A provincial town located in the predominantly rural Tuzla Canton in the north-east of Bosnia, Gračanica is home to around 48,000 inhabitants.
Financial incentives encourage 51% of the population to continue living in rural areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
However families living in rural areas have less access to basic services and employment opportunities than those living in urban areas.
Since 1998, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Gracanica.
Despite a lower cost of living, rural poverty rates in Bosnia and Herzegovina are twice that of urban centres, with over 20% of rural dwellers living in poverty. A lack of education and larger families perpetuate poverty in rural areas.
Children are disproportionately affected and more vulnerable to the effects of poverty. Children who live in poverty face long-term consequences on their life as adults, including detrimental consequences on their educational, physical, intellectual, and psychological development.
Around 25% of young children in Bosnia and Herzegovina go to preschool. This national preschool enrolment level is the lowest among countries in the region, but the situation is worse in rural areas, where even fewer children attend.
Children from rural areas make up less than 1% of all children attending preschool. For children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, early education can strongly contribute to their social and cognitive development. It also improves their social inclusion and sets them up for educational success and improves prospects in adulthood.