The FREE Network

Women from rural areas of the project countries are invited to participate in local networks where they can meet regularly to receive peer support and mentoring. Each network will be led by local women – Network leaders who received a training in the methodology of “Community Driven Learning and Development”. The concept gives authority directly to the community group (in this case women within a specific rural area) to develop, organize and make decisions on their learning. The training and network methodology have been developed by WIRE – one of the project partners. Each network will provide women of small rural areas with an opportunity to discuss, assist each other and exchange ideas and feedback from other women with similar ideas and passion. 

A comprehensive Network Facilitator's Guide is available for all women who wish to apply the methodology in their communities and become Network Leaders themselves. You can access the Guide here.

Meet the Network leaders in Bulgaria

Ms Rositsa Dzhambazova is a Manager of a Business Incubator – Gotse Delchev, Entrepreneurship Promotion Centre, with  17 years of experience in business incubation, consulting, training and coaching on the establishment and development of entrepreneurship, start-ups, SMEs and NGOs; assessment and development of business ideas and business plans for unemployed people with potential, start-ups, SMEs and farmers. Rositsa has 10 years of experience in the management of micro-financing schemes for start-ups, SMEs and farmers; 15 years of experience in project management of projects funded by a variety of  EU, National and International programmes, and with expertise in  partnership development, research and analyses in Economy and Human Resources, project and strategy development, capacity building and networking for local communities and training delivery in Bulgaria, FYROM, Belarus and Turkey.  As a director of a Vocational Training Centre, she is responsible for the design, development and delivery of vocational and key competence trainings, including e-learning and knowledge transfer. Rositsa will organize a FREE Network of women entrepreneurs of the region of Gotse Delchev, Blagoevgrad District.

Ms Ivona Stoyanova is a long-term expert and representative of a non-profit organization, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kyustendil. Her main field of expertise includes assistance and consulting for small and medium businesses in the region. She has participated in numerous projects and trainings organized or implemented with EU funding. 

Ivona has a sound background in accounting and financial management as she graduated from one of the most renowned universities in the field of finance in Bulgaria – the Academy of Economics D.A. Tsenov. Currently, she is employed as an accountant and project financial manager in the Kyustendil CCI but has also some business interests in the field of agriculture and rural tourism. Ivona will organise a FREE Network of women entrepreneurs of the Kyustendil District in Bulgaria.

Meet the Network leaders in Croatia

TBTajana Broz has a Master degree in politics. After ten years of work at CESI on the Social Activism and Political Process program, she started to work as the Head of Local Action Group Zagorje-Sutla in 2017. Her areas of interest and work are women’s human rights, active participation of women and youth in society, civil society development and rural development. LAG Zagorje-Sutla covers 11 cities and municipalities in the northwest of Croatia and operates on LEADER principles of encouraging the sustainable development of their communities by increasing the competitiveness of the business sector, encouraging citizen participation in making local political decisions, protecting natural and cultural heritage and developing social content in rural communities. The FREE project is an ideal opportunity for her to combine her CESI and LAG work, as well as to empower women from her area to engage more effectively in the economic life of the community through the Entrepreneurs Network. It is also an opportunity for her to learn and reflect, thanks to the inspirational women who decided to participate in the Entrepreneurs Network.

SCSusan Cabezas is a Chilean Anthropologist with focus on gender studies. She works as a gender Mainstreaming Consultant in development programs. Her 10 years of experience working with women’s networks in Latin America, including women’s groups in rural areas gave her the opportunity to learn about the importance of the economical empowerment of women in order to overcome poverty, violence and lack of autonomy. Thus, Susan decided to open her own social business in a small village in Croatia where local women and the community can participate and exchange knowledge to support each other. The project Ekokutak ( aims to become a sustainable space for ecotourism and production of healthy food, including a Chilean variety of quinoa seed. The Ekokutak project was chosen as one of the 31 most innovative projects in Croatia last year for tender Pokreni nešto svoje. In 2016, Susan was invited to participate in the Free Project as a network leader. As a result, she started 2 women’s networks, including one with foreign people living in the countryside of Croatia.

GBGordana Banovićworks as a rehabilitator for children with disabilities. The urge to be a part of nature has directed her life path to the village. Four years ago, she cleared her mother’s legacy on which she had envisaged her life. She had an idea that it would be nice for others to experience the beauty of communion with nature. The business has two functions; therapeutic and touristic. She uses horses for therapeutic riding and organizing camps for children with disabilities. Here they can undoubtedly develop their skills and acquire new ones. The second part that is touristic; trying to show tourists the making of old local traditional dishes, such as scotch pears, to preserve the tradition of the area. Gordana helps to organise support for women from the neighbourhood, to help them to persevere with, and realize, their ideas because support is often important for success.

Meet the Network leaders in Iceland

SDSigurborg Þorkelsdóttir was born in Keflavík but she has lived in Ísafjörður for the last forty years. She has a degree in Icelandic and is also a teacher and a coach. She has had her own companies such as a dry cleaning service, and a guesthouse. Now she works as a project manager for the Educational Center in Ísafjörður. She is one of the founders of the Regional Development Center and Atkvenn that is a society that encourages women’s job creation.
Facebook page:

KSKristín Sigurrós Einarsdóttir lives in Skagafjörður in the Northwest area. She is married to Alfreð Símonarson and they have three sons. She is a teacher and is currently studying at the University in Akureyri completing a Masters in Education. She has working experience in various levels of education, project management and journalism.Today she does freelance work in teaching and cultural tourism. Kristín has participated in various entrepreneurship programs in recent years.

LGLilja Gunnlaugsdóttir is a sociologist with a specialization in regression analysis. She founded the design company Skrautmen in 2014, where she designs and produces products for homes and companies, along with jewellery and accessories. Lilja lives in Skagafjörður and is married to Valur Valsson. They have two daughters, Ásrún and Vala Mist.
Facebook page:

AkAnna Katrín is educated as an urban planner. She founded the company AKS where she works on projects related to urban planning and landscape design. The company also designs signs for companies. Before she founded her company, she worked for the Fjarðarbyggð municipality in projects related to environmental issues and public transport. Anna Katrín was on the board of the Network of Women in East Iceland from 2013-2015.
Facebook page:

Meet the Network leaders in Lituania

IZIrma Žilinskatė is an owner of the design studio “Ideas for Home” which was established in 2015 in the old town of Vilkaviškis in Lithuania. Having worked as a designer/drafter in a furniture manufacturing business for almost ten years, Irma started to feel that her current work did not satisfy her and her aspirations. Irma left her job and joined the Labour Exchange. “And this has led to one of the most exciting periods of my life: to create a business idea. I became interested in how to develop myself, I started to attend seminars. I made myself a plan – I realized that I wanted to create interiors but I did not know where to start”, – says Irma. During one seminar, she started to develop a business plan for the interior design business. First, she worked from home and after half a year she found suitable premises for a studio. Irma is now connected to the Network of Entrepreneurial Women in the Marijampolė region. After having joined the network, she is actively involved in activities of the network and helps other women to develop their business plans and is also looking for inspiration by herself. Female entrepreneurs, as well as those who have just begun to implement their business plans.
Facebook page:

GZGerda Žibūdaitės
Starting from the age of 12, Gerda has been horse riding for almost her whole life. Although she decided to leave her horses and escape to another city to study a Bachelor of Archivists, it was not easy to disentangle everything. In her first year one of Gerda’s horses got sick, so she had to search for ways to make money. Gerda decided to do what she was best at – to give horse riding lessons. This is how her business idea started developing. However, Gerda later discovered that her passion is to work solely with horses – training them and preparing them for the race so that the horses can be sold on the market. This whole journey led to Gerda setting up the equestrian sports club “Tandem”, which was founded in 2014. Recently, when Gerda was facing business challenges, she was supported by the FREE project co-ordinated by Kaunas Science and Technology Park. During her career, Gerda joined the Women’s Networking Group, where she coordinates meetings with six women involved in various business activities in the Marijampolė and Prienai districts. Group members monitor their ongoing changes and share experiences. Gerda is pleased to have the opportunity to get acquainted with the different experiences of businesswomen, who share valuable knowledge and encourage her to develop her own business.
Facebook page:

Meet the Network leaders in the United Kingdom

JTJill Turner
The network leader for the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales is Jill Turner. The principal of Jill Turner Associates, a holistic financial planning and wealth management practice, Jill draws on twenty-six years of experience in helping people to protect their loved ones, manage risk and achieve their financial goals.
Enjoying life in the Peak District with her two children, Jill reads widely around issues of self-development, enjoys a Ted Talk or two, has a massive collection of global grooves and her interest in broadcasting took her to Borneo to attend the Rainforest world music festival, by invitation of the Malaysian government.
Jill’s new FREE network is called “Think Outside – The Entrepreneurial Walks” and combines networking activities with walks through the beautiful Peak District. “The great outdoors requires very little of us”, she says, “other than showing up. So leave your stresses behind and put your computer into sleep mode. Come and THINK OUTSIDE, share your successes, ideas and creative problem solving with like-minded women.”
As people are walking all the time in the same spot a path appears – John Locke.

TDTracy Duggan DMS, Assoc CIPD
Originally from Manchester, Tracy moved to the High Peak 20 years ago and currently lives in Furness Vale with her husband and two cocker spaniels – Ruskin and Huxley. She is passionate about the Peak District and loves long walks with a good pub at the end. She holds several voluntary roles and gives her time freely as a Member of the Buckinghamshire LEP’s Skills and Employability Board, School Governor at Furness Vale Primary School and as a FREE project leader for the High Peak.
She established skills local in April 2015. Her vision to deliver national skills solutions locally and help drive productivity and economic growth. She works with a range of organisations, businesses and commissioners offering practical, cost-efficient bespoke solutions. She is highly innovative with an ability to identify, develop and maximise business opportunities. She continuously seeks to improve service delivery with a strong track record in developing UK wide skills solutions, world-class training, national campaigns and business services.
She is a licensed Investors in People (IIP) practitioner delivering the new Investors in People standard. Tracy has worked in the skills, education and training sector for over 20 years and held various roles at regional and national level. She was responsible for developing the national Digital Business Skills training programme, renowned WorldHost Customer Service and is passionate about supporting local businesses to be the best they can be.

Last modified: Friday, 6 July 2018, 5:19 PM