Martenitsas for Education

Актуализирано: 27.05.2021 г.


Nineteen Bulgarian women were killed by their partners in 2020 according to an article by "OffNews", seventeen of whom were killed between January and November 2020, according to an article by “Rado Free Europe, Bulgaria”. On the occasion of November 25 - The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - the "Bulgarian Fund for Women" reported an increase in cases by 30% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Puls” Foundation and “Animus” Association shared that in Bulgaria, there has been a serious increase in both the received signals and the number of people who became victims of domestic violence for the first time. It is not clear whether the number of victims is greater than 19, as in Bulgaria there are no official statistics by state institutions. *


Currently, in Bulgaria, there are no working legal measures to counteract the problem of domestic violence. Bulgaria is one of the six EU member states and the only country in the Balkans that has not ratified the Istanbul Convention, the most recent example of international experience in preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The local government also abandoned the Child Protection Strategy, which was supposed to help child victims. **


“Okrilena” Foundation and the fight against domestic violence


We at the “Okrilena” Foundation believe that supporting crisis centers is extremely important in order for them to continue to operate and keep their doors open to anyone who witnesses or is subjected to domestic violence. This month we were kindly invited by the “BCause” Foundation to attend their "8th of March Online Accelerator", which Ms. Lyudmila Atanasova and her team organized to train NGOs in the art of fundraising. “BCause” is an expert organization dealing with the development of philanthropy and social investment. In response to the increasing number of cases of domestic violence in Bulgaria, “BCause” sought opportunities and resources for crisis assistance to organizations working in this field. The needs of organizations working to support women and children victims of domestic violence have increased during the pandemic. The purpose of the online accelerator was to help participating organizations create successful donation campaigns themselves and to enable donors to be useful through supporting specific actions created to combat domestic violence, in addition to raising awareness and empathy in society. We at “Okrilena” joined the accelerator to better understand the needs and difficulties that organizations and centers face in this area and how we could be useful as an NGO fighting against domestic violence and for gender equality in Bulgaria.


During the accelerator we met strong and brave women who, with limited funding, managed to shelter and help women and their children to live through the trauma inflicted by the violence in their homes and to continue their lives independently and fully later on. We noticed that the participants were all mentioning a similar problem, namely that they failed to spread public awareness outside the areas where the centers are located. This further complicates fundraising and reduces the facilities that the centers can offer to their temporary residents. As an organization that is primarily concerned with increasing public engagement on issues related to gender equality and domestic violence, it occurred to us to use “Okrilena”'s media channels to support the causes born in the “8th of March Accelerator”. In addition, we considered it important to enable large businesses to support small causes and to give a voice to those who cannot be heard.


Crisis Center for People (Adults / Parents and Children) Victims of Domestic Violence and Trafficking in Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria


Ms. Gergana Dudova, the manager of the “Crisis Center for People (Adults / Parents and Children), Victims of Domestic Violence and Trafficking" in Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria, shared about their center’s financial struggles and gave an example of how they had to connect beds in the center to be able to accommodate more people. Currently, 5 children live in the Center temporarily (for an average of about 6 months), with an average of between 10-15 children and about 30 women living in the center annually. The Center supports them all through psycho-social work, the acquisition of educational material, and coping with household chores, where younger children are engaged through reading children's books and encyclopedias, playing games, and various sports activities using appropriate sports equipment. Furthermore, the Center assists in the children's enrollment in kindergarten, nursery, and school. Women are helped through emotional and physical support, through learning how to deal with the mental and physical trauma caused by violence, as well as how to continue to live independently outside the Center at later stages.


We were captured by the creative way of fundraising which Ms. Dudova is applying this year, namely their 1st of March bazaar for martenitsas. Martenitsas are a small piece of adornment, usually a bracelet, made of white and red yarn. The red and white woven threads symbolize the wish for good health. Martenitsas are worn from the first of March, Baba Marta (Grandma March) day until the wearer first sees a stork or blossoming tree (or until late March). The wearing of martenitsas tradition is related to the welcoming of spring, where bracelets are exchanged between family and friends, as they are believed to carry good luck and health to the wearer.


The martenitsas in the Center are hand-made by the hardworking and capable hands of the women and children, temporarily living there. The funds from the martenitsas will proceed to the "Donating knowledge to the future of children in the Crisis Center - Dimitrovgrad" campaign, which aims to raise a sum of BGN 4,000, by March 11, 2020, for the purchase of 3 laptops, children's books, and aids. The aim of the Center is to help every child to be fully involved in school hours, even in an online environment, a new working condition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


We from the “Okrilena” Foundation, decided to support their campaign by connecting the law firm "Djingov, Gouginski, Kyutchukov & Velichkov" and the law firm "Ilieva, Vutcheva & Co." with the crisis center in Dimitrovgrad, where we successfully supported the purchase of 180 martenitsas, raising BGN 400 for the Center. We thank the donors for the generous amount and for agreeing to lend a hand to the children from the Crisis Center in Dimitrovgrad.



[The study space created thanks to the donation from OKRILENA where the three kids living at the crisis center completed the school online due to COVID-19 school restrictions.]


If you want to help further raise funds for the campaign for the Center in Dimitrovgrad, please click HERE.


*Source: OffNews

* Source: Radio Free Europe