How Investing in Women and Girls Changes Bulgaria for the Better
Investments in the development and civil participation of women and girls is a prerequisite for achieving greater societal awareness and understanding over gender issues. Global initiatives and political frameworks such as Beijing Platform for Action and Sustainable Development Goals 2030 set the way forward for gender equality, involving concrete measures for its achievement like increasing the political participation of women, combating gender-based violence and discrimination, and sexual and reproductive rights.
The Bulgarian Fund for Women’s Call for Feminist Projects mirrors the lack of such specific activities in Bulgaria. It addresses the needs of the different groups of women and girls – from ethnic minorities, with disabilities, from rural areas, survivours of gender-based violence – through supporting organizations, informal groups and activists who work for the realization of women’s human rights.
In the end of February 2020 the projects funded under the initiative were reported. The results are impressive on the background of shrinking civil space in the country – open hate speech, lack of State support to the NGO sector, public misunderstanding over women and girls’ issues. Overall, 11 projects were approved for funding with projects amounting to 52814.50 BGN in total. The projects developed their activities in 13 cities while two of them developed at national level reaching out a wide audience of target groups – 87 girls aged 12-18, 1455 women and 30 men above 18 years. Thanks to the active efforts for dissemination and publicity, organizations funded under the initiative reached 95841 persons!
How do non-government organizations change social and cultural environment and influence negative attitudes?
Here are some examples by the organizations selected for funding:
“Young, active, creative” Association from Karlovo prove that when there is a will, there is a way. Their project reaches young women and girls aged 16-25 years from marginalized groups – Roma, girls living in the rural areas of Karlovo region, at risk of dropping out of school. Training with them follows, aimed at increasing their professional competencies and job search skills. In this way, the team contributes to increasing the chances of employment and economic independence of these young girls. And because personal example is important, the project also includes successful young Roma women who are educated and have managed to win their place in society. This will inspire confidence in young girls that they have many opportunities for development.
Peace Research Institute – Plovdiv supports girls and young women from Plovdiv and Varna through a program for development of women’s potential, consisting of intensive training. It starts at the personal level and develops for the acquisition of social skills for personal and civic position in protection of their own rights and those of women in Bulgaria. The public events provided an opportunity for practical expression of the participants, as well as visibility on the personal and social challenges for women in Bulgaria.
Endometriosis and Reproductive Health Foundation – Sofia, with its project “Formulate Your Rights” aim to increase women’s knowledge about health and reproductive rights and how to defend them. The project provides support to women who have experienced adverse effects of medical interventions, increases public awareness of these issues and establishes a dialogue with interested institutions and organizations on practices and standards for informed consent.
St. Marena Independent Women’s Association – Sozopol conducts a series of trainings for girls and young women from vulnerable groups (Roma community, socially disadvantaged women) in the Municipality of Sozopol. The team introduces them to the right to bodily integrity, good examples for sexual and reproductive health. The project provoked the activity of young women to prepare topics with questions to be discussed with specialists, including psychologists, social workers, doctors. The proposed topics are related to reproductive health, prevention of unwanted pregnancies, sharing good practices.
Generation Foundation – Lom established a fund for financial support of female entrepreneurs from Lom, Montana and Vidin. The Fund’s aim is to provide products and services for initial support to selected entrepreneurial endeavors. The project provides initial branding, internet positioning and promotion of the Fund, as well as contribution in terms of attracting sponsors and donors from the business. The main partner is Cause Foundation – one of the leading organizations in the field of promoting start-up entrepreneurship in Bulgaria.
Levfem Left Queer-Feminist Group – Sofia conducted an in-depth analysis of practices and policies in the field of care work, which mainly concerns disadvantaged women. The project examines existing labor practices and social policies in the field of “care” for older women in Bulgaria. Based on the results, the study forms proposals for reforms in the field of care work, and hence in the quality of care received.
Reflector Foundation – Sofia uses artistic techniques to provoke important social issues related to violence and gender stereotypes. They photographed women survivours of gender-based violence with the message #ЩЕПРОПУСНА (#IWILLSKIPTHIS) and their personal story. The initiative includes representatives of different social status, who are discriminated against, both according to their gender and their characteristics – а tattooed woman, African American, lesbian, athlete, etc. The photographs are spread around Sofia in the form of street art prints on public walls and facades in the urban environment, the center and peripheral neighborhoods.
Association “Startup Factory“ – Ruse focus their efforts on building basic digital skills for women – programming, graphic design and digital entrepreneurship. The initiative provides access to facilities, as well as the opportunity for mentoring, a workshop for starting your own products, building communities. The project creates new horizons and motivation for women to develop their skills in this direction, providing basic resources, guidelines, initial knowledge and support in the initial steps of forming technical, digital and marketing competencies.
Kibela Association – Haskovo focus their efforts on young women aged 19-30 years. They conduct workshops and lectures to influence the identified deficits that prevent women from achieving economic independence: lack of self-confidence, development of potential, drawing paths for personal realization; insufficient financial literacy for managing corporate and personal finances.
Forum for Glocal Change Association – Gabrovo revived the traditions of the women’s movement in the city, born 150 years ago with Mother’s Care Charity Organization. Inspired by the historical past, their project invites women from Gabrovo to contribute to positive change at the local and national level through a series of trainings related to women’s civic participation. There was an event for ideas sharing and recommendations for addressing women’s issues in Gabrovo. The organization believes that women at the local level can make a huge contribution to the development of their communities if they have the right tools and feel confident in using them.
The Bulgarian Association of University Women – Sofia makes visible the “women’s places of memory” in Sofia, Ruse and Plovdiv and Burgas. Through a series of tours on cultural and tourist routes, they present the contribution of women and women’s movement in the urban areas of Sofia, Ruse, Burgas and Plovdiv in the XIX and XX centuries. Through activities the team promotes positive change in public mindset and stereotypes about gender, social and cultural inequalities. By including in the routes individuals and places related not only to the Bulgarian ethnic group, but also to those representative of modern multicultural and minority communities, the project contributes to activating the women’s movement in modern Bulgaria and the desired gender-sensitive social change.
Image: “Young, active, creative” Association, Karlovo