Bulgaria: Peace Corps Partnership: Women's Weaving and Sewing Cooperative

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, December 13, 2002 - 11:05 am: Edit Post

Women's Weaving and Sewing Cooperative

A New Peace Corps Project in Straldja, Bulgaria
Edith Sloan, Peace Corps Volunteer in Straldja, is sponsoring a new project under the Peace Corps Partnership Program which would finance the start-up on a women's cooperative in Straldja.

You can make donations toward this project at the Peace Corps' Partnership Program web site.

More Information:

Women's Group Organization Meeting. (left to right) Edith Sloan, Peace Corps volunteer, Velina Haidutova, chair of Democratic Women's Union, Irina Urumova, local artisan, Dobrina Marinova, marketing specialist at Business Information Center - Straldja, and Rozitsa Todorova, English teacher and Edith's counterpart.
Women's Weaving and Sewing Cooperative

In a community where 40% of the working age population is unemployed and half the total population is retired on less than the amount required for minimal survival, life can be quite grim for many people.

The single group most heavily impacted by economic depression of this level is that of women. They not only make up the largest percentage of pensioners, they also find it difficult to find new employment and usually receive the least amount in unemployment and retirement, because even while employed they earned considerably less than men with the same experience and education.

This is the case in the small agricultural community of Straldja, where around 16,000 people live in one town and 21 villages located just south of the Balkan mountain range on the Thracian lowlands of eastern Bulgaria.

Ten years ago, when the old system collapsed, there were several large factories in Straldja, providing employment for thousands of skilled workers. Today, only three small plants are operating, employing less than 200 workers in total.

Most people in the community survive by keeping home gardens and by raising a few farm animals. They preserve most of their food and they make their own clothes and most of their own tools.

Almost all the women in town are skilled seamstresses, not only because they have to be in order to make the clothing required by their own families, but also because many of them are graduates of technical schools in textiles and sewing.

Several things have prevented the women of Straldja from working in the sewing and weaving field -- but mainly the lack of resources to build and equip an appropriate manufacturing facility and the absence of a ready market for the finished products.

Today, a number of resources are coming together to make such a facility a reality.

First, a local organization of women, the Democratic Women's Union, is organizing a women's cooperative to operate and work in such a facility.

Second, the local municipal government has agreed to provide space for a sewing and weaving facility at no cost to the women, for an unlimited period of time.

Third, a virtual crafts store has just been launched in Straldja, a project of a non-profit organization funded by the United Nations Development Program, which can readily market any products the new cooperative makes, to American and Western European buyers.

And, fourth, a project to be funded through the Peace Corps Partnership Project is being developed by an American Peace Corps volunteer which would buy the equipment and materials necessary to get the women's cooperative off to a good start.

This new project, the Women's Sewing and Weaving Cooperative, would provide employment for up to 64 women by purchasing eight looms, plus dyeing and other equipment. Cost to a collection of different donors would be a little more than $6000.

Edith Sloan, a Peace Corps volunteer in Straldja, is the author of the project. Supporting her is Dobrina Marinova, marketing consultant at the Business Information Center - Straldja (the UNDP organization behind the crafts website), Velina Haidutova, president of the Democratic Women's Union and Irina Urumova, a professional artist who is also a certified textiles specialist, in addition to a determined team of skilled local women.

Visit their web site at:


By Marijka Walker on Wednesday, April 02, 2003 - 11:45 am: Edit Post

I'd like to get in touch with Edith Sloan. I am a textile artist and handbag designer, and I would love to talk about the possibility of purchasing hand-woven and embellished fabrics from the new cooperative in Straldja, Bulgaria.

I often incorporate work by other artists into my handbag designs, which helps promote their talents and mine. And since my bags are one-of-a-kind or limited to six, I am interested in small, unique pieces - not large manufacturing runs on a set schedule.

Thanks for forwarding my info to Edith or whoever might be interested.

By JoEllen Hunt (dhcp-74-131-101-39.insightbb.com - on Tuesday, July 04, 2006 - 8:08 pm: Edit Post

I am the owner of a uniform company and am looking for a women's cooperative to sew my uniforms. Please contact me at joellehunt@caduzen.com

JoEllen Hunt

By Genia Gorna (80-43-139-221.dynamic.dsl.as9105.com - on Friday, May 04, 2007 - 5:05 pm: Edit Post

I make hand-made cloth dolls..I am looking for a womens' co-operative to make up the cloth dolls (very simple design) in calico, then send them back to me, when I will paint their faces.

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