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Общи :: ‘My Body, My Rights’ – Successes and Challenges

‘My Body, My Rights’ – Successes and Challenges

MSD LogoMontana 1Health 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.”

Montana 2Valya is a young, communicative and energetic person. She says that it is extremely hard to work with people from the most marginal families. When they were organizing prophylactics examinations by schedule, most educated health uninsured women from the neighborhood went and took opportunity to be examined, but the poorest families didn’t understand why at all it is needed for. ‘One day I was ambitious to motivate women from the most difficult families. They were celebrating in one house and there were many people, most of them men. There was a big table in the yard, there were eating and drinking, of course – loud music. I was a little startle because some of the men were already drunk. I went to them and said that they have to pay attention to me. They immediately invited me to the table and I decided to catch the moment: ‘I will drink with you, but I want you to stop the music right now!’. They looked at others, but stopped the music and then I asked them:’ ‘Would you enjoy drinking and eating if you feel pain and you were ill?’. That’s how I started to talk about examinations and about what they are missing – on their Roma dialect ‘leshtarski’. I saw that they started to think and to agree with me. At this moment I understood that I succeed. At the end I told them: ‘Now switch the music on and pour a glass of beer for me, and tomorrow I want your spouses in the health center!’. So they came.’
Montana 3Peter is vice-president of the National network of health mediators and recently got a Bachelor degree in Ethnology. He shares that when in the beginning of March in the country a state of emergency because of the world’s crisis with COVID-19 was declared, their work on project became very difficult. Gathering groups of people became impossible, they need to postpone part of activities. Then Valya and Sonya decide to include part of women and men from the groups for self support with whom they are working on project ‘My Body, My Rights’ in delivering food packages to 15 of poorest families in the neighborhood. They managed to buy masks and disinfectants with some of money in the beginning of March. They ‘keep the groups for self support alive’ – so important for their work on project – gathering themselves by two or three and supporting people in need. Women and young people are active, less often – men. ‘At the moment we are having difficulties because of the state of emergency. We can’t freely implement activities on project; examinations are limited in obstetrics-gynecologist’s consulting room, before the crisis the doctor was coming in the neighborhood... It is not clear if we will be able to gather people soon,’ – he shares.
Montana 4Being leaders of groups for self support Sonya and Valya every day are walking around the neighborhoods Ogosta and Kosharnik in Montana and appealing to people living there to be responsible: ‘It is only a question of time before the infection comes to us. Be more responsible! Young people, love also your relatives, not only friends! Your old parents need your understanding. Our appeal is: keep distance with each other and do not get together, take care of yourself and your loved ones!’
Part of the delivered disinfectants and health informing materials on prevention from Coronavirus in Montana, including the developed by BFPA brochure, are ensured on project ‘My Body, My Rights’. Health mediators continue working, they collected very interesting and touching stories on “Most significant change” under the project and appeal to people in the neighborhood: ‘RESPONSIBILITY is needed before all for prevention and protection’.

 

 

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Общи :: ‘My Body, My Rights’ – Successes and Challenges