This project was made possible through the support of donors Jan and Nick Vasilius, of Arizona.
Marijampole Women's Center, Marijampole, Lithuania
Our project was submitted to the Virtual Foundation in the year 2001, and a donor selected it and we received funding at the end of 2002. – During this time period our mission has not changed , but in order to better respond to the local needs we changed a bit our actions in order to help our region’s women. This report shows the specific activities we have been able to complete with the help of this grant through the Virtual Foundation.
Another part of the money will be used to continue our project, and organize a business fair and a seminar for women – NGO leaders and politicians, titled “Women’s Business, Democracy and Philanthropy”. This event will take place in September 2003. This project partially is funded by Information Center of Nordic Council since its partners are our colleagues - women from Norway, Germany, Poland and Kaliningrad region. It is also sponsored by Marijampole region Administration and Marijampole Municipality. During this three day event we expect about 60 participants to come from Marijampole district. Our guests – seminar trainers : 8 women from Norway, 3 – from Germany, 4 – from Poland, 4 – from Kaliningrad region.
Since Marijampole district has a very high unemployment rate, many women are economically dependent on men; they are downtrodden, lack self-confidence and do not believe in their future. One of the goals of our Center is to help the women to solve their problems, and we do this, but sometimes it is difficult to convince women that they can help themselves. By implementing this project we showed the women that they are able to create work places by and for themselves, and that they can do business equally with the men, including receiving all the information they need about how to start a business.
We invited trainers to our seminar - women executives from small towns in Poland, Russia, Norway, and Germany. [Lithuanian participants with Russian guests, photo at right] In their towns they run small businesses, work in the communes, lead NGOs or represent governmental institutions. All our guests are dedicated to involve as many women as possible in different activities, to help women solve their problems, to share their experience and knowledge. Such were our projects' participants – partners.
Our workshop, “Woman’s business, democracy and philanthropy” consisted of three parts and showed different aspects of how to involve and make women more active. During the sessions, Lithuanian women were provided with an opportunity to learn about women’s status in five countries and to share their ideas.
Day 1: Business Fair was organized. Women had a chance to demonstrate their businesses. Everybody could taste, ask and purchase on that day. Women shared their ideas, made personal contacts. A group of our women introduced guests to the songs of our region – Suvalkija. A group of young girls showed their collection of crochet-works, and another performed pop songs. During this day women could receive free consultations on how to start business and how to develop it.
Day 2: Cooperation between women politicians and NGO leaders. Member of Parliament of Lithuania G.Purvaneckiene [the speaker in the photo on right, and Chairwomen of Lithuanian Women’s Society N.Steponkute, spoke on rural and small town women’s status and possibilities. A.Blauzdziuniene made an introduction to the activities of Marijampole women. Positive and negative sides of life were presented by our guests from foreign countries. We selected a country which has the legal system most favourable to women. This country is Germany. We presented our guests from Germany with a ceramic bell which encourages them to spread their good examples to Europe. We learned that women in Norway have many advantages when starting their own businesses. We were surprised to learn that every family member has a national costume, and wears it during holidays. We liked this idea, and decided to adopt it in Lithuania, because we understand that when Lithuania becomes a member of the EU, we will be interesting to other countries because of our ethnoculture.
Day 3: Visits to local businesswomen work places and election of the greatest business woman. During these visits our guests could see real situation our women are running their businesses. Project partners were sincerely interested in what they are being shown,and took many pictures. Before they left, we presented our guests with a video tape so they can share what they have learned in Lithuania with their colleagues.
This project received broad publicity in our media, and local TV channels showed our seminar events. We believe that this project has a significant impact on our organization's activities and on the individual participants.
Thus, our Women's Center is developing into a base of support for women's personal, family,business, social and professional growth, in addition to its medical information. [Right, Women's Center members sing folk songs to welcome their guests.]