Courageous actions on violence against women in Bulgaria: animus and Pulse

Peace Award Winner 2009, Categorie "Exemplary Organisation"

Many people live in extreme poverty

Many Bulgarian women became victims of forced prostitution in the West - however, after they return home, they continue to find themselves in a nightmare. They are stigmatized, humiliated and beaten. The relief organizations "animus" and "Pulse Foundation" aim at helping the victims and do lobby-work for the needs and rights of these women.

Many women from Eastern Europe are being allured into the trap of human trafficking by false promises and prospects for a better life in the West. Instead of getting dignified work, they become victims of brutal pimps and „customers", mistreating them as bondswomen. Some of these women are freed while others manage to flee. After returning back to Bulgaria, however, the trauma often continues: Many of them are discriminated again because of their past and become victims of male domestic violence.

The Bulgarian organizations "animus" and "Pulse Foundation" support returning women in the process of reintegration. "animus" is based in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, while "Pulse Foundation" is based in Pernik, an industrial, but impoverished town 60 kilometres southwest of Sofia.

animusBoth organizations are actively working on the issue of violence against women. They provide shelter, necessary medical care and psychosocial support to women who have been forced into prostitution as well as to other women who have become victims of male domestic violence. Even their children have access to these programmes. Additionally, "animus" has set up a national emergency 24-hour hotline. The "Pulse Foundation" also works with drug addicts in Pernik, which are high in number and seem to reflect people's desperation and lack of hope in this city.

The members of "animus" and "Pulse Foundation" are courageously and  unpretentiously fighting for the  rights of these female victims. They are persistently working for a change in Bulgarian society which is still strongly dominated by patriarchal relations and perceptions and in which the political system only slowly begins to recognize the importance of such civil society actions.