In Bulgaria, the La Strada programme has been implemented by the 'Animus Association' Foundation (AAF) since 1998. Animus works in three main areas: provision of psychological and social support at the Centre for Rehabilitation, Counselling and Psychotherapy, lobby and prevention activities, and training of different professionals on identifying and working with victims of violence. The La Strada Bulgaria activities are implemented by a core team consisting of Ms. Nadia Kozhouharova, the national coordinator (who is also coordinator of the Information and Lobby Campaign), two campaign managers (Prevention and Social Assistance), a legal advisor and a lobbyist.
Information & Lobby
The strategy of La Strada Bulgaria is based on the recognition that trafficking in human beings is one of the most horrible crimes and states are accountable for fighting against it. The basis of its approach is the principle of respecting trafficked persons' human rights. Lobbying activities focus on the implementation of relevant legislation, national programmes and strategies for combatting trafficking and making sure that they indeed protect victims' human rights.
La Strada Bulgaria was the first who started talking about trafficking of Bulgarian women for sexual exploitation. They participated in the elaborating the Bulgarian Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Act and involved the institutions in victim support.
To achieve its aims, La Strada Bulgaria distributes information to specific target groups, establishes media contacts, issues press releases, gives interviews, writes articles and answers requests for information. An important component of the lobby and advocacy work is the development and maintenance of local, national, regional and international contacts and networks. This includes contacts with members of parliament, ministries, law enforcement agencies, public prosecutors, local authorities, consulates and other relevant state institutions.
A great achievement was the development of the National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria in 2010. It clearly demonstrates that civil society and state institutions’ efforts yield excellent results when there is a common goal and shared understanding of the relevance of an issue.
Prevention & Education
The Prevention campaign aims at empowering potential (female) migrants to make independent and informed decisions. La Strada Bulgaria uses various methods for prevention, general awareness on the issue of trafficking, targeting the public at large, media and schools. Prevention activities aim to lower the risk among specific risk groups, targeting potential victims (particularly young women and girls, children from institutions, minorities, etc). Especially for them, prevention and education materials have been distributed and workshops and seminars organised. In addition, La Strada Bulgaria trains professionals: police officers, social workers, teachers, school counsellors, magistrates, etc how to distribute information, how to recognise potential victims of trafficking and how to protect them.
In the Centre for Rehabilitation, Counselling and Psychotherapy La Strada Bulgaria consults women and children at risk and victims of violence and trafficking. The risk of becoming (again) victims of trafficking is reduced by assisting them in overcoming the trauma, restoring their self-esteem and relations with people and reintegrating completely in society.
At its Help-line, La Strada Bulgaria provides information about legal forms of migration and working abroad and the danger of becoming a victim of human trafficking. The consultants discuss with every caller their motives for leaving, talk about risks, give advice, etc.
Psychological and social support for victims of trafficking
Animus Association/La Strada Bulgaria is an experienced organisation which provides services for victims of trafficking in Bulgaria. It aims at providing social, psychological, medical and legal support. Victims have the right to access these services as soon as they are recognised as victims of trafficking.
By implementing the programmes of Centre for Rehabilitation, Counselling and Psychotherapy La Strada Bulgaria provides support for victims of trafficking. This Centre is the only one which provides support in the Sofia region. Victims of trafficking have access to the services of the Help-line for Victims of Violence, Crisis Unit - accommodation and crisis intervention, Social Support Programme and Empowerment Programme. Annually the Centre works with about 30 trafficked persons. It should be pointed out that although the number of trafficking victims is low compared to domestic violence cases, for instance, the management of trafficking cases is time consuming and more intensive. Based on the good practices of the Centre, “Standards and Criteria for Provision of Social Services to Victims of Trafficking” were elaborated and have become an integral part of the National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria.