Peace Corps Partnership Program NEW!! PROJECT FULLY FUNDED AS OF FEB. 10, 2003!

Please check out the Youth Nature Camp project also from Straldja

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:

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Click on the photo for a page of photos on Edith's quilting group that provided the inspiration for this project.

Click on button above to visit the new CraftCenter website.

Click on Edith's photo for a look at the complete proposal.

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.

Donations to the project can be made on the Internet, at: