also helped my child quite a lot. I feel better when I can contribute to my family”, she says.

Their most frequent clients are communities of apartment owners, hospitality establishments, companies and owners of private apartments. Currently, in addition to general cleaning of apartments, deep cleaning of furniture is also a popular service. They are planning to introduce a laundry service – probably next year – and elderly care without providing medical services.

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