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Events :: Достъп :: To Defeat Intolerance and Inequality We Must Have Open Minds and Open Hearts

To Defeat Intolerance and Inequality We Must Have Open Minds and Open Hearts

Collage - Emi and Ani pres mid bottomSofia, October 16, 2014

Every year since 2007 on Blog Action Day, thousands of bloggers come together to talk about one important issue, like poverty, climate change and human rights amongst others. This year the event is held on 16 October and the theme is inequality. HMA Jonathan Allen joins the initiative and blogs why to defeat intolerance and inequality, we must have open minds and open hearts. H.E. Jonathna Allen is not only Great Britain's Ambassador to Bulgaria, but also a blogger, our - BFPA's - partner and a supporter of important social causes! In the picture you can see a moment from the premiere of the short film "Emi and Ani" at the British Ambassador's Residence in Sofia in March 2014.

When we are sick, the first step to treatment is to recognise there is a problem. In the same way, in our society the first step to tackling intolerance and inequality must be to accept and recognise that they exist.

A big barrier to doing so comes from our own stereotypes and pre-conceptions. The effect of stereotypes is often to blind us to reality and to comfort us in our existing prejudices. People can make sweeping comments and assumptions, without applying the basic value that everyone should be treated as an individual, regardless of our previous experiences of others.

Over the three years that I have spent in Bulgaria, I have seen many examples of committed people breaking down such stereotypes. The Pride march, at first so controversial, each year passes more peacefully. This year one of my colleagues brought her young son, to learn for himself that everyone has the right to be who they truly are.

A partner organisation opened a great mixed-ability playground in South Park, where disabled and able-bodied children can play together. With my daughter, I have supported Bulgaria’s thriving disabled cricket and blind cricket teams. The embassy runs an intern scheme for people who are under-represented in the workplace. All of these examples challenge our natural tendency to look at what people cannot do, rather than celebrating what they can.

As an Embassy, we have also worked with the Roma community. Every year children come to celebrate Bango Vassil at the embassy and to sing and tell stories. We hosted the screening of a short movie, written and made by the Roma community, to help prevent school drop-out and early marriage. There are more and more programmes each year to promote integration.

When it comes to integration, and the reasons why it doesn’t happen, we have to accept that blame cannot lie only at one community’s door. It takes a commitment to change from both sides for meaningful change to happen. I found living proof of the power of enlightened politics, when I spent a day with the Kmetal of Kavarna.

To treat a major illness, you need to tackle the individual symptoms. Sometimes when faced with major inequality, we can feel too daunted to act. We don’t know where to start.

I believe you need to start small: break down people’s preconceptions and lazy assumptions and show them a different reality. Some of us will be active in this endeavour, throwing ourselves into projects and organising events. But we can all play a vital role.

We can all try to ignore the prejudices we have and keep an open mind and open hearts.

As stereotypes weaken and fade in Bulgaria, so it becomes easier to address intolerance and inequality.



Latest news

‘My Body, My Rights’ – Successes and Challenges

Health mediators from Montana, Bulgaria, and their work in state of emergency
Montana, March-May 2020

Peter Cvetanov, Sonya Rumenova and Valya Alexandrova are health mediators in Montana Municipality. The three of them as a team are implementing activities part of the project of Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (BFPA) – ‘My Body, My Rights’ (2018–2021). In addition to their municipality, pilot work is being done in two other locations in Bulgaria: Yambol and Sofia. The project is implemented in partnership with organizations from Serbia and Romania, with the coordinating role of International Planned Parenthood Federation and is supported by the programme for social responsible business of the company MSD via their campaign ‘MSD for Mothers’. Main goal of the initiative is to improve the conditions for ensuring quality of family planning services for vulnerable communities and to build capacity and civil responsibility within the communities.
Sonya in a health mediator from 2013. She graduated economics, married with two children: a boy and a girl: ‘Several years ago Roma women from the neighborhood didn’t see doctors for prophylactics. Part of them were not insured, others simply were living with their prejudices and fears. We had two obstetrics-gynecologists as part of the Bulgarian-swiss cooperation program ZOV. They were visiting the health center in the neighborhood according to schedule. Then we decided to form local women’s group for self support, where initially timidly, but afterwards more confidently we started talking about examinations, contraception, family planning, prevention of sexually transmitted infections... The women from the group started little by little to shake off their fears.’ They just made progress and the activities on project ended. Only  mediators remained in the health center. And then for them new opportunity arose via the project ‘My Body, My Rights’. ‘It gave us the opportunity to continue just on time. The group for self support is developing; the health center in the neighborhood is alive again.’ Sonya succeeded to motivate a poor mother of nine children for IUD insertion. Before that she tried many times, but without any success. ‘I think that she was mostly afraid of being damaged by IUD. Now I know for sure that my long-term working with this woman was not in vain.”

Learning Action Partnership: Efforts for Guaranteed Sustainability

Sofia, February 12, 2020

The first for 2020 meeting of the Learning Action Partnership took place in Sofia on February 12, 2020. The agenda included review of activities done on project up to the moment, fixing of concrete future activities and defining small working groups for the different strategic directions.
Representatives of organizations and institutions who participated shared their working plans and the possibility of inclusion of other LAP members in joint activities. Part of the feedback was connected with the increase of fake news, including on priorities of the Partnership. The atmosphere of the event was businesslike, but with extremely well expressed solidarity and good collaboration feeling. In the debates during the meeting important actual topics were covered, such as increasing media and digital literacy of children and challenges, which we are meeting in our work with teachers with long practice on certain age and with burnout. Forming network of children and young people with innovative model of managing was discussed, which will aim decreasing the aggression of children under residential care. How to focus our work so that the efforts put to have guaranteed sustainability; science and research approach and regional and national level partnerships; the need to work together to change the environment – were among topics discussed during the event.

Most significant change: Documenting stories

Dolna Banya, January 24-26, 2020

On January 26-28 BFPA organized a meeting of the teams working on the project „My body, my rights” from Sofia, Yambol and Montana. Representatives of the three locations shared their experiences from the implemented field activities. We discussed problems which health mediators, self-help group members and their partners face and paid special attention on possible ways and strategies for solving. Participants put accent on good practices that had been identified up to the moment. It was the perfect time to watch and discuss several videos, showing the fieldwork as well as image “memes” with messages, which show benefits of family planning.
Participants gave feedback also for the freshly prepared Manual for self-support groups and for the Health application for mobile devices, which will be useful in the future work on the project and after its ending. Divided into groups by locations the participants from Sofia, Yambol and Montana worked on possible ways of documenting stories for the most significant change of people’s lives as result of the work of project teams and health specialists.


Events :: Достъп :: To Defeat Intolerance and Inequality We Must Have Open Minds and Open Hearts