The fall of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 generated fundamental political and socio-economic transformations. The introduction of the free-market economy in the region led to the closure or privatization of state corporations and, consequently, to an increase of the unemployment rate, while reductions of state funding for social services resulted in the erosion of former securities. Simultaneously, Western and international agencies and organisations have transferred billions of US dollars of financial aid into the region. Among the receivers of Western funding were Eastern European non-governmental organisations (NGOs) aiming to support local women through the transformations and to advocate their rights. Several authors, however, have pointed out that many of them pursue what they and/or their Western donors think is best for women rather than focusing on what women themselves consider their needs and wishes. This paper critically reviews two Bulgarian women’s NGOs, including a discussion of their representations of women, the influence of Western donors, and the issue of who benefits from the NGOs’ work. I argue that both NGOs, although they claim to advocate equal opportunities for women and men, pursue a ‘women-only’ approach by ignoring gender relations – an issue that is also largely overlooked by the critics presented in this paper. I conclude that NGOs, if they want to assist and support local women, ought to implement a ‘women-and-men-together’ approach, consider what women themselves view as their needs, and challenge neoliberalism.
"It’s all about Cinderella – and the Prince?: Women’s NGOs in Bulgaria,"
1, Article 5.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/nexus/vol21/iss1/5