H&D Gender Perspectives Foundation
People from small villages in the country often remain away from government and local authorities’ sight. Their access to participation in decision making process, social services, health care, culture, exercise of civil rights is limited. That is why we plan to train local informal leaders from 6 small villages in Haskovo District, Bulgaria and to turn them into local ombudsmen - a key figure for villages' development and prosperity and citizens' empowerment and engagement.
Villages:Kasnakovo, Dobrich, Brod, Zlato pole, Mezek & Siva reka in Haskovo District, South Bulgaria
Haskovo District is one of the regions with worst socio-economic indicators in Bulgaria and in the EU, too. People here are with the low income, with limited access to health care and social services. Population in small villages consists of elderly and a few young citizens without mechanisms to lobby for their common interests in front of local authorities and take action to develop their villages. People here are not aware of how democracy and participation can help them to improve their lives. Most of them don’t know and don’t trust local authorities and government because of corruption. Many live in extremely poverty, especially representatives of ethnical groups and elderly people. They don’t have information about EU and state’s initiatives that can help them, so they feel abandoned.
We plan to find local informal leaders and teach them how to be useful for the whole small community, how to make people united, active and participating in common problem’s solving. We plan to show local communities how to use mechanisms of democracy (petitions, communication with authorities, lobbyism etc.) to improve their lives and develop their villages. We plan to organize small initiatives with great importance for villages and prove that active citizenship matters. We will organize local councils with local citizens, villages’ mayors, town councilors etc. that will work as an operative group to solve local problems and engage local stakeholders in actions. This will give local people the chance to participate in decision making process and engage them in real actions.
Ordinary people from small villages in our region often feel excluded. They don’t have the chance to participate in the decision-making process, politicians and local authorities don’t use their potential as active citizens. In the villages we plan to work in, live more than 3500 people, most of them elderly and representatives of small ethnic groups incl. Roma. Their informal leaders will take part in local councils (operative structures), as well as all the population will be invited to participate in meetings where their views will be taken into account. Local ombudsmen (informal leaders we will teach, coach, support and monitor) will be the missing connection between ordinary people and authorities.
We plan to start with meetings with formal and informal leaders in the chosen villages. Each village will select a representative who will be a local ombudsman. Our team will teach these ombudsmen topics like human’s rights, democratic values, participation in decision-making process, citizens’ engagement, participatory democracy, advocacy, lobbying, fund rising, volunteering, organization of initiatives. Local ombudsmen’s most important role is to be the bridge between local community and local authorities. They will lead local councils where citizens, institutions and stakeholders will participate. In the next few months, a coordinator from our team will support and supervise ombudsmen in the process of building and conducting a mechanism for joint actions of citizens and authorities.
We expect citizens from all the selected villages to be more active and involved in solving their local problems and village’s development. We believe that in the end of the project local citizens will be much more united and aware of their rights and opportunities. In each village we will conduct several initiatives - eco actions, campaigns in support of socially excluded people, campaigns in support of local culture, traditions and customs, active participation in village budget planning, setting priorities for village development, lobbying for solving local problems with infrastructure, access to education, healthcare and social services etc. We believe local councils will contribute to increase trust in local authorities and institutions, as well as strengthen EU democratic values.
Residents of small villages often live in social and economic isolation. Their problems are rarely heard by politicians and institutions. But often the reason for this is rooted in their distrust of institutions and lack of willingness to actively participate in solving problems. Awareness of rights and opportunities, as well as the creation of mechanisms (local ombudsmen and local councils) for direct participation of citizens in decision-making processes at the local level is a model with great prospects that can be successfully implemented in any European country. We believe that the only way to strengthen democracy in Europe is to start with small steps in small villages and then spread good practices. Only when people embrace democratic values will democracy reach every corner of EU.
People from small villages are one of the most social excluded group in our society. Most of them are pensioners and representatives of small ethnic communities. They live alone, abandoned by relatives, institutions, left to the whims of fate. Our team consists of specialists with different qualification that can help them. Petya Petkova is a psychologist and mediator ( she has master degree in psychology and a certificate for mediator) with long experience in counselling victims of domestic violence and working in small communities. Andriana Musabasheva is a social worker. She's been working in small villages since 2014 when she managed a project for establishing small groups for self - help and solidarity. Milena Slavova and Antonia Fileva are jurists with long experience.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs – 37 390.78 EUR
Office expenses – 3 323.40 EUR
Materials – 7 766.52 EUR
Travel & accommodation – 1 104.39 EUR
Public relations – 296.55 EUR
Other expenses – 111.67 EUR
We are curious what others think of our initiative, whether they have experience with such initiatives and whether they would join it as volunteers. Of course, we will gladly accept any criticism and suggestions for the development of our project proposal.