Like a bridge across cultures: The work of cultural mediators in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Thursday 1 December 2022

“I have been working in child protection for more than three years now. My job is on the frontline, so I see cases of neglect, abuse, drugs or violence. Sexual abuse is rarer, but it happens. In these situations, a child is scared and does not trust anyone. Usually, when a child sees that the person who is talking to them can talk in their mother tongue, or they can understand the child’s culture, it makes them feel much more confident and relaxed. The child feels more confident to share information or ask for help if needed. Once during my deployment in one of the Temporary Accommodation Centres where families stayed, there was a family with an 11-year-old child who didn’t want to go to school, and his parents did not want to send him to school. They told me that they were hesitant to send their child outside of the camp as their son couldn’t speak the local language and was scared to go. After I told them that I would be in the school with the child and I could help him with other children or the teacher, the boy immediately changed his decision, and he was ready to go to school. That I could speak the language made them confident to take this decision.

Tehsin is cultural mediator for Urdu language and shares his experience working with children on the move in Una-Sana Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina.   A cultural mediator is like a bridge that works to overcome cultural differences and enhance understanding and acceptance across cultural norms. They are often the first point of contact in the process of building relationships between people on the move, beneficiaries and other partners.

Tehsin describes his job as challenging but rewarding because he can help children: “I am always available and I have a goal to be the first person who will explain to children what my job is and how I can help them, what kind of protection they can get and how to provide them with a safe place where all their rights will be respected. When I talk to children and get the feeling that they trust me, I know that the child has agreed to be protected from my side. I provide support first as a cultural mediator and then as a child protection officer. The most difficult situation is when, during the initial conversation, the children speak about the difficulties they encountered along the way, and they describe violence they suffered physically or sexually, belittling, and discrimination they suffered from the people they met along the way.”

The Save the Children emergency team is helping unaccompanied and separated boys. Tehsin approaches them responsibility, seriousness and tact: “First of all, all children are protected by the same law and rights, regardless of where they are - a child is a child. Regardless of sympathy or empathy for children on the move, most people wonder how and why they go on the road alone, without parental accompaniment, butI have not yet come across a negative opinion about children on the move. I would be happy if I could respond to all the needs of children on the move and for them to be protected not only by Save the Children, but also by all other organizations, third parties and all others who are in contact with children on the move.” concludes Tehsin.


Bosnia and Herzegovina has been highly affected by high inflow of people on the move since 2018. The migration route through Bosnia and Herzegovina is still one of the main transit corridors in the region today. To respond to the needs on the ground, Save the Children operates with three outreach teams, one in each canton (Sarajevo, Tuzla and USK) with EU humanitarian aid funding. 

Quality and timely assistance has been provided continuously to unaccompanied and separated children by cultural mediators, whose involvement and work has become extremely important.

In addition to cultural mediation, Save the Children provides other forms of support and assistance to children on the move, such as child protection and case management, psycho-social support, information, education and other needed services.