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‘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.”

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Learning Action Partnership: Efforts for Guaranteed Sustainability

OAK LogoParticipantsSofia, 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.

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Most significant change: Documenting stories

MSD LogoParticipantsDolna 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.

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Start of the second edition of the Sofia Health Education Academy

Trainers and traineesSofia, December 16, 2019

After a successful and intense first year during which the first batch of alumni peer educators of the Sofia Health Education Academy got skills and knowledge which they are already sharing with their peers, we started the second academic year. In this process the BFPA team works with valuable partners – the PIST Directorate of Sofia Municipality, the National Centre for Public Health and Analyses with MoH (NCPHA) and the Bulgarian Red Cross Youth (BRCY)
During the academic 2018-2019 teams of young people from 1st High school, 144th, 119th schools, 1st ELS and the Professional School of Textile and Fashion Design, supported by their school psychologists underwent an intensive training program and at the end of the education received certificates and demonstrated their abilities in front of schoolmates, parents and teachers.

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Zero Tolerance towards Sexual Exploitation of Children

OAK LogoParticipantsSofia, November 13, 2019

Another meeting of the Learning Action Partnership (LAP) took place on November 13, 2019 in Sofia. This is, at the same time, the first LAP meting under the project “The Ability to Change”, that builds upon a previous project “The art to inform”. The members of the group discussed opportunities to unite efforts of different organizations and institutions for advocating in area of working on prevention and on cases, connected with sexual exploitation of children. One of the main goals of LAP during the next years is to have significant contribution towards zero tolerance in the society concerning sexual exploitation of children. Numerous initiatives are to come, such as capacity building trainings as well as development and implementation of pilot small projects and field initiatives.
The work of the Partnership is supported by the OAK Foundation.

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End inequality. End AIDS

Bulgaria, December 1, 2021

For yet another year, the international community celebrates December 1 - World AIDS Day. This year it is entitled "End inequality. End AIDS"
On December 1, 2021, the WHO calls upon world leaders and citizens to unite against inequalities and reach out to people who do not currently receive basic HIV services. Forty years after the first cases were reported, HIV still threatens the world. Separation, inequality and disregard for human rights have allowed HIV to become and remain a global health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates inequalities and difficulties in health care delivery, a challenge for many people living with HIV.
According to the WHO, nearly 38 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS, with the number of newly infected people in 2020 being 1.5 million and the number of deaths being 680,000. Globally, in 2020, nearly 73% of those infected receive antiretroviral therapy. In Bulgaria, a total of 1,936 people with HIV are being followed up in the HIV / AIDS treatment sectors, and 1,910 (99%) of them are receiving antiretroviral therapy. In our country treatment is free for all people in need, regardless of their health insurance status. The therapy prolongs and improve quality of the of PLHIV and improves their quality of life. Bulgaria remains a country with low HIV prevalence - the frequency of newly registered cases of HIV infection per 100 thousand population for Bulgaria is 2.9 in 2020, and for comparison - the average for EU countries is 3.3.

 
Autumn fragments from BFPA’s Work

October – November 2021

BFPA launched another short animation ‘What are the Ways of Infections’ on its project ‘My Body, My Rights’ on October 1, 2021. The video gives an idea on the main ways of infecting the human body, on the work of the immune system and on the factors of which its proper functioning depends.
On process of working on the same project but this time in November, are another two films – a short animation on the methods of hormonal contraception; and one documentary on the benefits and challenges on the activities in the three projects locations: Sofia, Yambol and Montana with special focus on the work of field self-help groups. Both products will be finalized by the end of this year.

 
BFPA volunteer awarded in an international competition for social and youth cinema

Berlin, October 17, 2021

The volunteer of the Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association Viktoria Nikolova returned on October 17, 2021 after participating in a youth exchange in Berlin. Her visit there is part of her award for participation in the international competition Youth.DanubeSalon - Shoot By Youth for social and youth cinema. A seven-member jury with representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Romania and Serbia awarded the short film, dedicated to the need for health and sexuality education, made by her and a small team of three other young adults based on a script entirely constructed by them. The participants in the competition had to present a problem within a few minutes and to propose its solution. Coordinators on the Bulgarian side of the international initiative are colleagues from the Re-Act Association.

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