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Bulgaria: national campaign "Open your eyes! Break the silence"

[by Iliana Balabanova-Stoicheva, Bulgarian Women’s Lobby, January 2016] Mariya Gabriel, Member of the European Parliament in partnership with European Women’s Lobby and Bulgarian NGOs, initiated a National Campaign against Violence Against Women ’Open your eyes! Break the silence’ in Bulgaria.

The Istanbul Convention is the golden standard in the area of protection and prevention of Domestic Violence and Violence against Women: this is the main message from the Conference organized on 20th of November in Ruse, Bulgaria. City of Ruse, often called the Little Vienna, but also the city of free spirit, clearly expressed its support for ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

Mariya Gabriel launched a series of conferences on the issue of Violence against Women, which will be held within a year in different cities in Bulgaria. The initiative is implemented in partnership with the European Women’s Lobby, the Commission for Protection against Discrimination in Bulgaria, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, Justice Society Foundation and many other Bulgarian NGOs. The Campaign is supported at the highest European level in the face of the Commissioner for Justice and Gender Equality Vera Yurova and the Coordinator of the EU Anti-Trafficking Myria Vassiliadou.

The Campaign, started on September 19th 2015, focuses on increasing sensitivity and public awareness on Violence against Women and provoking stronger engagement of the responsible institutions on prevention and protection of women from all forms of violence. The main purpose of the series of conferences that will bring together all relevant institutions and NGOs is to outline challenges and define recommendations for more decisive action to eliminate violence against women.
H. Ex. Irit Lilian, the Ambassador of Israel in Bulgaria, presented good practices from Israel in the work with perpetrators of Domestic Violence and underlined the fact that violence at home is strongly connected to global peace.

Iliana Balabanova-Stoicheva, Bulgarian Board member of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), noticed that violence against women shapes women’s place in society: their health, access to employment and education, integration into social and cultural activities, economic independence, participation in public and political life and decision-making, and relations with men. She expressed the EWL demands on ending Violence against Women: adoption and implemention a comprehensive EU Strategy to end all forms of Violence against Women in Europe; adoption of EU legislation to end prostitution and sex trafficking through the criminalization of the purchase of sex and of procuring, the development of exit programmes and education actions; and very importantly, the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by the EU and its member states.

The Conference in Ruse gave priority to Domestic Violence, the role of institutions for Combating Violence against Women and victim’s protection, Human Trafficking, Female entrepreneurship as a chance for a new beginning, the participation of men as defenders of women’s rights. Emphasis was the participation of victims of violence who shared their stories and encouraged other women like them not to be afraid and talk about the problem.

Special orange-purple ribbons are a symbol of the campaign. The colors are not chosen randomly: the orange color is linked to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and purple adds a sense of value, prestige, strength and courage.

The Conference was great opportunity to hear voices of representatives from different institutions and organisations. All participants of the Conference, representatives of the legislative, executive, judicial and local authorities, national and regional non-governmental organizations, heads of schools and universities, youth associations and others expressed the need for ratification of the CoE Convention of prevention and combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.

Read here an interview of MEP Mariya Gabriel, after another event on Sliven in January 2016.

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