Leaders of Change: Meet the participants in the Bulgarian Fund for Women’ Community Development Program
At the beginning of 2021, the Bulgarian Fund for Women launched its Community Development Program 2021, which aims to support community leaders and activists in their efforts to unite and mobilize their communities, to promote initiatives related to bringing citizens together for a better social environment, to enable encounters and exchanges between different groups, and to promote women’s involvement in community development. The overarching objective of the program is to promote and support informal involvement and unity of citizens in solving societal problems that have been left out of government support.
After 101 applications from 43 different places, the BFW team selected 17 community leaders. They went through the program in two parts – theoretical and practical, and in the first stage, the 17 participants took part in a three-day training at the end of April aimed at developing skills for community building and organizing. In the second stage, they had the opportunity to apply for funding for the projects they submitted, helping them to activate their communities and together implement an initiative to improve everyone’s life in the community.
After the evaluation of the submitted projects, 11 women leaders who contributed to the development of their community were approved for funding. Each of them developed their project according to the needs of their community and their competencies. Here is brief information about the projects that are part of the program:
Antoaneta Macheva created a “Ladies Club in support of girls at risk” in the town of Pleven. The participants of the club aimed to pass on their experience to young girls at risk and help empower them. As a result of the project, 10 girls from JDC in Podem had the opportunity to learn, through non-traditional methods of interaction and to freely talk about the difficulties they have faced and to contemplate on their life ahead.
Magdalena Deleva from Plovdiv supported the activity of the community ” We Knit for the Bulgarian children”, which unites dozens of women from all over the country who knit and sell toys for charity for the benefit of children with serious illnesses, thus financing for their treatment.
Through her project “Girls in the Army – New Challenges”, Veselka Stoyanova managed to form a community and create a club of female cadets at the National Military University “V. Levski in Shumen. Meetings to discuss various topics outside the course material and strictly military topics were organized, such as girls’ problems in the army, as well as if they feel like they are accepted as equals.
Lyudmila Sultanova organized a petanque tournament for senior sports clubs from Sofia. The tournament provided an opportunity for women to challenge the state of inactivity and depression brought about by lonely life, intensified by the epidemiological situation and the lockdown. It helped them to direct their thoughts and actions towards positive events and gave them the opportunity for additional activities.
Radka Toteva created the website Pensioner.bg. It is aimed entirely at an audience of retired people who can get information, communicate and socialize.
Stella Kehayova started an “Academy for Women Entrepreneurs” in Kazanlak. With her project, she wants to counteract unemployment, the economic dependence of girls and women in Kazanlak, who have a chance to grow, to participate in the management and decision-making process in socio-economic life.
Some of the participants focused on the development of their communities through the theme of nature, the environment, and the beauty of the place they inhabit. Mirena Shankolova managed to create the first playground in Belene adapted for children with special educational needs. It has become a kind of outdoor educational playground with the opportunity to improve the educational and physical activity of the children of Belene.
Vanya Frolikova lives in the village of General Todorov. It is strategically positioned – it is located between the volcano Kozhukh and Marikostinovo, but there is not a single tree on the 2 km long main street of the village. Her Together for Air and Cool project aims to change that. As part of the project, 20 trees were planted and “adopted” by local people.
Bistra Poyukliyska engages the local community of Trigrad in a conversation aimed at women who have reproductive difficulties. Women should be given all available alternatives for their dream to come true to have a child. These are psychological support from a specialist, IVF, other assisted reproduction methods, etc.
With her project, Sofia Kostadinova-Ilkova aimed to promote the area of Podgorje, at the foot of the natural park “Belasitsa”. This is a little-known part of Bulgaria because of years of isolation. “Explore and fall in love” presented this beautiful but unknown part of the country through various materials and meetings between locals and visitors. People from the community actively participated and will strive to draw more interest in the region.
Nelly Cherkesov made the “Green Classroom” in the village Sitovo. The close-knit local community made a united effort to create the garden where anyone could gain knowledge and skills about traditional techniques and cultures, the importance of the cycle of air, water and seasons in nature, ecology and permaculture through interactive activities.
We are proud of all the achievements our local participants have accomplished!